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Briton claims 'best job' as island PR guy

A BUNGEE jumping, ostrich-riding British charity worker was yesterday named the winner of what's been dubbed the "Best Job in the World" - a six-month contract to serve as caretaker of a tropical Australian island.

Ben Southall, 34, of Petersfield, beat out nearly 35,000 applicants from around the world for the dream assignment 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 A$150,000 (US$111,000) gig by officials from the tourism department of Queensland state.

Southall and 15 other finalists spent the past four days on the island enduring an extended interview process, which required applicants to snorkel through crystalline waters, gorge themselves at a beach side barbecue and relax at a spa. The finalists also had to demonstrate their blogging abilities, take swimming tests and do in-person interviews.

"It was quite traumatic today because we've just grown to love all of them, so to actually have to choose one was just dreadful," Tourism Queensland CEO Anthony Hayes said with an exhausted sigh after the announcement. "I think we picked the right one, though. He's the most fabulous guy and his people skills are just outstanding."

The job is part of a A$1.7-million tourism campaign to publicize the charms of northeastern Queensland, and officials say it has already generated more than A$110 million worth of publicity for the region. It quickly became a viral marketing hit, spreading across the globe via YouTube and social networking sites such as Facebook.

"I hope I can sell the reef as much as everybody is expecting," Southall said after he was crowned the winner and embraced by his competitors at a ceremony on Hamilton Island. "My swimming hopefully is up to standard."

Southall once worked as a tour guide in Africa, but most recently has worked as a charity fundraiser. In his application video, he expressed a love for adventure, and featured photographs of himself riding an ostrich, running a marathon, scuba diving and kissing a giraffe.

He starts "work" on July 1 and will live for free in an airy, three-bedroom oceanfront villa with a private pool and sweeping views of the surrounding islands. He plans to bring his Canadian girlfriend with him for the duration of the job.


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