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'Best job' winner says goodbye to island paradise

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Connector of the Day: Ben Southall
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ben Southall talks to CNN about his job as caretaker of Hamilton Island in Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
  • 34-year-old Briton visiting neighboring islands daily and wrote daily blogs
  • Not all plain sailing for Brit who was stung by deadly jellyfish before Christmas
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(CNN) -- It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. 34-year-old Briton Ben Southall, winner of Queensland Tourist Board's "Best Job in the World" competition has now completed his six-month stint looking after Hamilton Island on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Having to cope with turquoise waters, miles of white sandy beaches and more sunshine than most Brits see in a decade of summers must have given him sleepless nights? Surprisingly, they didn't, but the job was more strenuous than at first it might appear.

Southall points out that the competition advertised in the world's press said the winner would have to "feed the fish, clean the pool, deliver the mail and watch the whales."

But during the interview process he says it became clear to him and other applicants that it was going to be a full-on job with lots of interviews and writing.

"Every day I've gone to a new island and explored what's on offer there. Then I've sat down in the evenings and usually worked quite late putting videos and photos together and writing blogs. That's the key part of it," Southall told CNN.

And with 300 islands in his section of Great Barrier Reef he was clearly kept busy. But as he readily admits being paid nearly $140,000 to look after an island has been an amazing experience.

"I think I've done more in these six months than I've done in the previous 34 years of my life. To be able to do this sort of thing, in this location, and report on it can't really be classed as work," he said.

But there was one moment of trouble in paradise shortly before Christmas. After enjoying a jet ski ride Southall joyfully leapt off the back and into the water only to be stung by a deadly Irukandji jellyfish. A fever rapidly engulfed him before doctors were able to ease his symptoms.

"For six hours I was pretty bad," he recalled. "Next morning however, after I had my morphine, I came through the other side."

So now that his work is done on the island, where does he intend to go on holiday?

"It's a difficult one that," he says, "but the white Christmas that the UK enjoyed almost made me a bit jealous." Despite the allure of distant snow Southall says he will probably take a holiday in the southern hemisphere.

"I've discovered a few parts of Queensland and a few places dotted along there that I would go back and relax on."

He says the hardest part of leaving the island has been moving out of his $4 million villa.

"I lived on top of a Land Rover as I drove round Africa on a charity expedition in 2008. So I went from living in a tent to living in this amazing house. Closing the door on the Blue Pearl [the villa] was probably the toughest bit."

 
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