Take a deeper dive into Christmas Island at the inaugural Indian Ocean Fest in June which will include film, art, music, food, talks, treks, trails and hands-on workshops.
This year’s inaugural Indian Ocean Fest has been designed to celebrate Christmas Island, one of the most awe-inspiring places on the planet. The pilot program of outstanding experiences, to be held from 21 to 28 June 2022, will celebrate the Christmas Island Marine Park, which means there is even more protected wonderland to explore (63 per cent of the island is made up of national park). The exclusive event is aimed at just 30 travellers who have a passion for adventure, nature and an interest in exploring the island’s colourful aquatic, wilderness and cultural elements.
Most famous for its annual red crab migration, which naturalist Sir David Attenborough has described as one of his 10 greatest TV moments, Christmas Island is like nowhere else on Earth. And while nature lovers have been under the island’s spell since seeing the crabs scuttle into the sea on the Trials of Life episode on the BBC, there are still a multitude of reasons to visit on either side of the spectacle (usually at the start of the wet season, in October or November), when millions of the crabs move together, in one big, red, river of clickety clackety togetherness.
Located in the Indian Ocean, 1500 kilometres west of the Australian mainland, Christmas Island is actually closer to Indonesia, which is about 350 kilometres to the north. Here are some of the highlights of this year’s Indian Ocean Fest on Christmas Island, which ticks off the trifecta of magnificent aquatic, wilderness and cultural experiences.
Ocean Adventures on Christmas Island
Watching the dancing colours under the water during a diving or snorkelling tour off the coast of Christmas Island with conservation experts will give you an immersive understanding of the importance of protecting our oceans and seafloor environments such as the reefs, seagrass, seamounts and canyons.
Be one of just 30 Indian Ocean Fest attendees to hear about the globally significant marine habitats and species that led to the Australian marine park proclamation proposal before joining in a range of activities that celebrate that marine environment.
The itinerary includes significant aquatic experiences where participants are almost guaranteed to see untouched corals, tropical fish, dolphins and reef fish just a few metres from shore. Although whale sharks congregate at Christmas Island during the wet season (November to March), you may encounter pelagics like rainbow runner fish, trevally, wahoo and tuna at some of the island’s diving and snorkelling locations, regarded by Diveplanit.com as some of the best in the world.
Christmas Island has some of the longest drop-offs in the world, making it a magnet for novice free divers as most walls are only 20 metres from the shoreline. Fans of free-diving champion David Mulheron will be thrilled to have the AIDA-qualified instructor on hand to talk through the benefits of controlled breathing in an introductory ‘Breathtaking’ workshop that will give them the courage to try his hands-on free-dive experience themselves in the deep dive of their own.
Fest participants can also be involved in a beach clean-up coordinated by Tangaroa Blue Foundation, one of the partners of the Indian Ocean Fest. The citizen science project will help to trace the journey of plastic stowaways that wind up on a remote Christmas Island beach. At the workshop with Eco Crab Industries “Plastic Junk to Art’ participants have the chance to turn flotsam and jetsam into take-home treasure. Talks on ocean conservation and the protection of Christmas Island’s natural assets will also be part of the program, as will a roster of demonstrations and immersive experiences showcasing the latest innovations in marine science.
The Indian Ocean Fest coincides with the island’s annual SeaWeek which will see screenings of marine and ocean-themed films as part of The Ocean Film Festival World Tour. Indian Ocean Fest attendees will also learn how they can support this remote frontier for marine life through nature-based tourism.
Wilderness, Walks & Wildlife on Christmas Island
Lace up your hiking boots for a series of carefully curated wildlife walks and encounters to discover everything from otherworldly robber crabs to the Abbott’s booby (the world’s largest and rarest booby) and flocks of giant Christmas Island frigate birds.
The tours and adventure experiences also include an excursion to blowholes where water erupts from a rock shelf in a seemingly orchestrated spectacle, and to a sapphire pool dubbed ‘the Grotto’ circled by limestone and dripping with stalactites. The guides will also steer visitors towards views and vantage points that look out over the island.
Be one of 30 visitors to join experienced guides for close-up wildlife encounters, walks through protected wetlands and tall stands of Tahitian chestnuts and to cool off with a drenching under a magical waterfall in Hughs Dale. Look up high in the veils of the branches to try and spot elusive birds and butterfly species and, when darkness falls like a curtain, look up and see the stars as nature intended.
The Wilderness, Walks & Wildlife Encounters component was put together in partnership with Parks Australia, who want to teach visitors about the diverse wildlife, from whale sharks to manta rays, turtles, dolphins, rare migratory birds and mammals and yes, of course, those red land crabs that require the ocean to breed.
There will also be exclusive opportunities to learn about the island’s natural assets from a range of experts such as scientists, writers, media, mainland adventurers, photographers and conservation experts such as 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.
Christmas Island on a Plate
As the Indian Ocean Fest’s confirmed dining partner, Fervor will take diners on a journey from the ocean to the forest working with local producers, hunters and gatherers to present everything from pop-up picnics to degustation dining experiences as part of ‘Christmas on a Plate’. In line with Christmas Island’s growing eco-tourism focus, Fervor’s mantra is to hero sustainable local produce and native foraged ingredients.
In addition to the Forest Foraging & Feasting experience, which utilises ingredients such as bunga kantan (laksa flower), wild lime, papaya and mango from the Hidden Garden Farm, visitors to the Indian Ocean Fest will also get to celebrate the island’s cuisine, which has its roots in Malaysia, China and Australia at the Stories with Spice event, hosted by MasterChef favourite Poh Ling Yeow.
The dinner will feature street-food favourites such as satay and roti canai with cooking demonstrations and local stories as told by the ‘Aunties and friends’. Restaurant Rumah Tinggi is the Indian Ocean Fest hub for the week-long celebrations. Surrounded by swaying palm trees, and located only metres from the shoreline, the Fest hub will host breakfast, daily briefings, workshops and sunset drinks.
For foodies, the eating-out options during the Indian Ocean Fest include: playing ‘Castaway’ with a five-course seafood and sparkling feast catered by Fervor on a deserted beach after sunset; an al fresco stargazing dinner under a glittering square of night sky above; and a bespoke cocktail experience using foraged ingredients, before feasting in the farm forest under the banana palms.
Getting to the Indian Ocean Fest on Christmas Island
Be one of only 30 people to attend the inaugural Indian Ocean Fest on Christmas Island by booking your ticket in advance.
Cost: $6990, which includes return flights from Perth, accommodation, food and experiences.
More information: Join the exclusive experience now at indianoceanfest.com.au