Stories from the Field
Wildlife Photography in the Outback
July 13, 2017
Check out some of the creatures we came across during our time in the Outback!
Snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef
July 13, 2017
Here’s a few snapshots of our team enjoying the incredible Great Barrier Reef. We had a beautiful day on the water exploring, snorkeling, and learning about the special ecosystem of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A Student Interview in Australia
July 12, 2017
The trip leader Patrick was able to sit down today with expedition-mate, student, and photographer extraordinaire Ryan E., who is from just outside the Washington, D.C. area in Virginia. He asked him a few questions about the trip thus far. Here’s what he had to say…
Patrick H.: How does it feel to be a member of a National Geographic Student Expeditions trip?
Ryan E.: Blessed! This being my third trip, I feel very lucky. I have spent multiple summers on the “road” thus enabling me to hone my photography skills, all while experiencing local culture and wildlife at the same time.
PH: What has been your most interesting experience thus far?
RE: To be quite honest, it was hearing and seeing [fellow student explorer] Lilly’s reaction to a recording of my a cappella group that we played while on the road in the Outback.
PH: Why was that so memorable?
RE: Well, singing a cappella at my school is sort of a nerdy thing. Students appreciate it but most of them never go out of their way to hear us out. It was nice to see someone show genuine appreciation for it.
PH: Interesting. Your reply would suggest that the people on this trip are as important as the place. Would you say that one is more important than the other?
RE: I think they are equally important. I am on this trip with people from all over the U.S.A. and even internationally [including Colombia, Cypress, and China]. We say different things and we have different expressions. Especially Luca. Man, the way he talks… That whole New York City thing has always, always got us in laughs.
PH: I see you laughing yourself. It’s great to see there’s a good mix of people. Let’s switch gears to the traveling part, though. What’s one piece of Australia that you can’t get or experience back home?
RE: The Outback. Because I live in the D.C. area, there’s always something happening. I’m always having to go somewhere. And it’s never quiet. I got to experience dead quiet in the Outback. True silence. Put another way, the place is slower here and the people are a bit more laid back here in Australia; and in the Outback specifically. I find it serene.
PH: Alternatively, what’s something back home that you can’t get here (and that you miss)?
RE: A “good” shower. The water temperature was good, but the air temperature in the Outback combined with the lower water pressure was far too cold to have a quality experience. And don’t get me wrong, I love camping and getting really dirty, but nothing beats a high quality shower.
PH: Anything else you want to share about this adventure?
RE: Get out here. It’s worth the 30+ hour-round trip flight because it doesn’t compare to anywhere else. While I hope my pictures can somewhat capture the landscape, I wish I had a wider lens. I wish I could get even more of it, because there is so much more to get!
Check out some of our photos from the Outback!
Time To Get Lost: A Reflection on Time in the Outback
July 11, 2017
This is the part where we settle down, fall in, and get lost. Not lost on the dusty red Outback trail and not take a wrong turn, but lost in our own thoughts. The part of travel that people forget about. The downtime, the transfers. The escape from one place to another. Almost like leaving one existence and heading into another. Reflection time, think time, wait time. Time to get lost. Always to be found again, but not till we’ve escaped to the other side. The other side of knowledge, exploration, excitement. The process of turning into new and improved human beings. Stronger, fitter, more complete editions of ourselves. The music plays, the bus hums, and we bounce along this long, flat, straight highway as the red Australian bush passes us by out the window.
We are leaving Kings Creek Station on our way to Curtin Springs Station bush camp. Curtin Springs Station is a cattle ranch the size of Denmark, right here in the middle of Australia. It should take about three hours to get there, not arriving till after dark. On our hike today, we saw pale white ghost gums and desert oaks, red rock and steep sheer cliffs that could have been constructed by the giants of Middle Earth.
The colors and contrasts here in the desert are stunning. The ghost gum, for example, has smooth bark that’s whiter than the teeth of a puppy. When one touches the ghost gum, it releases a white substance that we can put on our skin for sun protection. They are shapely trees; almost perfect in their solitary stance, as if looking out over the desert to keep order. Plus, they have just enough leaves to provide a bit of shade when the sun beats down extra hard.
In other parts of Australia’s “red centre,” are Desert Oaks. There are forests of them, which really means about four or five trees for an area as large as a baseball infield. Large, wispy, and faint, yet prominent in numbers, relatively speaking. They remind me a little bit of Joshua trees in California’s high Mojave desert. According to Ryan, our Outback guide and new adventure expert, the desert oaks mean there is lots of water beneath the surface; hard to believe, given the arid appearance of the landscape.
Speaking of water, yesterday on the road we saw roughly nine wild camels. Some of them were quite young. Ryan said that one camel can drink up to 200 liters of water at one time. I’m feeling dehydrated thinking about it! But it won’t last long. Because thoughts come and go. They pass though us like a soft breeze through ghost gum leaves. Completing experiences, solving problems, making us more real and more complete. In fact, I’m really thrilled to be this lost. Because when I get found again on the other side, I’m far better than when I started!
Check out some of our photos from the Outback!
Sydney in Photos
July 5, 2017
After getting off our 15-hour plane ride from Los Angeles, we met Ali, one of our trip leaders. After quickly checking into our hostel, we all freshened up and went to a café for lunch. After our meal, we went on a scenic walk along Sydney’s beautiful harbor until we reached the iconic Sydney Opera house! We took some photos, enjoyed the views, and then walked to the Botanical Gardens, another Sydney gem. In the garden, we spent the afternoon orienting ourselves with each other and learning about our trip to come. As the sun was setting, we walked to dinner and we spent the night chatting while enjoying burgers. After dinner, we walked the long way around Sydney before getting on a ferry that took us back to our hostel.
Check out some of our photos of Sydney!
July 25, 2016
We had an epic time exploring the Outback and camping under the stars. We’ll let our Gif’s speak for themselves!
Great Time in Sydney!
July 20, 2016
We are having a great time in Sydney! Yesterday we went to Manly Beach and split into our On Assignment teams. The photography group took pictures on the beach while the wildlife group did some snorkeling.
Photo Highlights: Koalas, the Outback, and the Great Barrier Reef!
July 16, 2016
It’s hard to summarize our journey — so much has happened in just three weeks. Yesterday morning we left the rainforest after an incredible time snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, kayaking in Cape Tribulation, hiking in the Daintree rainforest, horseback riding on the beach, and scouting crocodiles from a boat. Check out our photo highlights!
Alex’s College Essay, Australia Expedition
April 11, 2016
Environmental studies are incredibly important to the welfare of humanity and the world in which we live. I have read articles from scientists comparing the Anthropocene extinction we are causing to popping rivets on an airplane. You don’t know which rivet will cause the plane to crash, but it eventually will. In the same way, the plane represents an ecosystem. As we continue to drive species to extinction, we will eventually cause the ecosystem to collapse.
Australia Expedition: Under the Sea
August 8, 2015
We’ve had the incredible opportunity to snorkel the largest coral reef system in the world, the Great Barrier Reef. We boarded a boat in the morning and spent the day snorkeling three different spots, each with unique biodiversity for us to explore. We got to swim with turtles and some beautifully colored fish, and examine branching corals, and spotted rays, eel and even more sea life.
The Great Barrier Reef with Expert Ulla Lohmann
August 20, 2014
Australia had already been one of the greatest adventures any of us in the National Geographic student group had partaken. Nothing could have made it better, at least that’s what we thought. On our way to the Daintree rainforest, the oldest rainforest in the world, we met Ulla, an extremely accomplished German photographer, our National Geographic expert, and the greatest explorer I’ve ever met. She made an amazing trip into a perfect one. She showed us pictures of her exploration into the depths of Papua New Guinea and of the indigenous people there. She presented her crystal clear pictures of the terrifying mummies that the natives made to preserve both the bodies and the spirits of their ancestors. Her life story simply inspired us like nothing had before, showing us someone who has truly traveled the world and has experienced the true power of the elements, from great storms to freezing temperatures to the raw, unadulterated might of active volcanoes.
Photographing Wildlife in Sydney
July 23, 2014
Although Australia is known for the iconic wildlife that roams the Outback and swims the Great Barrier Reef, our students didn’t waste any time seeking out and photographing iconic Australian species. During their first stop in Sydney, students visited the historic Taronga Zoo and Sydney aquarium where they captured the following shots: