Australia’s most remote island festival features a program of exclusive experiences for just 30 people – from wildlife encounters to diving, hiking, foraging and feasting.
Most famous for its annual red crab migration (usually at the start of the wet season, in October or November), which naturalist Sir David Attenborough has described as one of the greatest TV moments of his life”, Christmas Island is like nowhere else on Earth – and has a multitude of reasons to visit outside this spectacle.
Which is why this year’s inaugural Indian Ocean Fest has been designed to celebrate this wondrous place, inviting just 30 guests with a passion for adventure, nature and an interest in exploring the island’s colourful aquatic, wilderness and cultural elements for seven days every June.
Here are just six highlights of 2022’s Indian Ocean Fest on Christmas Island, which prove it’s a must-have experience in 2023.
Be one of only 30 guests at Indian Ocean Fest, celebrating the nature, food and culture of Christmas Island.
1. Join a Christmas Island diving or snorkelling tour
Join conservation experts for an exploration under the sea on a diving or snorkelling tour.
Festival goers in 2022 heard about the globally significant marine habitats and species that led to the proclamation proposal of the newly formed Christmas Island Marine Park, before joining in a range of activities that celebrate that underwater environment.
Participants swam with untouched corals, tropical fish, dolphins and reef fish just a few metres from shore at some of the island’s diving and snorkelling locations, regarded by experts as some of the best in the world.
Christmas Island has some of the longest drop-offs in the world, most of which are only 20 metres from the shoreline, making it a magnet for novice free divers.
Snorkel or scuba dive in some of the best locations in the world, on Christmas Island.
This year, free-diving champion David Mulheron was on hand to talk through the benefits of controlled breathing in an introductory ‘Breathtaking’ workshop that gave newbies the courage to try his hands-on free-dive experience themselves.
2. Turn a beach clean-up into art
Give something back to the environment by joining in a beach clean-up, coordinated by Indian Ocean Fest partners, Tangaroa Blue Foundation.
After they helped round up plastic stowaways on a remote Christmas Island beach, this year’s group joined in a workshop to give that flotsam and jetsam a second life as art.
Turn trash into treasure during a clean-up event on Christmas Island.
3. Watch The Ocean Film Festival screenings
The Indian Ocean Fest coincides with the island’s annual SeaWeek, so guests can enjoy screenings of marine and ocean-themed films as part of The Ocean Film Festival World Tour.
4. Get educated by the Christmas Island experts
You’ll come away from the seven-day festival with a deeper understanding of ocean conservation and the protection of the Indian Ocean Islands’ natural assets thanks to talks and other events led by a range of experts.
Scientists, writers, media, mainland adventurers, photographers and conservation experts all signed up to share their knowledge in 2022 – like Heidi Tait, CEO and founder of the Tangaroa Blue Foundation who was named as one of the most ‘influential women in ocean conservation’ in the July 2018 edition of Ocean Geographic.
Learn from the experts during talks, demonstrations and immersive experiences.
Plus there was a roster of demonstrations and immersive experiences showcasing the latest innovations in marine science.
5. Take a wildlife walk around Christmas Island
Lace up your hiking boots for a series of carefully curated wildlife walks and encounters – put together in partnership with Parks Australia – to discover everything from otherworldly coconut crabs, to the Abbott’s booby (the world’s largest and rarest booby) and flocks of giant Christmas Island frigate birds.
Swim at ‘the Grotto’.
This year, excursions went to natural blowholes, and to a sapphire pool dubbed ‘the Grotto’ circled by limestone and dripping with stalactites. Guides also steered visitors towards vantage points for the best views of the island.
While there were plenty of wildlife encounters during the day – walking through protected wetlands, tall stands of Tahitian chestnuts and under waterfalls – moonlit walks will also gave the chance to observe nocturnal animals.
Get up close and personal with the famous wildlife of Christmas Island.
6. Taste Christmas Island delights
No festival is complete without good food, and this one is no different. Tastebuds were treated all week thanks to Restaurant Rumah Tinggi setting up at the festival hub, then a range of foodie events kept things fresh.
Participants tasted local Christmas Island ingredients like bunga kantan (laksa flower), wild lime, papaya and mango from the Hidden Garden Farm at the festival’s Forest Foraging & Feasting experience.
Enjoy cooking demonstrations and local stories from the Aunties.
They celebrated the island’s cuisine – with roots in Malaysia, China and Australia – at the Stories With Spice dinner event. Featuring street-food favourites, such as satay and roti canai, guests enjoyed cooking demonstrations and local stories as told by the ‘Aunties and friends’.
Pop-up dining experience, Fervor, hosted a sustainably and locally sourced five-course seafood and Champagne feast on a deserted beach after sunset.
There’ll was also an al fresco stargazing dinner, and a bespoke cocktail experience using foraged ingredients.
Feast on sustainable sourced seafood thanks to Fervour, like Abrollos Island Scallop served with scallop skirts, marron balachang and Howard Park Grand Jete.
Be one of only 30 people to attend the inaugural Indian Ocean Fest on Christmas Island in 2023 by booking your ticket in advance.
Tickets will cost you $6990, which includes return flights from Perth, accommodation, food and experiences. Join the exclusive experience now at indianoceanfest.com.au