South Ari Atoll Celebrates Third Annual Whale Shark Festival

Maldives.net.mv – The 3rd annual Maldives Whale Shark Festival, organised by Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWRP) was bigger and better than ever before, with participants from local communities, throughout Maldives and from around the world!

This year’s Festival saw the participation of 6 local islands: Dhigurah, Maamigili, Fenfushi, Dhangethi, Mahibadhoo, and Mandhoo, collaborating with our dynamic team of highly experienced Maldivian Artists Maeha Zahir, Jauna Nafiz, Dhahau Naseem, Ali Rishwan and Arizlaan, as well as our Festival Storytelling Facilitator, Fazail Lutfi.

The festival kicked off on Friday with ScienceFEST, a conference of Researchers, Marine Biologists and Community members, in Dhigurah, Alif Dhaal Atoll. A new aspect of the Festival, ScienceFEST was an opportunity to discuss conservation projects in the area, share research and celebrate the work of Conservation NGO’s in the Maldives. The event was a big success with 20 presenters attending including representatives from environmental groups Manta Trust and Damage Control.

“It was really great that we were able to so many people together for the Science FEST to be able to generate some really wonderful discussions between everybody and especially to have the Deputy Minister present as well.” Katie Hindle, In-Field Manager, Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme.

Yesterday, on the island of Maamigili in Alif Dhaal Atoll, 500 people came together to celebrate the marine life of South Ari Atoll and the majestic whale sharks that call it home.

The festivities of the day kicked off with huge inter- island whale shark quiz complete with a life size whale shark “bodumas” assault course and a 20ft interactive world map. Cultural stories from each island came alive with a combination of traditional story telling techniques, raivaru and choreography performed by community members, councilors and school children.

Whale Shark Festival

The procession was a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes glittering in the sunshine, as huge kinetic whale shark sculptures danced their way through the streets of Maamigili, accompanied by 3 bodu-beru bands. Each island donned the costumes and mobile artwork which they had made in collaboration with their festival artist in residence and wove their way through the streets. People of ages came together, inspired by the Whale Shark and Maldivian Marine Life, to be part of the festival, creating a feast of color and music that echoed across the host island.

Afterwards, the three festival judges presented awards to Dhangethi for winning the quiz, Dhigurah for best costume, to Maamigili for best Mascot (Kinetic Whale Shark Sculpture), and to Mahibadhoo for best Story Performance. The island team from Dhigurah was awarded the Festival Trophy for best overall contribution before the Festival finale performance kicked off with performances from Dhigurah, Maamigili and Mahibado Bodu-Beru bands. The whole day was brought to a fantastic conclusion with a performance by the Maldivian singing sensation Unoosha with thanks to our Festival Partner Lux.

“This is more than just a Festival it is a celebration of unity within the community. How much we take care of our natural environment. Great team work. Congratulations to the MWSRP and its festival team. Thank you to LUX* Maldives for inviting me to this event, it’s an amazing event. Hope the event continues, the Festival brings boost for everybody, especially because the message of this Festival to me is that everybody has play their part in preserving the natural beauty of this country”. Unoosha, Singer.

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