Before I visited Uluru for BBC and Lonely Planet, I thought, What’s the big deal about a rock in the middle of the desert? Then I stood beneath it, saturated in color and surrounded by shimmering silence, and I felt awe. Now I get it. This is a mystical place.
How incredible to imagine that Anangu people, the traditional owners of the land, have been around for 30,000 years, passing down oral tradition from parent to child for millennia. Consider this: when you come across an ancient rock painting at Uluru, the story told in the artwork is as fresh and alive to contemporary Anangu people as it was to their ancient forebears. Locals speak of tjukurpa, the catch-all term for regional law, stories, customs, relationships, and knowledge, which together create the foundation of Anangu society. Herein lies the key to wrapping your head around Uluru, something I only began to do. I wished I’d scheduled an extra day.
Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef is like swimming inside a giant aquarium. But to get perspective on its vastness means also seeing it from the air – it’s the only living thing you can see from space.
Before co-producing and hosting these short films for Lonely Planet and BBC, I had never before ridden in a helicopter. What a brilliant place to experience for the first time the thrill of vertical liftoff! We flew 50 miles from the coast to a landing pad in the middle of the ocean (note my enormous grin as we step out of the helicopter), then shuttled to a floating dive station and snorkeled the reef. Lifeguards and roping kept snorkelers from drifting out to sea, and guides led us to clown fish hiding in anemones, past mountains of coral, with a rainbow of fishes surrounding me everywhere I looked. From the macro to the micro, seeing the reef from above and below changed my perspective on the ocean, and by extension, the entire planet.
Heart Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Australia – note the perfect heart-shaped coral reef, at center