The Best Job In The World

29 01 2009


     “What do you mean, I don’t get paid for overtime?”  (Great Barrier Reef)


The best job I ever had was as a movie extra shooting on a sun-soaked beach in summer. My job was to lie in the sun awaiting my turn to casually stroll down the beach well behind the principal cast. Although even that wouldn`t have been particularly taxing, the call to action never came and I spent the entire day helping myself to free cold drinks and snacks and sunbathing along with a coterie of bikini-clad would-be starlets named Amber, Tiffany and yes, I kid you not –  Bambi. Thoroughly exhausted, I eventually collected my respectable pay cheque and headed home with my tan.


Although not a bad day`s work, it certainly pales by comparison to the recently posted `Caretaker of the Islands` position posted by Tourism Queensland. On offer is a six-month contract based on luxurious Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef. The live-in position offers flexible working hours and responsibilities include exploring the Reef to discover what the area has to offer and then reporting on the adventures to the rest of the world via a blog, photo diary and video updates.


As if that wasn`t enough, there`s also a salary of AUD $150,000. Although this sounds more like a prize in an elaborate game show, this is a genuine job calling for genuine skills and experience and for which would-be caretakers need to apply rather than simply enter. The successful applicant will also have to undergo a lengthy process culminating in a series of interviews. Not that any of that has deterred interested parties however, as the website crashed four times on the first day alone after being besieged by more than 2,000 hits per minute!


The deadline for applications is February 24th with the contract due to start on July 1st. For more information, click here …but probably best not to put Bambi down as a reference.



Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan


Special Spots, Magical Moments: No. 2 – Cape Tribulation

1 10 2008

Cape Tribulation, North Queensland, Australia

The wide, white sand sweeps in a gentle curve from one end of the cape to the other. Lush, rich green jungle embraces it along one side while the clear surf breaks from the reefs beyond. There is a clear blue sky overhead and a bracing wind from the sea that provides a delicious reprieve from the tropical sun. Despite its pristine perfection, there is not a single other person in sight. I could be on Robinson Crusoe’s desert island searching for the footsteps of Man Friday, but instead of Daniel Defoe, this spot is rich with the history of Captain Cook.


This is Cape Tribulation: a magical spot in tropical North Queensland, Australia several hours from Cairns. Separated from the south by narrow winding coast roads and a ferry journey across the wide Daintree River, it is a magnificent place where the World Heritage listed ancient Daintree Forest meets the Great Barrier Reef. By conscious choice, it is blissfully devoid of huge hotels, casinos or sprawling complexes of shops and nightclubs. Instead, accommodation is tastefully hidden amidst the trees and barely visible from the sea or the air and the few shops and restaurants are low-key and casual.


It is quite clear that humans are the guests here. Signs on the beach warn of box jelly-fish in season and advise against swimming around the point because of crocodiles. Visitors are told to be aware of the cassowary: Australia’s endangered but aggressive large bird which lurk in the woods and can surprise walkers. The verdant jungles resound with the symphony of unseen insects, reptiles and birdlife. A stream winds its way from the jungle, across the beach and into the ocean. Its crystal clear shallows look idyllic if it were not for the signs warning of crocodiles. But for all the untamed wildness, this truly is a blissful spot and one of the best beaches in the world.


Not far from shore lies the Great Barrier Reef, and a trip out to its wonders from Cape Tribulation is guaranteed to be one of the highlights of any trip to Australia. Instead of queuing at a cement dock along with hundreds of other day-trippers, you simply stroll through the lapping surf, climb aboard a small zodiac and head out to your intimate dive boat. As you head away from land, you glance back and see the unchanged view that mesmerised Captain Cook hundreds of years ago when he first explored Australia’s east coast.  Once at the reef, you may well not see another boat during your whole day, but you will see the magnificent coral, the colourful fish, the stingrays and reef sharks.


As wonderful as daytime is at Cape Tribulation however, it is in the evening and at night that I truly appreciate and relish its isolation. A stroll for dinner takes you down sidewalk-free dirt roads where the only sounds are from the trees and perhaps the very occasional car. The jungle-clad hills above are invisible except where they blot out the millions of stars. Restaurants are relaxed and laid-back, but serve excellent meals including the freshest seafood imaginable. By day, you can be as active as you like but at night it’s time to relax and drink in the magic of unspoiled solitude.


Back in our hotel room in the middle of the forest, I hear the wind pick-up through the trees. Rain soon begins to lash the windows and roof and builds to a tropical downpour. The water streams from the roof in torrents and splatters on the tiled walkway outside, lulling me to sleep. The next morning, sunlight streams through the windows and I can hear the gentle drip of water falling from the leaves to the damp forest floor below and the call of birds. Outside, everything is lush and green again and the sky a perfect blue. I’m ready for another day in paradise.



Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan

Falling For Travel

20 03 2008


My Siamese-twin and I before the operation 


Having been short all of my life, I have surprisingly never really had any particular fear of heights.

Not that I have been prone to tightrope walking over Niagara Falls or dating supermodels, but whenever I have been in vertiginous surroundings, I’ve never been especially worried. At least not until I stared straight down beyond my feet to the Australian earth 14,000 feet below, and found my palms sweating, my stomach rolling and my head spinning!

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to try skydiving. There seemed to me a great romance in heroically throwing oneself out of a perfectly good aircraft and plummeting senselessly towards the hard, merciless, unforgiving ground.

In Cairns, the temptation of taking that first plunge over lush jungle-clad mountains within view of the Great Barrier Reef was just too much to deny. Within moments I had signed my life away and donned a rather dapper one-piece zippered overall and matching goggles that would have been the envy of Richard Simmons. I emptied my pockets of anything that could fall to earth and kill an unsuspecting passerby and then went through the basic routine associated with courting certain death.

At the airstrip I saw my aircraft: a small, green, converted crop-duster that looked vulnerable to most insect repellents. We clambered in, sat on the floor and within seconds were taxiing for take-off. We climbed quickly, in steep circles. Through the small window I could see the horizon dropping away. The roads disappeared into pencil lines and the mountains became green smudges.

My skydive instructor strapped us together in a manner that would have caused a spinster to blush, and the door slid open with a blast of blustery air and a deafening roar. We crawled down the aircraft on our backs on all fours (see Kama Sutra, chapter 4) until we reached the gaping void. As instructed, I swung my legs out and sat on the edge, my feet dangling helplessly. I could see the rich blue of the Coral Sea stretching away to the horizon and the dark shadows of the Barrier Reef. It was a spectacular view – so what on earth possessed me to look straight down?

I had long had a theory that such a great height would not feel like a great height at all. I was convinced that the view would be surreal, and that standing on your kitchen table screwing in a light bulb would be more frightening.

Well, I was wrong.

As I stared straight down, I felt I could see every single one of the 168,000 inches that separated me from the cruel cruel earth below. My stomach did a magnificent roll and I felt a sort of sheer terror that I had never before experienced. This was not “I’m scared to death”, this was “I’m so scared I wish I was dead.” Fortunately, before I could pass out or embarrass myself, I was hurtled into the blueness and found myself falling loudly and violently towards Australia.

Having accepted death, I felt calmer and began to look around and actually relish the last moments of my life. The view was truly magnificent and I soared about, spinning and turning by moving my arms. I gazed down at the scenery and myriad colours and upwards at the darkness of the sky. Eventually, after what seemed just a few seconds but was actually more than a minute, the parachute opened with a smack and a jolt and we drifted silently and effortlessly, banking to the left and the right. The fear was gone and replaced by adrenalin-fuelled awe and wonder. We landed with a bump, I was untethered and cautiously wobbled to my feet.

There are some things in life that you only need to do once. There are others that you can’t wait to do again and again. For me, skydiving is definitely the latter, but next time I think I’ll skip the bit in which I stare straight down before I make the big jump.


Post by: Simon Vaughan © 2008