Adventurer, fundraiser and tycoon Sir Richard Branson may live on a Caribbean island but the British multi-billionaire still has a soft spot for Devon, having holidayed there as a child, while his favourite destination is a rather grand lodge in South Africa.
My favourite place in the world is Necker Island, which is quite lucky because that’s also where I live. It’s in the British Virgin Islands. There is nowhere else I’d rather live. It was love at first sight. It’s the jewel in the crown of the Virgin Islands.
Even though living there feels like I’m on holiday, it’s still good to get away — to explore. I don’t really have the need to go elsewhere, but like everyone passionate about the world we live in, I have the desire.
I’d say Africa is the most incredible place in the world to visit. Never have I been there and not come back in awe of the continent and the culture. Just recently, I returned from Madagascar. There’s always something new to learn, something else to experience.
When travelling, getting out of your comfort zone is essential. I used to take that to extremes but am a bit calmer these days. Trying to fly around the world in a hot air balloon is something I wouldn’t necessarily recommend. Firstly, you actually see surprisingly little of the world. And secondly, it doesn’t get any less frightening the fifth or sixth time you’re pulled out of water by a rescue team. It was all very scary and I’m grateful I survived.
Travel relaxes the mind and brings down barriers. My strangest tourist experience would have been when I was in my early twenties and in Bali. I gave my parents their first joint. That was quite a strange experience. That would have made the best photograph.
My favourite place to travel to is Ulusaba in South Africa. It’s quite similar to Necker in that it’s high up — only high above the jungle rather than the sea. It’s a game lodge and it has the most incredible views across Africa. I’ve got a couple of houses there and go as often as I can. It has everything you could ever want.
Holidaying, exploring and travelling around the UK remains seriously underrated. There are some great places to visit, some incredible areas of natural beauty and fascinating destinations to sample. When I was younger, we’d go to Devon and Cornwall for holidays and it was thrilling. They are places full of history. I definitely plan to go
back at some stage.
The lure of travel for me is in meeting new people, although there are so many other things to love and admire. But new cultures, new perspectives on the world, and new experiences — that has to be what it’s all about. For me, it’s all about broadening your horizons and discovering different new things. It helps keep your mind active.
Despite my experiences in hot air balloons, if I can combine travel with adventure, I will. I’m never more relaxed than when I’m doing some sort of sporting activity with my family, even on holiday. I love to keep fit and healthy; I think that’s so important, because your health is all you have — running, swimming, even a bit of kite surfing. No matter where you are in the world, if you search hard enough you can always find a kite surfer!
Sir Richard Branson’s new book, Like A Virgin: Secrets They Don’t Tell You In Business School (published by Virgin Books) is out now. RRP: £12.99.
Sir Richard Branson is the UK’s fourth-wealthiest man, with an estimated fortune of £2.6 billion. His multifaceted business empire took off in 1971 with the launch of Virgin Records. It’s a brand that has expanded into airlines, finance, mobile phones and even chauffeur-driven motorbikes.
In 2004, Branson established Virgin Unite, a nonprofit foundation that deploys the talent and resources from across the Virgin Group and beyond to tackle social and environmental problems in an entrepreneurial way.
He’s also on the verge of launching the first commercial flights into space with Virgin Galactic.
Branson lives on Necker Island with his wife Joan Templeman. The couple married in 1989.
Published in the September 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)