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Six Top Tips for Success #QLDBLOG

This guest post is by Mei of CCFoodTravel.

Not too long ago—in the middle of this year to be precise—I got an email stating that I was one of ten special bloggers chosen to participate in the Queensland ProBlogger event. I was over the moon, to say the least! In the coming week I prepared myself and my gear for this immersion in the great Australian outdoors, as well as for the blogging workshop with Darren of ProBlogger…

Little did I realise that at the event I would make such cool friends from all over the world, in the form of the other nine bloggers—some of them have even guest posted for me now! I also learned that blogger collaboration is indeed a huge aspect of reaching out to people—something that is yet untapped by my blog. Here are six other handy tips I picked up from the ProBlogger workshop.

  1. Have a system in place: Blog as often as you can, or in a way that suits your lifestyle. Tweet, Facebook, Stumble and employ other social media to help, but mainly do what works for you. Try to keep your blogging activities to a similar time each day of the week. If you know what time your USA market segment wakes up, for example, then try to schedule your tweets for the highest traffic periods of the day.
  2. Re-appraise past posts: It’s good to go back and re-write old posts and make them better, especially those that draw a lot of interest—your top hit posts. You should link those posts to other posts on your blog that you feel are even better. This keeps the readers engaged with your blog and makes your blog sticky.
  3. Test, try, and tweak: We should always strive to improve our existing strategies. Do not be afraid to test out new ideas. Once you have found something that works, keep tweaking it till you can no longer get any better results out of it. Once we implement these new ideas, we should continue to evaluate, assess, and to tweak until we get the desired outcome.
  4. Try to sell your own product: I met many inspiring ladies at this ProBlogger workshop, and they ultimately sold their own products on the blog. I would like to try this out for my blog, but am still “testing, trying, and tweaking” till I find the one!
  5. Plan to monetize: Create a professional-looking media kit and promote yourself in a professional manner. Advertisers are investing their time and money in you, so don’t be afraid to make yourself sound as good as you truly are. Adding testimonials and media mentions helps! And create an at-a-glance rate card that will help you to be more efficient in replying to emails!
  6. Blogger collaboration: Make friends, exchange business cards, and learn what makes the other bloggers’ blogs so special. And ask for guest posts and give give them out generously too, when you’re asked for them. That’s the best way to reach the untapped audience!

Have you used any of these strategies on your blog? I’d love to hear your top tips for blogging success in the comments.

Mei and her husband Jo, are avid travelers, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. For some delicious food porn and adventure travels, check out CCFoodTravel. In our spare time we also write for our fitness and health blog, Cikipedia. Alternatively check out our extreme sports/adventure blog, WHOAAdventures. Follow Mei on Twitter.

From Hobby Blog to the Other Side of the World in 18 Months #QLDBLOG

This guest post is by Stuart of averagejoesblog.com.

I don’t write in a niche, and I don’t really write to make loads of money.

The main reason I started writing was to put my own opinion and mark on things that I love. I founded www.averagejoesblog.com many years ago, but it was always just a brain dump—a place where I could be honest, and where if the odd visitor could read something that wasn’t a standard press release, or some old hack (writer) sucking up to a brand, then it was a bonus.

Then, in February 2011 I was approached by one of the biggest brands in the world: Ford. They asked me to cover the launch of a new car. This was one of my first experiences of a rather awesome press trip, and the first interest my blog had attracted from an international brand. The best thing about it? They approached me—I didn’t go to them. That is true for 90% of all the brands I work with (yes I may be a little lazy!).

In the past 18 months I have travelled to Scotland, Ireland, France, Italy, Switzerland, America, Spain, Belgium, Germany, and of course the pièce de résistance, Queensland, Australia with Problogger himself Darren Rowse, as well as nine other bloggers from around the world.

In this post, I’d like to give you a few non-standard tips on the things I do which are slightly out of the box.

How I got to Queensland

Why I have been chosen for these experiences? I honestly don’t know 100%, but I am pretty sure there are a few major factors. I have left out the usual stuff about quality content, readership, and so on—everyone knows that!

Here are the things that I think I’ve done differently.

  • Timing: I don’t like to use the word luck, but I do believe all aspects of life are about timing. You can have the best idea in the world at the wrong time, and it will never work. Because of this, I make sure I keep in contact with agencies and brands on a regular basis. If you are in their mind at the time of a big event or launch, you are much more likely to be invited to cover it.
  • Social: I have a private Twitter list of people in my industry, and those who I might want to talk to. This allows me to keep an eye on them and anything they might be working on. I will also tweet to them on a regular basis, again to make sure I am in their thoughts.
  • Honesty: Don’t get me wrong, we all like to get paid, but I personally won’t work with anyone if it doesn’t feel right. Never sell yourself short, and always make sure you have final say over everything that has your name attached to it.
  • Be pro-active: Now this is something I’m not as good at as I’d like to be. But if you have a good idea, do it! I’ve saved the contact details of every single PR person I have ever worked with. You never know when you might need them!
  • Be quick: I don’t think you can ever email or call someone back too quickly. There is a misconception that bloggers aren’t professional in business, and that just isn’t true. Very few emails sit in my inbox for longer than 24 hours, and if it’s a good one, it’s turned round in minutes.
  • Processes and templates: There are some things we bloggers are asked over and over again by people who can help us build our audiences. Our history, readership, rates—you name it. Don’t make the answers up as you go along. Spend some time making them perfect, and put them in a template. Then all you need to do is copy and paste.
  • Controversy: For me, there is no such thing as bad press. It comes back to honesty in a way: I won’t go out of my way to be nasty, but equally I won’t go out of my way to be nice. If something is garbage, everyone has the right to know it is! Now of course, you might not agree with this, but ultimately, that’s why controversy works…

That’s a sample of the reasons why I managed to end up in Australia with Darren. This was one of the few times I’ve been proactive in getting to an event, and look how it turned out!

As I said, blogging’s not about the money for me. It’s about the once-in-a-lifetime experiences we get the chance to have a go at. During five days in Australia, I ticked three things off my bucket list! That’s pretty good by anyone’s standards.

What one-in-a-lifetime experiences have you enjoyed through your blogging? Tell us about them in the comments.
Stuart is a UK based Internet ninja and digital geek, the founder of averagejoesblog.com. He helps organisations build and manage their digital footprints.

5 Lessons I Learned About Blogging in Queensland #QLDBLOG

This guest post is by Rebecca Cooper of simpleasthatblog.com.

It’s hard for me to believe that just three short months ago I was in sunny Queensland enjoying the sites and attractions across the world from my homeland of Canada. Being chosen as one of the ten bloggers to go on this once in a lifetime trip was exciting to say the least! I was thrilled for the adventure and equally as thrilled to learn what I could about blogging while there.

Though I’ve had a blog now for over five years, I’m relatively new to the idea of monetizing and was feeling ready to take my blog in a new direction but I needed some help to get there.

Amidst helicopter rides over the Reef, ocean kayaking and zip lining through the rainforest, we had the chance to sit through two blogging workshops with Darren and the open discussion and interactions between all the bloggers was so helpful and really opened my eyes to a lot of possibilities in this world of blogging!

Besides the obligatory Koala and vegemite souvenirs I brought home for the kids, here are a few blogging tidbits I brought home from Queensland with me.

5 Things I learned about blogging in Queensland

  1. Blogging buddies are the best: Discussing blogging with other bloggers is a lot different than chatting on the subject with my husband, who does not blog. So very different!
  2. Make products prominent: If you want to sell ebooks, or other products for that matter, make them easy to find.  I had links to my ebooks on my blog’s sidebar, below the fold, and I was only selling a handful. It was recommended I move them to the top of my sidebar. I was so surprised to see my ebook sales more than double just by doing this. It’s something so simple and obvious to some, I’m sure, but I told you, I’m new to this monetizing thing, remember?
  3. Write with intent: One thing that really stuck with me from Darren’s blog workshops was to ask myself what is the one thing I want my readers to do after they read each post. I find myself asking this question before I hit publish, now. Whether it’s to have readers purchase a copy of my ebooks, have them subscribe to my RSS feed, or simply to feel inspired, with this intent in the back of my mind as I write, I’ve found my posts being more driven and accomplishing better what I want them to. I find myself writing with more intent.
  4. Editing published content is wise: Going back and adding to past content is okay. I learned a few things about what I should have done in past posts, so I fixed them. I went back through my past photography-related posts and provided links to my ebooks, for example.
  5. Believe: One of the biggest things I took away from my experiences in Queensland is to be confident in who you are as a blogger. Believe that you have something to offer, that your content is valuable. That belief in yourself really does shine through.

While I still have a very long way to go in growing my blog and monetizing it the way I’d like to, the things I’ve learned and the small steps I’ve made so far have certainly made a difference.

Sitting down with the other bloggers and doing an open critique of each other’s blogs was one thing I found especially helpful during the workshops and I came home with a list of goals and ideas I can’t wait to implement in my blog!

What new ideas do you have on your blogging to-do list? Let us in on them in the comments.

Rebecca Cooper is a mom, blogger and photographer from Alberta, Canada. When she’s not busy taking care of her four kiddos she enjoys crafting, running, being outdoors, taking photos and blogging about her family’s adventures at simpleasthatblog.com.

How a Collaborative Critique Changed My Brand … and My Future #QLDBLOG

This guest post is by Kara Williams of The Vacation Gals.

When I found out I’d been chosen as one of the ten Queensland Blogger Correspondents, I was as excited to scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef as I was to get some hands-on blogger training from the ProBlogger himself, Darren Rowse.

Kara and koalaI’d read ProBlogger for years—since co-founding The Vacation Gals in 2009—and couldn’t wait to learn not only from Darren, but from other successful bloggers from six different countries.

In the hot seat

Indeed, the two, three-hour workshops we enjoyed during our short stay in Queensland were fascinating, fun and oh-so helpful. My favorite part was the first interactive workshop, where each of us bloggers was in the “hot seat” for 15 minutes.

Seated at tables in a big U shape at a Green Island Resort meeting room, we all watched as Darren pulled our blogs’ home pages up on a large screen. One at a time, we each chatted a little bit about our blogs: why and when we launched it, our goals for the blog, and a challenge or question we had for the group at large to address.

As I watched other bloggers go before me, it was so great to see how tactful and gentle, and genuinely constructive, everyone was, offering advice to one another. When it was my turn, I asked for general first impressions of my blog, and I got an earful of candid suggestions.

Constructive criticism

Most significantly, a couple folks questioned why my co-founders and I went by “Gal” nicknames: our bylines on each of our blog posts were ColoradoGal, TwinCitiesGal and SoCalGal, signifying where we live in the United States.

We launched our blog with those handles because we thought we were being creative. In the About Us section of the blog, we shared our real names with our bios.

Also, each of our guest posters was given a “Gal” nickname—one of our friends who covered outdoor activities was AdventureGal, one who had a thing for Italian ice cream was GelatoGal, another was CruisinGal, for example.

But as some other Queensland Blogger Correspondents pointed out, it was confusing to the new reader who the owners and authors were. Not only did the reader not know our real names right off the bat, when they’d land on an individual article or the home page, but it wasn’t clear if a “Gal” was a blog owner or a guest poster.

I didn’t like the sound of that at all!

A small change … but a big difference

Upon arriving home in Colorado from Australia, I procrastinated a bit on changing our nicknamed bylines, even though my business partners agreed that it was a good idea—not only to make it more understandable to our readers, but to further our own personal brands as travel writers.

I thought it would be an epic ordeal to change the bylines not only on our posts, but on our guest posts as well. So I emailed our friends at Desperately Seeking Word Press, a team that has helped us with WordPress questions over the years, to get some insight on how to deal with the change on more than 1,000 posts.

Turns out, all I needed to do was go into the User section of our WordPress dashboard and change the “Display name publicly as” field to our real names. A simple fix!

I did something similar to our 46 guest posters’ profiles, for whom we’d opened individual Contributor accounts, since we’d originally wanted to give them specific “Gal” nicknames. I changed all of their display name fields to Guest Author.

To make it easier on us in the future, I created just one Guest Author user, and now we use that user name and password for loading all guest posts.

It’s a small change to our site, but one that pleases me so much. I’m proud of my blog posts about family travel, romantic escapes, and girlfriend getaways on The Vacation Gals, and I’m so glad that my own name is clearly associated with my work moving forward.

What small changes have made a big difference to your blog? Share them with us in the comments.

In addition to co-running The Vacation Gals, freelance writer Kara Williams covers travel (mainly in North America) for magazines, newspapers and websites. She makes her home in the Colorado Rockies with her husband and two school-aged children.

How Letting Go of Expectations Improved My Blog #QLDBLOG

This guest post is by Jess Van Den of Epheriell Designs.

One of the great joys and terrors of blogging is that a blog is never finished. This is an exciting and inspiring reality. It is also fraught with second-guessing syndrome.

Should I put this widget here? Should I change my banner/font/colours/posting frequency? …and so on.

Most of us learn what works for our blog through trial and error, which is a never-ending process.

We also learn from watching what other bloggers do—particularly those in our niche. If we see something working for others, chances are we’ll give it a go on our own blogs.

This can be extremely helpful—but it can also be limiting.

Setting the wrong expectations

In my niche—craft and design—there is a heavy emphasis on having blog sponsors—a whole lotta pretty ads in your sidebar for fellow indie businesses.

This has become such a norm that many bloggers in this niche don’t feel like they have a “proper” blog unless they have sponsors. That it gives their blog an air of credibility—that they’ve
“arrived.”

The number of ads (and the price of them) has become a litmus test of the popularity of their blogs.

I went through this stage on my own blog—I’ve run sponsor ads in my sidebar on and off for the last two to three years. That was partially because I wanted the money that ads could bring in, but if I’m honest with myself, the main reason was because I was concerned that if I didn’t offer sponsor spots, my blog would be seen as not being good enough. That I wouldn’t be a “proper” design blogger.

Fast-forward to June, when I was lucky enough to be one of the winners of the ProBlogger Great Barrier Reef Competition. It was one of the most remarkable experiences in my blogging career.

Along with making me fall in love with my home state all over again and giving me the chance to befriend an amazing group of people, the workshops helped me see my blog from a fresh perspective. It’s not often that you have ten successful bloggers sitting in a room with you critiquing your site. In fact, it’s not often you get anyone to sit down and critique your blog, is it?

Talking to all the other bloggers about their monetization strategies, I realised something profound—most bloggers struggle with monetization because they don’t have a product to sell.

They experiment with selling advertising, sponsored posts, affiliate sales, and other similar revenue streams. Even if they do create a product, it may only be a single ebook or course (at least to start with), and that isn’t enough to bring in the money they need.

I, on the other hand, do have products to sell. My blog is actually not my main business—that honour goes to Epheriell, my handcrafted, contemporary, eco-friendly sterling silver jewellery range. I also publish bespoke—a tri-annual independent print magazine for creative and crafty people.

It hit me like a bolt out of the blue: why on earth was I selling my key blog real estate to other people when I could be using it to promote my own products?

Why was I sending people away from me and my work?

I’d fallen into the trap of what was expected in my niche. Or—perhaps more to the point—I’d fallen into the trap of what I believed was expected in my niche.

Making changes, and getting focused

Since having that realization, I’ve phased out sidebar advertising, and put my own products above the fold, where they belong.

I’ve done away with the cognitive dissonance I was constantly experiencing when it came to balancing promotion of my own products with the promotion of my advertisers’ products. I have also cut out a whole lot of work that I was doing to organize and promote my sponsorship program, which has left me free to focus on other aspects of my business.

I consistently turn down people who contact me looking to advertise on my site, and I no longer feel the twinge of, “Oh my gosh I’m leaving money on the table,” because I know that the focus and integrity of my blog are more important that a few dollars.

My blog is stronger and more focussed, and I have let go of the fear that I’m not “doing it right.” I have the confidence that I’m doing what’s best for me and my business, and that’s what matters.

So, I’m curious—is there a blogging “should” that you’ve imposed upon your blog that isn’t really true to what you’re trying to achieve?

Jess Van Den is full-time creative entrepreneur – a jeweller, blogger, and an independent publisher. When not crafting sterling silver jewellery in her solar-powered studio in the countryside north of Brisbane, she blogs about beautiful things and bountiful business at Epheriell Designs.

11 Heads Are Better Than One #QLDBLOG

This guest post is by Jodi Friedman of MCP Actions.

When it comes to the world of blogging, multiple people working together almost always achieves better results than just one. So you can imagine the energy that happened when ten lucky, talented bloggers from around the world were selected by Tourism Queensland to join Darren Rowse in Australia in June. We discussed, brainstormed, critiqued, and networked with each other about the topics of blogging and business.

Since I own a blog for photographers about post-processing in Photoshop and Lightroom, I typically attend photo-related conferences and workshops. A blogging get-together was new to me.

In addition to the amazing excursions to see wildlife, marine-life, and incredible views of the Great Barrier Reef, we had plenty of time to interact with each other.

We had two blogging workshops, one of which included critiquing each participant’s blog. I listened closely to the observations and advice given about my blog and company. I took notes and then made to-do lists and processes to implement the changes that were suggested.

I also asked questions of the other bloggers about how they run aspects of their businesses. Again, I documented things that I could apply to my company, MCP Actions.

Here’s what has happened since the trip.

1. Blog design

Critique 1: The text on my blog was hard to read.

I was told that the lines of text were too close together, and the text was slightly too small. Great suggestion. I adjusted the sizing and spacing of the text on my blog.

Critique 2: It was hard to find my products from the main blog.

My blog has two goals: to educate photographers on photography and editing, and to lead people to our Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets.

Up until now, I had a slideshow at the top of the blog with links to some older posts. A few people said to me, “How do we get to your products to see what you have to offer? Nothing exists for this above the fold.”

Since the trip, I have gotten rid of the large images leading to older posts and replaced them with buttons that take you to our actions, presets, and training classes. As others mentioned, this is a much better use of the real estate at the top of the blog. The key here is to make it easy for people to get to where you want them to go.

2. Social networking on more platforms

Critique 1: I put too much time and energy in Facebook and not enough in other social networking platforms.

MCP Actions has a large presence on Facebook—it’s approximately 124,000 strong. Since Facebook made drastic changes to its service, our posts are shown to fewer fans. So some of the bloggers suggested I build a stronger presence on more sites.

Since the trip, I have increased my Twitter presence slightly and started building communities on Pinterest and Instagram.

One challenge I face is that it’s difficult to keep up with so many social networks. I am still working on the best way to manage so many. I still have not integrated Google+ as I leave frustrated every time I visit it. I’m unsure the best way to use it for my business, but I am open to suggestions.

3. Figure out a way to better manage my time

My concern: I don’t have enough time to get everything done.

The recommended solution? Outsourcing. When I returned, I finally took the big step I’ve wanted to take for a long time: I hired a virtual assistant company. They helped me implement blog changes and helped me put some other systems into place so I can work more efficiently. This is a work in progress as I decide which responsibilities I can turn over to them.

My concern: I have too many emails taking up too much time.

This time, the solution that was recommended was to create a support desk. On the trip, I discussed with some of the bloggers how every email for the company gets filtered through me. After returning, I researched help desk software and set up a database of FAQs along with canned responses. The virtual assistant now filters my email. She answers some basic ones about downloads and unzipping. She forwards me the Photoshop ones to answer. And she forwards other team members the ones for their area of expertise. This has helped immensely.

My concern: Blogging and social networking take a huge chunk of time.

The solution here was to hire people to do these things. I utilize guest bloggers, in addition to my own posts, but blogging and social networking are a huge portion of what I do every day. And the truth is that I need to do more.

I have not implemented a solution at this point as identifying the best person for the job will be extremely hard. I am also not 100% sure how to “let go” or be less involved in these two areas. I will be on the lookout to contract with someone who is well versed in photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and writing. The hard part is finding someone with all of those skills and an entrepreneurial spirit, who can both follow directions and work independently. But someday I may find this person… Until them, I will juggle these responsibilities myself.

4. Exposure for Queensland, Australia and my photography

The Tamron adAfter I posted some images from my trip to Australia on Facebook, one of my contacts at Tamron lenses asked to see some contact sheets of the images I’d taken with their new 24-70 2.8 lens.

The outcome is that two images from the trip, along with some quotes of mine, are in a Tamron Advertorial in the September issue of Popular Photography.

With a little help…

As you can see, many of the things I have accomplished in the past few months are the result of interacting with ten other bloggers from around the globe. The insight they provided made a difference in my business, and hopefully my ideas helped some of them too. I will also have lasting friendships and collaborations with many of them both now and in the future.

So next time you are thinking you can do everything alone, consider reaching out to other bloggers. You never know where it will lead.

Jodi Friedman is the owner of MCP Actions. Her company makes photo editing easier and faster for photographers with their highly acclaimed Photoshop actions, Lightroom presets, online training and an active photography blog. Jodi lives in Michigan with her husband and twin daughters and loves photography, travel, and teaching.

New Series: Where Can Blogger Collaboration Lead? #QLDBLOG

We’ve been talking a lot about the value of blogger collaboration recently. Most recently we looked at how it can help you to boost traffic to your blog over the longer term. But I mentioned also that the benefits of networking and collaboration can be subtle and difficult to “measure.”

The Queensland blogging team

Over the coming days we’ll be looking a little more deeply into the ways collaboration can help bloggers. Six of the bloggers who joined me in Queensland earlier this year have put together insightful posts that reveal some of the good things that came of that experience. They are:

Those advantages are varied and, as you can probably guess, each blogger has used what they learned in a different way. One thing that always amazes me about those kinds of group collaborative efforts is that while everyone’s being presented with the same material, they can take completely different messages and learnings from it.

And I expect that as you read their posts you’ll take different messages from it, too. We’re all coming from the perspectives of our own individual experiences and blogs. So different ideas appeal to us.

In a way, I think this is what makes blogging itself such an involving, addictive thing to do. As the blogger, you’re collaborating with audience members through your blog. I’m always surprised to see what speaks to readers in my posts, as explored in their comments and emails.

Collaboration is big. And as we’re about to see, the benefits of real-time collaboration with other bloggers can be literally blog-changing, if not actually life-changing.

I mentioned in a post last week some of the people I’d been grateful to collaborate with in my life as a blogger. I’d love to hear who you’re collaborating and networking with, and how those efforts are changing your blog for the better. And don’t forget to keep an eye on the blog later today for the first in our series of daily posts on the topic.

Experience The Great Barrier Reef Queensland with 10 Bloggers from Around the World #QldBlog

Greetings from far north tropical Queensland, Australia, where I’m writing this post from as part of the ProBlogger Queensland Blogger Trip.

You may remember a couple of months back we ran a competition here on ProBlogger to identify ten bloggers from around the world to win an all-expenses-paid trip to the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland to experience all that the region has to offer — and then to blog about it. The winners were announced here and the trip began earlier this week.

Follow along: You can follow Twitter and Instagram updates by those on the trip—just follow the hashtag #QldBlog—loads of photos and status updates are being made (and a few blog posts have already gone up).

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We all arrived earlier in the week before meeting in the lobby of our Cairns hotel on Tuesday evening. Our first experience was to travel to a local indigenous art gallery (Canopy Artspace), where we had a Welcome to Country by one of the local indigenous leaders, and enjoyed the opportunity to meet some of the local indigenous artists.
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Their work was fascinating and I found myself particularly moved by some of the pieces.

We then had a great dinner together where we got to know each other as a group and began to talk about the days ahead.

Yesterday was our first full day—and it was a very, very full one! Most of the day was spent out in the Coral Sea off the coast of Cairns at a little resort island by the name of Green Island.

There we had opportunity to sit with each other for three hours for our first blogger training session. We spent the time doing a “hot seat” exercise, where each blogger introduced his or her blog, and then the rest of the group brainstormed, critiqued, and workshopped that blog.

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The conversation was great. We had a range of levels of bloggers in the room—from those who are blogging as a serious hobby through to those who are full-time bloggers employing staff to run their blogs.

The rest of the day was spent taking in the sights of the area.

Most of the bloggers had the opportunity to go sea walking (walking underwater with a pressurised helmet).

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Rebecca Cooper from Simple As That

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We were then put on three helicopters and taken out to Vasslof Cay—a little coral sand island in the middle of the reef—where we spent time with Marine Biologist Richard Fitzpatrick, one of the guys who recently shot the amazing Great Barrier Reef documentary.

The flight to the Cay and time with Richard was surreal. For many of our bloggers it was their first helicopter flight, and the views were stunning. The Cay itself was beautiful, and Richard was fascinating.

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As we spoke with Richard, one of the team members noticed some splashing in the shallows just off the Cay. At first they thought it was a Turtle but Richard quickly realised it was a small shark—two, in fact, mating.

Richard was off like a shot, running into the water and shouting that this was one of the rarest things you’ll ever see. He scooped into the water and picked up the male shark and for the next ten minutes we had a lesson that we’ll never forget about the lives of sharks.

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Photo of myself and Richard taken by Tsh from SimpleMom

I even got to pet it!

We were then shuttled back to Cairns where we had 45 minutes to freshen up before being taken to one of the most beautiful restaurants in the region—NuNu in Palm Cove. There, we were serenaded by a ukulele band and watch a big golden moon rise above the water on the beach before us.

It was as if nature and the team at Tourism Queensland had conspired to give us the ultimate night out.

Today we switch gears a little and are heading away from the reef into the Daintree rainforest. This part of Queensland is a unique region in that it has two World Heritage listed areas (the reef and rainforest) in such close proximity.

We’ll spend another three hours this morning doing some more blogger training at Silky Oaks Lodge next to the Mossman River. Then, in the afternoon, we’ll have the opportunity to do a rainforest walk and get a Spa Treatment … pedicure or massage anyone?

We’re also checking in tonight to an amazing resort: Thala Beach Lodge, which I am told is a unique and amazing place to stay.

Please check out the #QldBlog stream for more regular updates on what our bloggers are doing!

Also check out the blogs of our participating bloggers—posts will start to go up on these in the coming days:

And the Winners Are … #QldBlog

As promised earlier in the week, today I’ve got great pleasure in naming the winners of the Great Barrier Reef Queensland Blogger Correspondent competition.

106347-634.jpg767 bloggers entered the competition. They came from an amazing array of counties (52 in all)—from the US, UK, Germany, Australia, Spain, Malaysia, Belize, Netherlands, Canada, Singapore, Mexico, Italy, France, Brazil, South Africa, Israel, India, Romania, Argentina, Phillipines, Indonesia, Hawaii, Pakistan, Lithuania, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Denmark, Nigeria, Kenya, Thailand, Belarus, Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden, South Korea, Costa Rica, Moldova, Japan, Kuwait, Madagascar, Bangladesh, Chile, Mauritius, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Finland, UAE, Hong Kong, Ukraine, and Greece.

Interestingly the vast majority of entries were from those in the USA, and from women. This is reflected in the winners list.

Choosing the winners was no easy task. The entries were of a high quality, from some amazing people, and many of the submissions were very attractive to the judging panel who were seeking to find bloggers that they felt were a good “fit” in promoting the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland.

We saw some very creative submissions and I myself spent a whole day looking through them all—and loved the experience! But without further ado, here are the winners:

Thanks again to those who entered and to Tourism Queensland (connect with them on Twitter here or on Facebook here) for their sponsorship of the competition. This experience has been a lot of fun, and you’ll hear more about it in June when the above crew gather together in Queensland with me to have an amazing five days together.

UPDATE: sadly we recently heard the news that Elizabeth was not able to join us for this trip. The result was an opportunity for us to add another blogger.

We went to the next person on our short list and Australian Jess Van Den from Epheriell Designs was our next target. Luckily Jess was available at very short notice (just 5 days out) – being a local helped heaps!

Congrats to Jess and our best wishes to Elizabeth – hope to see you next time!!!