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British man bags ‘best job in the world’

HAMILTON ISLAND – The British charity worker who beat more than 34,000 other candidates to look after a tropical island off Australia says he is an adventurer who once worked as a teenage fishmonger.

Ben Southall, 34, of Petersfield, Hampshire, in southern England, was named Wednesday as Tourism Queensland’s caretaker for Hamilton Island, on the Great Barrier Reef.

The six-month job pays AUD 150,000 (EUR 84,000, CHF 126,000) and involves swimming, snorkelling, sailing and blogging about life on the island to the rest of the world.

Southall was chosen from 16 global finalists who spent the past few days on the island honing their skills.

"I really didn’t think I stood a chance to be honest," he told AFP. "There were some great people there and I was very, very surprised when my name was called out at the end."

When the job was first announced, it triggered so much interest from around the world that it crashed Tourism Queensland’s website. Eventually, more than 34,000 people submitted entries.

Southall, who described himself as an "adventurous, crazy energetic one" in his application video, has worked as an African tour guide, and spent the past few years working as a project manager and charity fundraiser.

In his spare time he says he manages a music festival and keeps fit running marathons and climbing. His interests include scuba diving, bungee-jumping and mountain-biking.

In 2008,  he visited more than 30 countries in Africa in a "5 Marathons, 5 Mountains" challenge, inspiring people to donate tens of thousands of pounds (dollars) to charity.

"The most important thing to me in life is to have an exciting job that makes me happy, puts smiles on peoples’ faces and achieves challenging goals," he wrote in his application.

The judges said they were impressed with Southall’s "proactive approach to campaigning," which included securing extensive media coverage of his bid.

Southall, who dived into a freezing British lake in his video application for the job, said he remained committed to performing charity work.

"One of the charities I regularly raise money for is Char’s Fund, which is a tiny little one that was set up after a very good friend of mine died in the Asian tsunami."

Char’s Fund is a memorial to Charlotte Jones, a 23-year-old who died on the Thai island of Ko Racha Yai in the tsunami disaster of 26 December 2004.

The so-called "best job in the world" on Hamilton Island contrasts sharply with a previous job Southall had as a teenager.

"When I was 13 to 15 years old I worked as a fishmonger," he told AFP.

"I used to go there before school every day and set up a fish display and in the evenings come take it down. I had to take a shower before school.

Southall plans to bring his Canadian girlfriend Bre with him to join him on the island, where the residence is a luxury three-bedroom beach home complete with plunge pool and golf buggy.

AFP / Expatica