Mike Daley could possibly have the best job in the world, living on islands in the Maldives and sharing his love for astronomy with the biggest names in hollywood.
THE phrase “best job in the world” has been touted around quite often, but when it comes to enviable occupations, they don’t come any better than Mike Dalley’s.
As resident astronomer across two of the most luxurious resorts in the Maldives, Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani, the Brisbane-born 36-year-old calls perfect coral islands, surrounded by the idyllic turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, home.
And when he’s not swimming in crystal clear seas and walking on pristine white sand beaches, it’s his job to gaze at jaw-droppingly beautiful starry skies with some of the biggest names in Hollywood and enjoying lavish evening dinners on private yachts. What’s more, he gets paid to do it. Try topping that.
“On a typical day I’ll go for a walk along the beach and look out at the beautiful ocean … I still have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not going to wake up!” says the 36-year-old, smiling.
Mike’s path from his humble beginnings in the Brisbane suburb of Kingston to living on paradise on earth was far from straight forward and growing up, astronomy wasn’t even on his radar.
“My mum loves the stars more than me,” he says. “As a teen she tried to pass on the interest, but I’d hit high school and thought girls were more interesting!”
Attending university he studied a wide range of subjects — everything from science and psychology, to management and wine studies — before arriving at a life changing conclusion: “I decided if I HAD to have a career and work for the rest of my life, then I’d need to find something that was fun.”
Becoming an outdoor education instructor, he notched up countless nights camping under the stars and was hit by the same fascination that had won over his mum.
“The magic, wonder and beauty of the sky has the potential to change lives,” he says. “It laid the seeds that would change mine in ways I didn’t expect.”
His big break came last year when he discovered that Soneva were recruiting for a resident astronomer and he threw his hat into the ring. Fast-forward a competitive round of interviews and he got the dream gig in September 2016.
Tagged as “playgrounds for adults” at Soneva’s Maldives resorts, shoes are forbidden and guests spend their time picnicking on deserted islands, sipping champagne on dolphin cruises, indulging in all-day, complimentary ice cream parlours (“with 65 flavours it takes me 20 minutes just to pick out what I want!” giggles Mike) and all-you-can-eat Willy Wonka-style “chocolate rooms.” Things get even more fantastical at the newly opened Soneva Jani where actual water slides take lucky holiday-makers from their luxurious overwater villas into the ocean.
“Ah the slides,” he says wistfully. “I go past the villas and hear screams and laughter of joy, only to look up and see that this noise is coming from the mouths of adults and not children!”
“The coolest thing is no shoes … I love it, actually I think when I go back to the real world I’ll struggle to wear shoes at all!”
While work in itself is far from taxing, when Mike does have a day off he makes the most of what’s on his doorstep, spending time on the beaches, swimming, snorkelling, surfing and scuba diving. But is living in paradise always, well, paradise?
“That’s an interesting question,” he says, pondering. “It’s one of those things that, unless you’ve lived this type of lifestyle before, you probably won’t understand. Is it paradise? Yes. But like everything, there’s two sides.
“A lot of people do get cabin fever and the hardest things are not being able to get what you want straight away … for example, takeaway food. It’s bizarre because I crave it until I have it then half way through my stomach is upset with me and I wonder why I brought it in the first place!” he laughs.
As for dating, Mike says that it’s an area that’s full of pitfalls — as he’s learned from others: “I’ve seen relationships succeed and relationships fail. I like my idea of just working all the time, it’s so much more simple.”
Of course, while his day job — or night job, in Mike’s case — involves stargazing, there’s another form of star-spotting at both Soneva Jani and Fushi. Given the extreme levels of luxury here, unsurprisingly both resorts have become Meccas for celebrities.
Madonna, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Richard Branson and Kate Winslet have all checked in. Closer to home, model Jen Hawkins, wrapped a holiday at Soneva Jani mere weeks ago.
“Very often I’ll be walking or riding on the path to the observatory and I’ll pass some guests on their bikes,” he says. “Often I’ll go past and take a moment and think: ‘wait, was that…?’ Then you kind of just shrug your shoulders and keep going on with your day.”
While the Aussie is understandably tight-lipped about the bevy of A-listers that he’s spent time with, he does let slip a few during our interview, including a night hanging out with Welsh movie star, Luke Evans.
“He requested an astronomy dinner on our yacht,” recalls Mike. “And — while I can’t go into too much detail — imagine a night where you and Luke Evans end up talking about a subject that you both love (astronomy) while sharing a 5-course meal with wine and looking up at thousands of stars while floating in-between islands on a multi-million dollar yacht? Well that’s what I do!”
Though in less than 12 months he’s had enough celeb encounters for a lifetime (“I honestly couldn’t say who my favourite is, I’ve hung out with so many!”) the standout for Mike is Will Smith, who he developed an unexpected bromance with during the Hollywood heavy hitter’s stay.
“I love Will,” he says, smiling. “I’ve been a fan of his work since the early days. I got to chat to him a few times, but the highlight was when he had an astronomy dinner at the observatory. We chilled out around the telescope and talked about the stars. Other than being a great actor he is genuinely a nice, down-to-earth person. I honestly forgot that he was Will Smith … I was just hanging out with a cool guy that loved science as much as what I do. It was definitely a night I’ll always remember.”
Will obviously felt the same. Afterwards he took to his Facebook account to give Mike a public shout out. “That was unexpected but amazing,” Mike says. “I didn’t believe it when my mate told me about it.”
And while Mike has met more than his share of Tinseltown’s finest, there’s still one on his celebrity wishlist.
“Saying all of this, I haven’t met Hugh Jackman yet,” he says, laughing. “I’m pretty sure if I do that he’ll be my favourite. So, Hugh, if you’re reading this and you ever want to learn about astronomy … feel free to hit me up!”
Full details are available from the link below:
Source URL: Google News