Tycoon Richard Branson founded the Virgin Group when he was 20, and Virgin Atlantic in 1984. In 2007, he joined Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel and Desmond Tutu in forming The Elders, a group of independent leaders who seek sustainable solutions to global humanitarian issues.
He established the Branson Centres of Entrepreneurship in South Africa, which have a summit this year.He has written a number of books, including Losing my Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fund and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way and his most recent title Screw Business as Usual.
His new safari camp, Mahali Mzuri, opens in Kenya in July.
Your first holiday memory? Salcombe in Devon. I remember it because it was the holiday I learnt to swim. My aunt bet me 10 shillings that I couldn’t master it by the end of the fortnight. The water was freezing that year, but I was determined to win the bet. It wasn’t until we were on our way home, and we stopped by at a river, that I finally managed it.
Favourite place in the British Isles? Devon holds a special place in my heart. As a child, I normally went on holiday to Bantham and have lots of happy memories. I used to catch sand eels in the early morning and go fishing for bass. I remember a gull taking my bait.
Best holiday? Necker (Branson´s private isle in the British Virgin Islands). I’ve got so many wonderful memories if times spent there with family and friends over the years. Two occasions stand out: My own wedding more than 20 years ago, and my daughter Holly´s in 2011. Joan and I were thrilled, not only that she chose to have her wedding on Necker, but that she picked the same day as us, which makes our anniversary even more special. It was also memorable because it took place in the ruins of the Great House after the fire there and before the bulldozers came in to rebuild.
What have you leant from your travels? That there are still so many places to see and not enough time to do it. Seeing the world has been so enriching for me – I would encourage everyone to see as much of it as they can.
Ideal travelling companion? My wife, Joan, Holly, her husband, Freddie, and my son, Sam, with his wife, Isabella. For me, it´s about having my family and friends around me when I am away.
Beach bum, culture venture or adrenalin junkie? Adrenalin junkie. You only get one shot at life so you need to make the most of it. I’ve probably calmed down in recent years, but I still like to be as adventurous as possible and stay active. My biggest passion sports-wise is kite-surfing.
Holiday reading? I read everything, but generally more fact than fiction – especially autobiographies and biographies. I’ve read Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela at least twice on holiday. Every time I’m totally awed by his vision, strength and forgiveness. I feel honoured to have got to know him and his wonderful wife Graça over the years.
Which place has seduced you? Madagascar: I went there last year with my son and it truly captured my heart. It was so sad to see 95 percent of the beautiful rainforest are being destroyed. Luckily, the remaining 5 percent is absolutely magnificent with more diversity of species than almost anywhere else in the world. We´re campaigning hard to help protect what is left of Madagascar and its wildlife.
Worst travel experience? I love travelling, full stop – so while I’ve had some harrowing instances, I never look at them negatively. Memories are made when you´re travelling – not when you´re chained to your desk. My worst one, however, must have been crossing the Pacific in a hot-air balloon when everything that could have gone wrong did. For three days, my Swedish teammate, per Lindstrand, and I were both certain we´d never get home. As it turned out, we missed Los Angeles by 4800km and ended up in the Arctic.
Favourite drive? I love going on a safari drive whenever I visit Ulusaba Private Game Reserve in South Africa. I’ve been fortunate to see so many incredible animals over the years and each time it´s completely different. Following Ulasaba´s pack of wild dogs is my highlight.
Best meal abroad? At Icebergs on Bondi Beach. It has the most stunning views over the beach, fantastic food and wine and you´re guaranteed a good time. I love Australia, especially Sydney, one of my favourite places.
Where next? Kenya this summer for the opening of the new camp in the Maasai Mara, just in time for the annual Great Migration, in which up to one million wildebeest, zebra, gezelles and other game undertake a journey of about 1600km through Tanzania and Kenya.