I’ve just met Ben Southall as part of a trip to the Great Barrier Reef with Tourism Queensland and took the opportunity to ask him 7 Questions. Born and bred in the UK, Ben famously won the “Best Job in the “World” competition and is now the official Ambassador for Queensland Tourism.
1. What inspired you to enter the ‘best job in the world’ competition?
Having just returned from a year-long expedition around Africa, I had been back in the UK for ten days when the advert for the Best Job went viral. A couple of friends in different parts of the world emailed me the details and I thought “that’d certainly be interesting”. With no job planned or in the pipeline, I had nothing to loose by putting together the one-minute YouTube video that was required. The idea of living on the Great Barrier Reef, travelling, diving and writing about it seemed too good to be true!
2. What’s been your best experience ever since working and living in Queensland?
I’d say the experiences I’ve had that involve up-close-and-personal experiences with wildlife are always the ones to stand out. I kayaked up the Queensland coastline for four months and during that time came pretty close so some huge marine creatures. Watching a female Humpback Whale give birth was awe-inspiring. Seeing the young one take its first breath was something that’ll stick with me forever.
3. What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you?
Having travelled extensively throughout Africa over the last decade had exposed me to some pretty challenging situations. Whilst I was driving through Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, a woman walked out in front of my Land Rover without looking, I bumped her and after seeing a foreigner behind the wheel, dropped her shopping bags and started screaming. Within seconds, I was surrounded by a baying mob of locals all shaking the car and shouting at me. I had no option but to drive through them and up the central reservation to the nearest police station which was only just up the road luckily. As I arrived at the gates, the guard spotted the oncoming rabble and slammed the gates behind me, shot his gun in the air and calmed the mob down. My legs were shaking so much! It all ended pretty amicably. She had a hospital check up and nothing was bruised or broken and we all went on our way!
4. What’s been your best dive ever and why?
One of my favourite dives had to be at Lady Elliot Island, on the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. The visibility is always amazing and manta rays love to hang out there as the island is located at the edge of the continental shelf. I remember on one dive we started off with around ten appearing, then a close call with a big loggerhead turtle, a very friendly leopard shark and always in the background the sound of the humpback whales. Interactions with nature are amazing but this was just TOO cool!
5. What’s your view on the proposed coal mining on the Queensland coast?
I’m not a scientific expert and therefore can only comment of the value of tourism to Queensland. Tourism is an industry worth $18billion to the state’s economy and directly employs 221,000 Queenslanders. The GBR is a passion of mine, one of the great natural wonders of the world, widely acknowledged as one of the best managed and healthiest coral reef ecosystems in the world. The tourism experiences on offer in Queensland and particularly the GBR are best practice and many operators are independently certified by Ecotourism Australia.
6. What do you love most about Australia?
Simple. The fact I can live the vast majority of my life outdoors. The consistent daylight hours and beautiful weather mean that I don’t have to lock myself indoors for five months every year!
7. It’s 2017, what’s happened?
I’ve just got back from driving across Asia and Europe to the UK after completing the second of my year long expeditions around the world. Sophee and I are expecting our first baby and intend heading back to Australia to have it! We left China after living there for two years working for a company promoting tourism in Australia. Something along those lines anyway!
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I’m Jackie and, with my partner Rick, founded Scubadviser which is just like TripAdvisor but for divers. If you’ve enjoyed this post please sign up for my updates or add your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.