Imagine: pulling up on your boat to an island festival. The days are filled with celebration, dance, and food. Every evening the sun sets on the open sea, water stretched out past the horizon. All over the world, people use their vessels to arrive on the shores of other lands and immerse themselves in their festivals. Read ahead to discover 5 festivals you can only get to by boat.
Tsiknopempti - Hydra Island, Greece
Various cultures celebrate Carnival festivals to usher in the season of Lent. On Hydra, a small island southwest of Athens, people celebrate Tsiknopempti. This celebration falls on the second Thursday of the country’s 3-week Carnival season. On this day, locals light fires along the white streets, roasting and grilling meat for hours while communing with neighbors and friends. Donkeys stand in the background while children play, families chat, and even a stray dog walks with a smile on his face. The only way to partake in this island festival involves arriving by boat, and many people take the 2 hour Piraeus - Hydra ferry. However, voyagers with their own vessel can arrange their own schedule, even choose to stay overnight in the Mandraki tourist anchorage or arrive early to explore different sides of the island. The crystal waters and red roofs of baked clay will leave visitors feeling sunny while the food and jovial atmosphere will keep them coming back for more every year.
Farerei Haga - Rangiroa, French Polynesia
The canoe races leave spectators awestruck as the monohulls powered by the brute strength of six people cut through a bay of turquoise waves. They shoot off like rockets in the afternoon and navigate the water with ease. In the evening, there are performances: three dancers draped in pareu, wearing headdresses adorned with feathers of yellow and blue, move barefoot across the sand. Joy is abundant, the weather is fair, and the food is delicious. This is Farerei Haga, a spectacular festival in mid-September that celebrates traditional Pacific life on the island of Rangiroa and the surrounding atolls. The festival includes fun and time-honored sports, including coconut husking, stone lifting, and braiding. At the evening dancing and singing events, dancers move their hips and feet to the rhythm of the live percussion. Most tourists arrive to the festival by boat, which is no easy feat: the islands rest almost in the center of the Pacific Ocean, over 850 nautical miles east of Fiji. But this experience is unique and well-worth the voyage, even if just to admire how the marine and human life share in the island’s beauty and abundant resources.
Anegada Lobster Festival - Anegada, British Virgin Islands
If you’re a big fan of seafood, then Anegada Lobster Festival is the place for you. Located in the Caribbean, Anegada is the northernmost island of the British Virgin Islands, and only accessible by boat. During the Lobster Festival, locals and tourists alike catch and cook spiny lobster, a large crustacean typically found hiding between rocks and in coral reefs. This lobster is a delicacy that can be boiled, steamed, grilled, and even served with pasta. The festival celebrating this animal includes live music, dance lessons, and even an island-wide scavenger hunt. Fisherpeople are seen all day unloading traps from the surf to bring to the chefs. The sun is shining, the blue waves are relaxing, and you can even see dozens of outstretched pink wings gliding across the water from Flamingo Pond. If you’re in the Caribbean during the week of Thanksgiving, don’t forget to check out this festival.
Gorée Island Diaspora Festival - Gorée Island, Senegal
The drummers move in unison, their palms and fingers pounding rhythms that power the dancers. The dancers’ bodies act with precision, striking, bearing, plowing, pleading, and celebrating with their steps. They honor their ancestors with their movements. Here at the Gorée Island Diaspora Festival, Africans and the diaspora commemorate the resiliency and survival of their ancestors at the very place where their freedom and autonomy were stripped from them centuries ago. Gorée Island, located just a little more than one nautical mile east of Dakar, was the last stop for newly enslaved Africans before they embarked on the harrowing journey to the Americas. Today, delegations from all over Africa come together for the Gorée Island Diaspora Festival to spread joy and a message of triumph, power, and unison in the face of this heavy history. Art and cultural presentations from all over the continent make this festival unique and vibrant. Arriving to the festival by boat is quick and simple, and there are even frequent ferries that run for the affordable price of $2. Come prepared to eat, drink, dance, sing, pray, and honor those whose lives were uprooted by the slave trade.
Organic Farming Festival - Gökçeada, Turkey
A deep respect for nature is a natural side effect of the sailing and cruising lifestyle. Nature provides everything for us--water to float our boats, wind to push our sails, and food to nourish our bodies. There’s no better place for sailors to celebrate nature and food than Gökçeada, the largest island in Turkey. This Aegean paradise is home to the Gökçeada Organic Farming Festival, which uplifts and spotlights local producers and farmers on the island. During this time, visitors can expect restaurants to offer grand breakfast, lunch, and dinner spreads that promote a message about the importance of supporting local food production. Many farms also boast community events, inviting tourists to come visit and get a taste of what organic food production looks like on this large island. Finally, the large farmer’s markets that take place during this time make a wonderful place to stock up on provisions before your next voyage.
A World of Possibilities
These five festivals only just scratch the surface of what is available to the adventurous mariner. Be open to the world around you and inquisitive about the customs, cultures, and celebrations of other people. You will find it broadens your understanding of the world while deepening your appreciation of nature, community, and the self. Dance, sing, share a meal, and make a friend at one of these rich and captivating festivals that you can only get to by boat.