Iconic shark attracts whale of a party time
Revellers turned out in droves to Exmouth last weekend for the annual celebration of the Ningaloo Coast’s most iconic resident, the whale shark.
Hundreds of Exmouth locals and visitors attended the 2017 Ningaloo Whale Shark Festival last weekend.
The annual festival celebrates the yearly migration of whale sharks to the Ningaloo Reef with a three-day program of events.
The festivities started in style on Friday night at the festival gala opening night at Manatrays Ningaloo Beach Resort.
Guests put their glad rags on and enjoyed a night of gourmet food, drinks and entertainment from didgeridoo virtuoso Mark Atkins, Swedish circus performer Johan Wellton and Afro-Kreol musician Grace Barbe.
Some festival-goers were up bright and early on Saturday morning for the Fancy Dress Fun Run.
Participants had a healthy start to the festival day with a 4km run or walk around Exmouth.
Talanjee Oval was a hub of activity throughout Saturday with an array of market stalls, activities, displays, food vans and entertainment.
The Perth Symphony Orchestra string quartet performed, while the Gascoyne in May troupe wowed the crowd with an acrobatics display.
There were also performances from musicians Raymond Edney, Tom Day, Mark Atkins and Blue Child Collective.
This was Day’s first time at the Whale Shark Festival and he said he was stoked to be a part of it.
“It’s such a good community vibe here,” he said.
“It’s so much fun and everyone’s just happy — it’s great.”
Local kids showed their dancing and music skills in the “ExFactor” amateur talent show.
There were also plenty of activities to keep the whole family entertained all day, including a harp-making workshop, free face painting, an inflatable ninja obstacle course and rides.
Researchers from the Department of Parks and Wildlife, CSIRO and Ecocean were in attendance to educate and inform festival-goers about whale sharks and other Ningaloo marine life.
Ecocean is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to whale shark research, education and conservation.
Ecocean marine conservation biologist Brad Norman said Exmouth was the best place in the world to swim with and research whale sharks.
“Whale sharks are amazing creatures — a creature I’ve been working on for 20 years,” he said.
“I keep coming back to Exmouth and the Ningaloo and it still gives me a buzz every time I go out and I’ll keep going and keep trying to understand more about this species and really help with long-term conservation.”
On Saturday night, festivalgoers headed to Cadillac’s Bar and Grill for the festival concert night.
When support band Datura4 hit the stage their rocking tunes managed to attract a large crowd by the end of their set.
Despite a mid-set technical mishap due to a rowdy audience member’s thrown thong, headliners the Southern River Band lived up to their reputation as one of Perth’s best live acts.
Datura4 frontman and WA music veteran Dom Mariani said it was a great night and he was a big fan of the Southern River Band.
“Callum and the boys are just a very unique band — very entertaining,” he said. “He’s got a big future that kid.” Mariani said he had a fantastic time during his first Exmouth visit and that would definitely be returning to explore the reef.
Whale shark tour operators discounted swims on Sunday for the Big Day Out on the Reef.
Festival-goers headed to the ocean to swim with the real stars of the festival — the biggest fish in the sea.
The festival came to a close on Sunday evening at the Exmouth Yacht Club’s festival sundowner.
Punters enjoyed food, drinks, family fun activities and entertainment from musicians who had performed throughout the festival, including Day and Barbe.
Picture: Louise Allingham
Southern River Band frontman Cal Kramer.
Gascoyne in May troupe with the Perth Symphony Orchestra string quartet.