From spaceships to hot air balloons, billionaire entrepreneur and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson is always playing with some new toy.
He’s set world records with kite boards, planes, and even rockets through endeavours with Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Oceanic, and Virgin Galactic. He even has two islands in the Caribbean dedicated to parties and adventures.
We’ve rounded up some of his most outrageous toys here.
Perhaps Branson's most famous toy, Necker Island is a 74-acre Caribbean resort that's played host to plenty of celebrity-packed parties since the 1970s. Thought it took him five years and $US10 million to construct the island resort, he estimated that the island is worth at least $US60 million, as of 2006.
Guests staying at Branson's resort can use this zip line to get down from the main house to the beach.
When his guests get tired of lounging by the pool or beach, they can hang out on his 105-foot yacht, the Necker Belle. He put the yacht up for sale in March, though he has yet to find a buyer.
He can explore the sea around his island on the Necker Nymph, a three-passenger open cockpit submersible that was designed just for him by submarine company DeepFlight.
He also owns neighbouring Moskito Island, which he hopes to turn into a sanctuary for endangered lemurs and a model for renewable energy use.
Branson has also reportedly gone on dives in the DeepFlight Super Falcon, a $US1.7-million submarine that mimics flying underwater. 'The sub handled beautifully, descended to 100 feet smoothly, then straight up, bursting through the surface of the water,' Branson reportedly said after his first dive in a Super Falcon. 'We went in search of Great White sharks, when suddenly, one appeared. Graham Hawkes, the genius behind the submarine, was shouting like an excited schoolboy, and so was I.'
Branson has always loved exploring the high seas. In 2004, he was the first to buy an Aquada, the world's first high-speed amphibious vehicle. That summer, he set a record for crossing the English Channel in an amphibious vehicle, completing the task in just one hour and 40 minutes.
In 2011, Branson launched Virgin Oceanic to explore previously unseen parts of the ocean. The DeepFlight Challenger was designed for adventurer Steve Fossett, who would use the submarine to explore the Marianas Trench on a record-breaking solo dive. Unfortunately, Fossett died before he could embark on his journey on the Challenger, and the submarine is now managed by Branson's Virgin Oceanic.
In October of 2008, Branson and crew departed New York City in a 99-foot yacht called 'Virgin Money,' in an attempt to break the transatlantic monohull sailing record. The team was forced to abandon the effort after facing 40-foot waves in the Bermuda Triangle.
Kitesurfing is one of Branson's favourite hobbies. In 2013 he organised the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada, which broke the Guinness World Record for the largest number of kitesurfers to complete a one-mile course. He is also the oldest man to kitesurf across the English Channel, a feat he completed in 2012, at the age of 61.
Branson likes to play with toys in the sky, too. In 1987, he crossed the Atlantic in the Virgin Atlantic Flyer, becoming the first man to cross that ocean in a hot air balloon. In 1991, he was in the first balloon to cross the Pacific. Branson made several attempts to circumnavigate the globe in a balloon with aviators Steve Fossett and Per Lindstrand, though they were ultimately unsuccessful.
Branson always brings an element of fun to Virgin Atlantic flights. Here, he poses with models and lifeguards on the wing of a plane that had just landed in Sydney.
For his personal use, Branson flies a Falcon 50EX. He recently sold his Falcon 900EX, which was too large for life on Necker Island. 'I need a small plane just to get out of the British Virgin Islands,' he told Business Jet Traveller. 'And I use that for shorter distances.'
In 2003, he took to the skies on a glider modelled after the world's first plane, made by Sir George Cayley in 1853. Branson flew for 50 yards at an altitude of fifteen feet, remarking afterwards, 'That was fantastic. I can fly. That was exhilarating.'
But Branson hopes to fly people to much higher altitudes someday. He has plans for Virgin Galactic to take tourists to space aboard the WhiteKnightTwo, a rocket-powered spaceship he named VMS Eve for his mother. Tickets will cost a staggering $US250,000 per person.
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