I joined Virgin Atlantic as a pilot 28 years ago – back then we had just six jumbo jets.
It was a wonderful time. Richard Branson was very hands on and we had a lot of fun growing the airline with new routes to exotic and interesting countries.
Growing up in Africa and India I’d had plenty of adventures of my own. My parents were journalists and also worked for the United Nations – together we travelled the world. I fell in love with the new places, cultures and people – I also became aware of a greater need for help around the world. I’m the only pilot I know of who had his honeymoon in a refugee camp in Somalia.
It wasn’t long before I began to organise adventures at Virgin. My first adventure took 50 people climbing up Mt Fuji in Japan in 2008. We fund-raised for the climb and it was then that I adopted the motto of ‘Have fun, Do good’.
Since that first Japanese adventure I have lead eight climbs of Mt Fuji and 61 adventures in total! Nearly 3,000 Virgin staff, friends, and family have joined together to cycle, climb, trek, sail and drive tuk-tuk’s across five continents – raising nearly one million pounds in the process.
In 2017 we were forced to postpone our second Caribbean Sail after Hurricane Irma destroyed much of the infrastructure of the region. Following discussions with Unite BVI it was decided that the adventurers would gather a group of volunteers to help in the recovery effort.
That experience was both hard and valuable work. I was incredibly humbled to be working alongside people rebuilding their lives. It was wonderful to be sharing the experience with a tight-knit group of adventurers from across the VIrgin Group.
Following on from that 2017 BVI Volunteer trip we began organising for over 90 Virgin staff, family members, and companions to go to the BVI for the 2018 Charity Sail. As always – to have fun and do good.
Nearly 3,000 Virgin staff, friends, and family have joined together to cycle, climb, trek, sail and drive tuk-tuk’s across five continents – raising nearly one million pounds in the process.
That sail took place in November 2018, with sailors embarking on a five day circumnavigation of the British Virgin Islands, learning to sail and work as part of a crew. The team fundraised for Virgin Unite projects that focus on supporting local communities and the long term reconstruction of the BVI.
The team supported and worked with local partners on the ground – all to help build a better, cleaner, stronger and more sustainable Caribbean region, including a thriving tourism industry.
Perhaps the moment I will remember most was when we came together at Bregado Flax for the day. The sight of all 90 adventurers getting stuck in was a joy to behold. Interrupting 'have fun' and reaching out in a show of solidarity after the hurricane was hugely impressive and demonstrated what we are all about. We found our mojo with some powerful 'do-good' and it is a rich legacy for us. On top of our volunteer day the team raised thousands of pounds for Virgin Unite, as well as paying for tools and materials for the school.
It was my third BVI sail and by far the wettest and windiest I’ve experienced. Living in close quarters on a boat thrown together with strangers and a novice crew is not easy. We never sat still and had hardly any time to draw breath. It was the adventure that kept on giving.
I am again in adventure planning mode with adventure number 62 just around the corner!
- Unite BVI is a not-for-profit foundation based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) – working towards a thriving future for the beautiful islands and communities, empowering all to prosper