Maybe you’ve seen the images: the swimming pigs, the electric blue waters, the pristine sandbars. Exuma occupies a rarefied place in the imagination of travelers, who have long been drawn to the archipelago for its almost otherworldly natural environment.

The Exuma archipelago in The Bahamas, set across 360 different cays, has an enviable mix of private-island destinations, boutique hotels, yachting stops and sparkling beaches, and now it’s even easier to get to.

Bahamian national flag carrier Bahamasair just kicked off its first-ever nonstop service between Fort Lauderdale and George Town, Great Exuma, opening up a major new route to Great Exuma, the largest island in the chain and home to its major International airport.

The Fort Lauderdale-Exuma service is operating twice each week, with flights on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Bahamasair estimates the travel time at about one hour and a half.

In a statement, Tracy Cooper, managing director of Bahamasair, said the new route was just the beginning of what could be a significant expansion for the carrier.

The Bahamas is expecting a very strong Thanksgiving holiday this week, with officials at Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport, the country’s biggest air hub, saying passenger movements are expected to top numbers from 2022 — and exceed movement numbers from the same period in 2019, before the onset of the pandemic.

It is part of what has been a broader tourism renaissance in The Bahamas in the last two years.

The archipelago is filled with terrific resorts and small hotels, from larger properties like the Grand Isle in Great Exuma to beloved boutiques like the Staniel Cay Yacht Club in the north and the Hideaways Beach Resort in Great Exuma.

While a boat is the best way to experience Exuma, many of the islands and private-island destinations have spectacular beaches that you don’t need a boat to access.

There are also a number of charter boat operators that can take you on journeys across the cays, from flats southwest of Great Exuma to the northward chain and, yes, swimming pig outposts like Big Major Cay.