The stream of clowns seemed endless, each group dressed in matching zingy, sherbet-bright costumes, gradually filling up the main promenade between the exuberantly decorated floats, marching bands and rich medley of characters that made up the extravaganza that is the Tenerife Carnival.

Clowns in Tenerife carnival procession - by Zoe Dawes

CARNIVAL – a festival marked by merrymaking and processions

Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday: a carnival held in some countries on Shrove Tuesday (the last day before Lent) but especially in New Orleans and Rio de Janiero

Carnevale: from Old Italian carnelevare, Shrovetide : carne, meat + levare, to remove

Tenerife Carnival bus - by Zoe Dawes

I was upstairs on a big red, open-top bus on Santa Cruz promenade the waiting for the main procession of the carnival to get under way … We'd been there for almost two hours, so even by Spanish mañana standards it was a long time!  This did, however, give us a unique opportunity to see some of the amazingly intricate costumes and floats that make this one of the biggest carnivals in the world.  This year's theme was ‘Bollywood' and there were some beautiful Indian-influenced outfits, but to be honest, the overall vision was simply colour, glitz and vibrancy. The atmosphere was electric as adults, children and a couple of geese made their preparations for the biggest day of the year.

Tenerife Carnival procession gets ready - by Zoe Dawes

As a picture paints a thousand words, I'll save you some reading time and share some of the scenes that I saw during this time.  If you can imagine an accompaniment of a very loud and excitable troupe of drummers plus various bands providing entertainment for the waiting crowds, you’ll get an idea of the sounds that accompanied this marvellous melee.

Drummers and clowns Tenerife Carnival - by Zoe Dawes

There was a great deal of adjusting of costumes, trying on of hats, practising marching, putting finishing touches to exotic makeup, twiddling with accoutrements and a huge amount of noisy laughter. 

Adjusting carnival costume - by Zoe Dawes

Tenerife Carnival makeup - by Zoe Dawes

Children of all ages were kitted out in very professional-looking costumes and were high as kites with excitement. Adults tried to keep them in place but quite a few went walk-about whilst others were kept happy with bags of crips and fizzy drinks.

Clowns at Tenerife Carnival ready to go - by Zoe Dawes

Happy children Tenerife Carnival - by Zoe Dawes

Clown eating crips Tenerife Carnival - by Zoe Dawes

As well as the groups who were marching on foot there were, of course, a great many floats.  I’d never been to a ‘real’ carnival and to be so close to these wonderful creations didn’t spoil the magic one bit.  I walked up to the head of the procession before it set off and was fortunate to get in front of the Tenerife Carnival Queen as she was getting ready for the start and posing for photographers. Even without her headress she was simply lovely and clearly enjoying all the fuss.

Carnival Queen Tenerife 2013 - by Zoe Dawes

Tenerife Carnival queen 2013 on float - by Zoe Dawes

With the rather lengthy delay, some of the participants got rather tired so there were a few who took time out to have a sit down and rest before the procession set off.

Bollywood girls Tenerife Carnival - by Zoe Dawes

Girls sitting down Tenerife Carnival - by Zoe Dawes

And for one or two people, the anticipation all got too much so they grabbed the chance for a quick kip …

Asleep at Tenerife Carnival - by Zoe Dawes

Eventually we heard that the parade had set off and our guide, Ancor, decided that we should abandon the bus and start walking alongside to get a real feel of what it was like to take part in the Tenerife Carnival.  So that’s what we did – and I’ll tell you about that and the crazy party nights before and after, another time.

Tenerife Carnival 2013 poster

I travelled to the lovely Canary isle of Tenerife, off the coast of Africa, courtesy of Tenerife Tourism and stayed in 5 Star luxury at the Mencey Hotel in the heart of Santa Cruz.

Oh yes, those geese. Here they are, in quite possibly the most understated outfits of the whole parade …

Geese at Tenerife carnival - by Zoe Dawes