British man begins Australian island dream job

Image: Ben Southall, right, and Sandy Oatley
Ben Southall, right, of Britain is congratulated by Hamilton Island owner Sandy Oatley after he was declared the winner of the “Best Job In The World” competition on Hamilton Island in the Whitsunday Islands.Torsten Blackwood / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Briton Ben Southall said he'll miss his mom's Sunday roast as he began what's been dubbed the "Best Job in the World" — a six-month contract to serve as caretaker of a tropical Australian island.

The 34-year-old former charity worker bested nearly 35,000 applicants from around the world for the dream assignment that started Wednesday to swim, explore and relax on Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef while writing a blog to promote the area.

He was selected for the 150,000 Australian dollar ($120,000) gig by officials from the tourism department of Queensland state in early May.

Southall said he hit the ground running on his first day on the job after returning to the island from England where he spent almost two months.

"Now that I've got back out here, all of a sudden it's really hit me again ... it's going to be very full on," he told Nine Network television.

Southall said his mother cooked "a good roast" for the family on Sundays. "That was just one of the things I said was going to obviously be missing out of my routine," Southall said.

"What I'll actually be doing is donning the apron, sticking the tongs in my hand and sticking the shrimp on the barbecue," he added. "So I can adapt particularly well — don't worry about that."

He said he saw his role more as an ambassador than a caretaker.

"I've really got a very full itinerary, flying away to different parts of the Barrier Reef to go and explore it, to go and write about it, and then to try and sell it to the rest of the world," he said.

Southall was selected on May 6 among 15 other finalists after four days spent on the island for an extended interview process, which required applicants to snorkel, gorge themselves at a beachside barbecue and relax at a spa.

The finalists also had to demonstrate blogging abilities, take swimming tests and sit through interviews.

The job is part of a tourism campaign to publicize the charms of northeastern Queensland, and officials say it already has generated many millions of dollars in publicity. It became a viral marketing hit, spreading across the world via YouTube and social networking sites such as Facebook.