In what was one of the cleverest bits of marketing ever, Queensland Tourism ran an advertisement locally and internationally offering "The Best Job in the World". Well, Getaway's presenters are so used to being told they hold that title, Natalie Gruzlewski just had to see what was going on.
The position Queensland Tourism was offering was for six months as live-in islands caretaker, based on Hamilton Island, smack bang in the Great Barrier Reef. Working hours: flexible. Key responsibilities: exploring the islands of the Great Barrier Reef to discover and promote what the area has to offer; feed the fish (more than 1500 species, but they tend to look after themselves); clean the pool (it has an automatic filter so just remove the odd leaf); and collect the mail (via the aerial postal service). The pay is a whopping $150,000!
Needless to say word got out and during the first weekend of the campaign more than 200,000 people logged on. Around 34,000 hopefuls applied and Tourism Queensland received and processed more than 7500 applications during the final 48 hours.
The CVs of those who applied were wide and varied and once the 60-second videos had been perused, the final 16 travelled to the Whitsundays in May for the final selection process. As well as the formal side of things, participants swam, snorkelled and tried local cuisine. It sounds as though there were no losers!
The winner was announced to the world media soon after, making Ben Southall from the south of England the happiest man on the planet.
After leaving university, Ben spent time in Africa working as a tour guide and driver and then returned to the UK to work as a charity events manager. In his spare time, Ben manages a music festival, runs marathons and climbs.
Now, from his base on Hamilton Island, Ben commutes to other islands. His closest neighbour is Daydream Island, a 30-minute ferry ride away. That sure beats bumper-to-bumper traffic anywhere in the world. The occasional dolphin or whale pops up as Ben is on his way to, say, road-test treatments at a day-spa or taste the latest cocktail.
Back in his $4 million dollar digs, Blue Pearl, Ben enjoys meals whipped up by executive chef Lindsay Palmer. His home-away-from-home has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, private plunge pool/spa, large balconies, barbecue, exquisite views and even a golf buggy to allow him to explore the island with ease. By the way, it's available for rent when Ben heads back home to an English winter!
The Koala Gallery is Hamilton's very own fauna park and has a large collection of koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, crocodiles, wombats, Tasmanian devils and a range of reptiles. Just as Ben does, visitors can hand-feed kangaroos, cuddle a koala and enjoy the antics of cockatoos in a daily show.
But it's not all beer and skittles. There's always paperwork and the hardest part of that is concentrating on what to write, with all that distracting scenery to contend with.
H2O Sportz specialises in scuba diving and snorkelling in the centre of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Their training school is on Hamilton Island's marina. Custom-built boats take you to the best locations and instructors conduct daily pool courses for beginners.
The Great Barrier Reef.
Blue Pearl will be available from January 1, 2010, and will cost $716 a night with a minimum three nights' stay. It sleeps up to six. Children eat free, transfers and four-seater buggy are included.
Fantasea Adventure Cruising one-way ferry transfer between Hamilton and Daydream Islands is $43 for adults and $24 for children. They have six services every day. They also go to the mainland and Lindeman Island.
Koala Gallery Hamilton Island entry is $20 for adults and $10.50 for children. It opens at 7.30am every day and a buffet breakfast is served until 9.30am. Pay once and receive unlimited entry during your stay.
Mini golf/putt putt costs $17 for adults, $8 for children and $39 for a family. Clubs and balls are included in the cost.
H2O Sportz Safari full-day diving and snorkelling costs $169 for adults and $89 for children under 14.
Prices correct at August 13, 2009.
For further information
Coral Sea Avenue
Hamilton Island 4803
Ph: 137 333
Fantasea Adventure Cruising
Ph: 1800 650 852
H2O Sportz Dive & Snorkel Shop
PO Box 19
Hamilton Island, 4803
Ph/fax: (07) 4946 9888