G’day! Today we are kicking off Australia week here on our site. I am definitely not the first, nor the last, person that will tell you that the Land Down Under is one of the most memorable and remarkable places I have ever been. For those that have been, it is almost always a whimsical place that evokes strong memories of great times. With the recent heart-breaking devastation due to the wildfires, I wanted to share more personally with you what this magical place means to me and why it is so important that we keep this great place surviving and thriving.
We're kicking off Australia week on graymalin.com with a whole new array of images from Sydney and Perth! A portion of sales from our Australia Week will be going to the Australian Red Cross to help all those impacted directly.
What first brought me to Australia was my family. I come from a rather large family, and actually have three cousins that live outside of Melbourne. One of my parent's siblings married an Australian. I got to see my cousins every few years, but not super often. Then, our family got the news that the eldest was getting married in the Mornington Peninsula in 2011. Several of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and my sister were all too eager to book a trip. It ended up being a semi-family reunion, with many of us yankees taking flight to Australia from all corners of the US.
This first trip to Australia spanned two weeks; Jeff and I got to travel to the Great Barrier Reef (more on that below), experience Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula with my family, and culminated with a grand finale at the Sydney Mardi Gras. This became the first of a nearly half-dozen trips to Australia over the last nine years.
A good friend of ours from LA is from Sydney originally, and her mom still lives there and she has kindly had me stay at her beautiful home there. Along these numerous trips, I have had many wonderful opportunities to see friends I’ve made. Sydney is a city I’ve become comfortable and pretty adept at navigating. With all the beach aerial photography flights (three and counting) I have done there I feel I know them very well! Truthfully for me now, Australia feels like a bit of a home-away-from-home.
Like I mentioned above, Jeff and I first went to Australia in 2011. We had our itinerary booked and planned well in advance. This was our first big trip abroad together and the first time for both of us to go to Australia- we were excited for months and months in advance. Our first stop was near the Great Barrier Reef in the town of Port Douglas. Though we had planned out every day together, one thing Jeff didn’t know about in my plans for the trip was to propose to him - underwater!
As you can imagine, performing a proposal on the Great Barrier Reef in the open water, is not without risks. I told my parents about my plan in advance, and they thought it was a little crazy, but I knew I could pull it off. As we set off from Port Douglas in the morning, I snuck two important items on board the ship with me—a ring box and a bottle of champagne! We were on about an hour-long boat trip out to snorkel the reef over three stops. I managed to explain my plan to our guide while Jeff was trying on his wetsuit. Our guide was happy to help!
On our last stop, I managed to escape back to the boat and retrieve the ring box. I slipped it inside my wetsuit and swam out to meet Jeff, who was busy watching reef sharks (from a safe distance). I put my plan into motion: I saw a shallow piece of coral, swam down and stuck the ring box in a crevice and prayed it would stay put. I yelled at Jeff, who surfaced, and told him there was something he needed to come see. I pointed at the box and he unsuspectingly dove down to retrieve it (later he would tell me he thought it was “treasure” and truly had no idea). When he came up, he opened up the box, and I popped the question right there in the middle of the ocean! Thankfully, he said “yes” and our guide captured the moment on camera from the ship!
After some bubbles back on the boat, I was thoroughly relieved that both Jeff said yes and I pulled it all off! Since it was the first day of our trip, we could relax and celebrate for two fun-filled weeks. While in Port Douglas we explored the Dane tree national forest and saw wild crocodiles and cassowary birds (a bird that is usually over 6 feet tall and looks like a dinosaur). Then we headed to Melbourne, drove the Great Ocean Road, and headed to my cousin's wedding. We ended with a bang in fireworks at the Sydney Mardi Gras. That first trip is one I will never forget!
Though I love the cities I have been to in Australia (Sydney, Perth, Melbourne), what is truly memorable is the natural beauty and sense of pure adventure you get when out in the country.
Over several aerial beach flights I have had the opportunity to see the amazing landscape sprawl out before me from a bird’s eye view. I have been able to see the packed beaches on Bondi and Coogee, surfers conquering the waves of the Pass in Byron Bay, serene beachscapes in Perth, soar over seaplanes on the Great Barrier Reef, and take in the mesmerizing swirls of the pure white beaches of the Whitsunday Islands from above. I feel truly lucky!
I have also had many adventures on the land - and at sea. In Queensland, I snorkeled the reef among turtles and stingrays. Jeff and I sailed a sunset cruise on the Whitsundays. We fed koalas and kangaroos at an animal sanctuary. In Victoria, I spent a whole week shooting colorful sheep in an autumnal field. I saw the Twelve Apostles and saw a wild koala in a tree. In New South Wales I spent an afternoon on a farm wine tasting and saw the most gorgeous sunset ever on Wategoes beach. Most recently, I stopped in Western Australia and spent several days at a snorkeling safari camp on the Ningaloo reef. Here I got to see wallabies at sunrise over a beautiful mountain top hike and got the thrill of a lifetime swimming with a humpback whale.
There are still many more places to visit and adventures I want to have. I would love to see Uluru, make it to Ayers Rock, and stay in the Northern Territory. I truly think anyone that has been to Australia, even many times, always has something more than want to do and see there. That’s why it’s so important to keep this special place, and it’s natural wonders big and small, safe from the destructive forces of climate change. I am so happy to be able to give back this Australia week to support this cause with the Australian Red Cross.
So what does Australia mean to me? Family, friends, fond memories, and a sense of limitless adventure. I hope you’ll join me this week in celebrating this truly wonderfully important place. Take a moment to check out my latest additions to my collection of Australian beach aerials here.