As the winners of Australia’s ‘Best Jobs In The World’ competition are announced, Sarah Cruddas finds out why a holiday Down Under is still the trip of a lifetime.
“It’s like being on a different planet,” says Rich Keam, a 34-year-old musician and costume assistant from Brighton, his eyes glowing with delight. Looking out to the turquoise ocean, my toes sinking into warm white sand, with dusky red mountains behind me, I have to agree.
Rich is one of the lucky 18 finalists in Tourism Australia’s ‘Best Jobs In The World’ competition. In the run-up to the winners’ announcement, he’s been flown Down Under for a taste of what his life might be like for the next six months, and I’ve come along for the ride.
A Tourism Australia survey also showed that seven out of 10 people (72 per cent) who entered are planning to apply for an Australian working holiday visa.
Rich is hoping to land the coveted role of Taste Maker, sampling the finest food and wine in Western Australia.
Stunning scenery, fantastic weather and good quality of life are all cited as reasons for Australia’s enduring appeal. But you don’t have to up sticks and move Down Under to enjoy this dream destination; even a short visit gives a snapshot of a different way of life, as I soon discover.
With no time to waste, Rich and I are literally thrown in at the deep end as we prepare to swim with whale sharks around the reef of the aptly named Turquoise Bay, on the remote Ningaloo Reef Coast near Exmouth.
Working with planes and spotters in the air, looking for a whale shark to swim with feels like an adventure in itself. Ours is an unusual day, in that it takes a while to spot a whale shark. Secretly, part of me is hoping that we don’t find one. For others though, the experience is breathtaking.
It’s not just wildlife that attracts visitors to Australia though. Almost all the ‘Best Jobs’ contestants agree that people are a big draw. “They’re just so positive and welcoming,” says Rich Keam, now in Sydney where the winners will be announced in a ceremony at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Nobody seems better suited to that description that Richard Graham, the man behind private tour company My Sydney Detours. He greets me at the Intercontinental Sydney hotel in a 1964 Holden Premier.
As our vintage car zooms through the back streets, turning heads along the way, Richard shows me the true diversity of this city. We visit the arty suburbs of Redfern and Darlington, smaller beaches such as Coogee, and niche coffee shops and bars around northern Bondi.
Standing next to multimillion pound houses in the exclusive Vaucluse suburb, I look back at the city. In a single panorama I see beach, bush and the iconic Sydney harbour.
Preparing for their new lives in Australia, the six winners will have exciting times ahead. From assisting with the set up of Sydney Harbour’s famous New Year firework display to patrolling beaches blessed with 200 days of sunshine per year.
It’s a reminder of just how diverse this country really is, and how different it is from our own.