Richard Branson, 60, Entrepreneur and business magnate speaks to Life Beyond Sport about partying and lifestyle on his very own desert island
I know I shouldn't, but I still like to party on Friday nights. I live half the year on Necker, a tiny island in the Caribbean and it's always full of people in party mode. Everyone comes up to the big house and we'll be dancing until the early hours to the island's band, the Front Line. By day the band members lug bags at the airport and at night they play great reggae. I'm not the best dancer so will probably make a fool out of myself by getting up onto a table, and if my children Holly, 30, and Sam, 26, are around there will inevitably be tequila shots.
On our roof we have a crow's nest so at the end of the evening - about 2am - I'll go up there to watch the stars. I generally leave watching the sun rise in the morning to the children and their friends. I've always hated being stuck in a town (apart from when I was single). I was brought up in the countryside near Guildford and I used to escape down to Devon or Cornwall at the weekends. I'd be canoeing down rivers, or climbing trees and rescuing cats, so I'm very lucky that now my home is perhaps the most beautiful place I've ever seen. My children have grown up there and it's been a fantastic magnet to bring us all together now they've left home. It's where Joan and I got married in 1989 - Holly, then aged eight, suggested it - and on December 20 we're hosting Holly's wedding on the beach.
The plans are already coming together; we're going to invite about 150 to 200 people and a few of them will stay on over Christmas. You always see the best side of people on Necker. I suppose that being surrounded by such beauty inspires people. We've had Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Tutu, President Carter, Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson staying on the island to brainstorm about ways to tackle conflict and global warming, with cormorants flying past on one side and flamingos on the other. Quite a few non-profit organisations have been conceived there such as The Elders and the Carbon War Room.
On Saturday morning I get up quite early. I like to mix partying with keeping fit, so I'll go for a swim around the island, which takes about an hour and a half. I'm currently in training for the swimming leg of the London Triathlon on July 30. I was going to do the whole thing and then I had a skiing accident in Zermatt - someone ran into me and I had to have a new anterior cruciate ligament - so I'll have to leave the running and cycling parts until next year.
If someone else has woken up I'll drag them with me but usually I'll be swimming on my own. It's exquisitely beautiful; I'll see spotted eagle rays, giant leatherback turtles and a number of species of shark, such as nurse sharks and lemon sharks. It's not frightening; if you're swimming with sharks they don't tend to bother you at all, it's only if they mistake you for a seal that they might have a nip.
I love a good breakfast when I get back; generally speaking I eat healthily - fruit salad, natural muesli - but I spoil myself occasionally with kippers or an English breakfast.
Afterwards I'll play some tennis; neither Holly nor Sam have beaten me yet. I said I'd give them £1,000 if they beat me before I was 50, and then I extended it to 60 and now I'm still hanging on in there. I'm debating whether to extend it to 70 or not. Sometimes we'll go off island for the rest of the day. About 18 miles away there's a lovely island called Anagarda and we kitesurf over there. I learnt to kitesurf about eight years ago when the sport was still slightly hairy because they hadn't designed kites that were easy to control. Once, a delightful photographer turned up on the island with an even more delightful girlfriend and asked if I would take her kitesurfing on my back. I said I would, and then he asked if I minded if she didn't have any clothes on. Silly question. Fortunately I haven't had any major accidents and nowadays kitesurfing is much safer. I think people exaggerate about how difficult it is; you can learn to do it in five hours.
We go scuba diving sometimes and we also have a tiny submarine for travelling with the dolphins and whales. I love the light and the variety of species you see at the bottom of the sea. I'm currently in training to go to the deepest part of the ocean; it's going to be my latest attempt to break a world record. I love doing things that mankind has never done before. I've attempted various balloon flights around the world; crossing Mount Everest and the Himalayan chain, the three big oceans. Being blown by the wind for 15 days is a pretty magnificent adventure.
This latest escapade will take place about five miles from Necker in the Puerto Rican trench, which goes down 29,000 feet and is completely unexplored. Early next year I'm hoping to go to the bottom of it. People say that about 80 per cent of the species on earth are yet to be discovered so I find the prospect of exploring the bottom of the sea irresistible.
Afternoons on Necker are always spent on the beach. We play chess - my children haven't managed to beat me at that yet either - and we lie in the sun or admire the wildlife. We have 250 flamingos on the island, as well as giant iguanas, tortoises, scarlet ibis and a
beautiful dog called Coco. On Saturday evening we'll usually throw another party and then on Sunday we go rock jumping, paddle boarding and have Hobie Cat races.
I always find it difficult to leave Necker, but I still spend half the year travelling the world on business trips. I'm just coming to the end of a two-week round-the-world trip right now: I went to Colombia which was magnificent - although you're always slightly nervous about being kidnapped. After a fortnight of being on and off aeroplanes I'm yearning to get back home. It's amazing how many of my projects I think up from a hammock on Necker, looking out to sea.