Visiting South Africa feels like a homecoming. We are always welcomed with open arms, and this week has been no exception.
South Africa will always hold a special place in my heart. It is the host of one of my favourite Virgin Limited Edition properties, the stunning Ulusaba Private Game Reserve. I had a wonderful time there over the weekend, checking in on all the magnificent animals – going on safari is one of my favourite things to do in the world.
Now I am off to visit our beautiful new hotel and vineyard in Franschhoek, Mont Rochelle. Yes, I am a very lucky man!
South Africa also pulls on my heartstrings as the home of my old friend Nelson Mandela. Madiba’s love for his nation was infectious, and I definitely caught his enthusiasm and respect for the country. It is also the home of Archbishop Tutu, who I always look forward to seeing and learning from when visiting here. But first, I headed from Ulusaba to the city to celebrate 18 years of flights from Johannesburg with Virgin Atlantic. I joined our brilliant team and top flyers in a colourful parade.
Reinforcing our commitment to South Africa, our loud and lively procession flooded the streets of Jo’burg with South African flags and red hot t-shirts, marching along to a soundtrack provided by the country’s biggest rock band, the Parlotones.
I had great fun joining the Parlotones’ line-up. The band are long-time friends of Virgin Atlantic, launching their new album, Stand Like Giants earlier this year from on board Virgin Atlantic at 37,000 feet.
The Parlotones serenaded the parade with a wonderful and aptly named, unreleased song, Defy Gravity. I especially enjoyed the ‘let it fly’ lyrics they incorporated especially for the parade.
Then it was on to catch up with the Virgin Mobile team and then drop in for a mentorship session with the incredible new business talents at our Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship – more on that soon. I’m looking forward to meeting more amazing South Africans on this trip and dropping in on our other Virgin companies too.