Page last updated at 07:44 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 08:44 UK

'Best job' winner takes up role

Ben Southall (Copyright: Tourism Queensland)
Ben Southall has moved into his three-bedroom beach villa

A Hampshire man has started work as the new caretaker of an Australian tropical island after winning a competition to land "the best job in the world".

Ben Southall, 34, a charity fundraiser from Petersfield, beat more than 34,000 applicants to the position.

His new job requires him to live and report from Hamilton Island on Queensland's Great Barrier Reef.

He begun his six-month job earlier by settling into his new home, a luxury ocean-front villa called Blue Pearl.

Mr Southall also picked up the golf buggy that will be his main transport for the next six months.

He said "excited" did not begin to describe how he felt about officially beginning the job.

"It seems a lifetime ago when I sat down in January to plan and film my 60 second video application," he said.

"At times I still can't believe I was successful in being offered what has to be the most sought-after job in the world.

Tourism Queensland picture, a man stands on rocks  with 'best job' sign
34,000 people in 200 countries entered the competition

"During the selection process in May I was lucky enough to visit a small part of the destination so I can't wait to get out there, start exploring as many of the 600 islands that I can, and start telling the world about my experiences."

The rigorous final stages of the selection process involved snorkelling, barbecues and time at a spa.

The competition gave a global profile to Australian tourism, which has gone into decline amid the worldwide recession.

Mr Southall was one of 16 finalists competing for the A$150,000 (£73,500) position.

He was named as the successful candidate in a reality TV-style ceremony by Tourism Queensland on 6 May.

The job description requires Mr Southall "to explore the islands of the Great Barrier Reef, swim, snorkel, make friends with the locals and generally enjoy the tropical Queensland climate and lifestyle".

As a thoroughly modern caretaker, Mr Southall will also be expected to report back to Tourism Queensland and the world via blogs, a photo diary, video updates and interviews.



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