When you have already landed The Best Job in the World, as caretaker of Queensland's paradise Whitsunday Islands, where do you go from there?

WITH pedal-to-the-metal I encouraged my little golf buggy to reach the top of a steep hill and a jogger waved and wished me a good morning as he overtook. Only golf buggies are allowed on Hamilton Island, one of the tropical islands on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, where I was searching for Ben Southall.

Last year the 34-year-old from Hampshire beat 34,000 rivals from over 200 different countries for the coveted position of caretaker to the Whitsunday Islands after Tourism Queensland waged what must be one of the most successful advertising campaigns ever. Generating 220 million in publicity for the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef, it also meant a dream job for Southall.

Brilliant white sand, crystal clear water, spectacular coral reefs, days of unbroken sunshine, multimillion-pound accommodation. Plus a salary of 74,000. No wonder this was described as The Best Job In The World.

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I find Southall sitting on a large, luxurious deck (aka "the office"). Over one shoulder are the Whitsundays, a string of tropical islands dotted in the water as far as the eye can see, while over the other, his gymnast girlfriend Bre Watkins is practising her moves as he tries to focus on his paperwork. "It's just another day at the office," he says.

The 34-year-old first heard about Tourism Queensland's Best Job In The World competition in January last year, when a friend showed him the newspaper advert. "It was cold and grey in the UK. The idea of winning seemed like a pipe-dream," he says.

"I never thought I had a chance, and that goes for right up until the moment the announcement was made at the final. I entered for a bit of a laugh really and then kept interest as it seemed like something different to try."

Southall's role as caretaker has involved promoting the 74 paradise islands, only eight of which are inhabited. "My job is that of ambassador for Tourism Queensland and my main role involves having wonderful experiences and writing about them in my blog. It's all great fun," he tells me.

As well as the blog, Southall's responsibilities include speaking at corporate events, making videos and meeting members of parliament and tourism officials. He has been photographed for Aussie Bum surf clothing and his satellite interview with Oprah Winfrey was watched by approximately 7.4 million viewers in the US alone.

When I catch up with him he is six months into the job and has already visited 90 Queensland destinations, done more than 250 media interviews, posted over 60 blogs, taken 2,000 photographs and done 47 video diaries. He has also tweeted more than 730 times and managed to attract upwards of 8.6 million people to the www.islandreefjob.com website. Not bad for someone who only entered the competition for a laugh.

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"I think I've been one of the busiest people on the planet, even though a lot of people think I've been sitting in a hammock doing very little," he says.

But it's not all hard work, because when Southall isn't caretaking, the Whitsundays become his playground and he can swim, run, dive or sail to his heart's content. After all, having wonderful experiences is part of his job description.

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From his Hamilton Island base, he has travelled to all the other Whitsunday Islands as part of his duties, but for those who can afford to do it purely for pleasure, there are cruises and private charter boats such as those run by Descarada Private Charters that make island-hopping a breeze. Highlights of the Whitsundays include the exclusive Hayman Island, a beautiful five-star resort set in tropical surroundings, just an hour's boat ride away, and Daydream Island where the rooms have uninterrupted ocean views. And if some of the best snorkelling in the world isn't enough, Dent Island, just a five-minute ferry ride away, has the only 18-hole championship golf course on its own island in Australia, not to mention some of the best views.

Little wonder that Southall acclimatised quickly to island life and the variety it offers. "If you want hustle and bustle and a hectic life then you can find it, if not you can find a remote beach and just chill there. The choice of a quality lifestyle is there every day," he says.

However, all good things come to an end and Southall's dream job tenure was up at the end of December, when it was time to pack up his surfboard. A tussle with a deadly Irukandji jellyfish in his last week provided a sting in the tail but true to form, his luck kicked in and he survived to become Best Job In The World Queensland Tourism Ambassador with a mission to promote the region in the US, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, the UK, Europe and China. He will also star in a six-part documentary on the islands to be shown in 165 countries and in 34 languages on the National Geographic Channel later this year.

So, with Southall safely out of the way, surely there's a vacancy on Hamilton Island?


For more information on Queensland visit www.tq.com.au and on Southall's stint in the Best Job in the World, visit www.islandreefjob.com.


The four-star Reef View Hotel (www.hamiltonisland.com.au) has rooms from 225 per night which includes transfers to the hotel, use of the gym, spa, sauna, squash and tennis courts, catamarans, paddle skis, windsurfers and snorkelling equipment.

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Hayman Island resort (www.hayman.com.au), prices start from 330 per room per night.

Peppers Coral Coast (www.peppers.com.au/coral-coast), set on the mainland overlooking the majestic Whitsunday Passage, five-star luxury suites start from 99 per night.

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Daydream Island (www.daydreamisland.com), rooms and breakfast start from 250 per night.


At Hamilton Island Golf Club, Dent Island (www.hamiltonislandgolfclub.com.au), an 18-hole round of golf costs 85.

Descarada Private Charters (www.descarada.com.au), luxury boat trips include food and activities. Exclusive use also available. Prices for a two-day cruise in a twin cabin start at 1,108.


Emirates Airlines flies from Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow via Dubai to Brisbane. Economy Class return fares start from around 669. For reservations, visit www.emirates.com/uk.