Fes­ti­val rock­ers have whale of a time

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Louise Alling­ham

Ex­mouth cel­e­brated the 2016 Nin­ga­loo Whale Shark Fes­ti­val last week­end.

The com­mu­nity came to­gether to cel­e­brate the whale sharks’ an­nual visit to the Nin­ga­loo coast with a week­end jam-packed with events.

There was a gala open­ing party at the Novo­tel Nin­ga­loo Re­sort, live mu­sic from bands Car­avãna Sun and Kal­l­i­dad, en­ter­tain­ment from Zap Cir­cus and Nat­u­ral Wings, a sea­side cin­ema, mar­ket stalls, kite dis­plays and a fam­ily fun run.

Fes­ti­val co-or­di­na­tor Branka King said it was great to see the events bring the com­mu­nity to­gether. “(It was) def­i­nitely very re­ward­ing to see ev­ery­thing come to­gether and all the per­form­ers and peo­ple in­volved when they come and con­grat­u­late the com­mit­tee and you know it’s been a suc­cess,” she said.

Bob­bing about in open ocean roughly one kilo­me­tre from the shore, my snorkel mask was slip­ping off my face.

I kept swal­low­ing salt wa­ter and I was try­ing not to think of what could be lurk­ing be­tween my flip­pers and the ocean floor 20m be­low.

I’m not a strong swim­mer and don’t have a very close re­la­tion­ship with the ocean, so I’m grow­ing im­pa­tient.

I keep look­ing around the ocean depths, wait­ing to catch a glimpse of a whale shark when, sud­denly, as if out of nowhere, one re­veals it­self.

At that mo­ment, I for­get about ev­ery­thing I was wor­ried about and re­alise why a town would ded­i­cate an en­tire fes­ti­val to these ma­jes­tic sea crea­tures.

Swim­ming along­side a whale shark is some­thing one could never for­get and al­most too sur­real to quite put into words.

The mag­ni­tude of their size and strength is ev­i­dent as I felt the pres­sure of the wa­ter be­ing pushed against me from the shark’s huge tail — and ap­par­ently that was a small one.

They look like they’re mov­ing slowly but I’m kick­ing with all my might to keep up.

Sud­denly, it takes a dive, slowly dis­ap­pear­ing into the ocean be­low.

The tour group gath­ered and waited for the Nin­ga­loo Dis­cov­ery cata­ma­ran to pick us up.

Ev­ery­one cheered and laughed, high on the adren­a­line from what had just hap­pened.

We hopped back on the boat and came down from our highs as the Nin­ga­loo Dis­cov­ery team treated us to a gen­er­ous spread of food for lunch and took us to a la­goon for one last snorkel and swim.

As I headed back to shore, I won­dered how the fes­ti­val or­gan­is­ers could quite top what I had just ex­pe­ri­enced.

I wanted to get back out there and do it all again straight away but, as it turns out, the fes­ti­val events kept me fairly well oc­cu­pied for the next three days.

The Novo­tel Nin­ga­loo Re­sort was the lux­u­ri­ous venue for the of­fi­cial fes­ti­val opener last Fri­day night.

Drinks were flow­ing and de­li­cious food was on of­fer as the crowd buzzed with ex­cite­ment for the week­end ahead.

Zap Cir­cus was the first in the line-up of en­ter­tain­ers with their spec­tac­u­lar flame and spe­cial ef­fects show.

Xena, Queen of the Pil­bara Desert then per­formed a hi­lar­i­ous and very classy adult com­edy act, and then it was Syd­ney three­piece Kal­l­i­dad which had ev­ery­one up and danc­ing with their high-en­ergy fi­esta party tunes.

That wasn’t the last crowds were to see of Zap Cir­cus and Kal­l­i­dad be­cause they took the stage again at the fes­ti­val day on Talan­jee Oval and the sun­downer at the Ex­mouth Yacht Club.

On the Satur­day, Ex­mouth lo­cals and vis­i­tors gath­ered at Talan­jee Oval for the Whale Shark Fes­ti­val Day.

A fam­ily fun run kicked the day off, with par­tic­i­pants of all ages com­plet­ing the 4.2km course and fin­ish­ing off with a break­fast at the recre­ation cen­tre.

The 22-piece Aus­tralian Army Band was the first to en­ter­tain that day, per­form­ing songs from the 40s and 50s, right up to the present day.

Other per­form­ers in­cluded the Star­dust dancers, mu­si­cians Miss Max and Michael “Tricky” Triscari, ac­ro­batic duo Nat­u­ral Wings, bands Black­smith Jazz and the NbC, and stilt per­form­ers Pi­rate­man.

There were mar­ket stalls and all types of food and dis­plays from Ex­mouth groups and or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Chil­dren were able to get in­volved with work­shops by Cape Range Rid­ers and Ki­netic Kits, and a tur­tle-nam­ing com­pe­ti­tion by CSIRO and BHP Bil­li­ton.

As the sun went down and the mar­ket stalls got packed up, peo­ple headed to Cadil­lac’s bar and grill for a night of live mu­sic.

Dave Mann warmed up the crowd in the lounge area, then one-man band Jay Hoad took to the main stage.

Head­lin­ers Car­avãna Sun were the fi­nal act and had the crowd danc­ing from the mo­ment they stepped on stage.

The au­di­ence ranged from young dread­locked surfers en­thu­si­as­ti­cally danc­ing right at the front of the stage to re­tirees with glass of mer­lot in hand, tap­ping their feet along to the bounc­ing gypsy-ska grooves.

Sun­day was a qui­eter day around town.

It was the big day out on the Nin­ga­loo Reef, with whale shark tour op­er­a­tors of­fer­ing dis­counted tours for those want­ing to swim with the real stars of the fes­ti­val.

To close the fes­ti­val, pun­ters headed to the Ex­mouth Yacht Club for a sun­downer fea­tur­ing food stalls, a bar and en­ter­tain­ment.

Zap Cir­cus and Kal­l­i­dad did their last gig for the fes­ti­val.

Zap Cir­cus per­form­ers Tara Belle Mur­phy and Rusty Ham­mond said they loved en­ter­tain­ing the Ex­mouth crowd.

“We just thought some peo­ple would come and watch shows but ev­ery­where we’ve done a show, we’ve had ev­ery­one in the vicin­ity and ev­ery­one’s just been wicked,” Ms Mur­phy said.

One-third of Kal­l­i­dad, Tom Raven, said the band had en­joyed be­ing able to stay in Ex­mouth for a longer time.

“We’ve been to Ex­mouth for one day in the past, so we’ve spent the whole week here and it’s been amaz­ing,” he said.

“We did the whale shark thing. It was amaz­ing (and) we’ll re­mem­ber it for­ever.”

Fes­ti­val co-or­di­na­tor Branka King said she couldn’t pick just one high­light.

“It’s re­ally hard to pick what was the high­light be­cause ev­ery day there was some­thing that was just fan­tas­tic,” she said.

“Be­cause we’re quite re­mote where we are, it’s just ben­e­fi­cial to have events like this to bring the com­mu­nity to­gether, to have some cul­ture in town, to in­tro­duce the arts and that’s very im­por­tant for the peo­ple that live here.”

As the sun set, the crowd was in good spir­its but there was a note of sad­ness to see the sun set­ting on the amaz­ing fes­ti­val that ev­ery­one had en­joyed.

Mon­day was a cloudy day in Ex­mouth, per­haps the weather gods were try­ing to make it eas­ier for ev­ery­one to leave.

Pic­ture: Louise Alling­ham

Kal­l­i­dad thrilled the crowd at the Nin­ga­loo Whale Shark Fes­ti­val in Ex­mouth last week­end.

Pic­tures: Louise Alling­ham

Nin­ga­loo Dis­cov­ery tour group dur­ing the Nin­ga­loo Whale Shark Fes­ti­val.

Mark Lewis, Ge­or­gia Blaze­vic and Vince Cata­nia. Head­lin­ers Car­a­vana Sun at Cadil­lac’s.

Nat­u­ral Wings per­form at the fes­ti­val day.

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