Richard Branson to Turn Historic Naval Ship Into Scuba Site Underwater
It may be located near the billionaire’s exclusive Necker Island estate, but Branson’s new project is as democratic as they come.
For one thing, unlike Virgin Galactic which will be shooting tourists into space for $250,000 a pop, visiting the B.V.I. Art Reef is free if you take yourself, and is not meant to be a massive moneymaker at all. Proceeds will come in through diving operators—a majority of whom charge a modest $100 for single-tank dives at other sites in the B.V.I. What’s raised from local outfitters will be funneled out to support various regional causes, from marine preservation to social justice initiatives. Boosting youth swimming-education programs at Branson’s multifaceted, not-for-profit foundation, Unite B.V.I., is one big-picture goal.
“The B.V.I is a collection of small islands surrounded by beautiful coral reefs full of life, yet many people from the B.V.I have never had the opportunity to witness this thriving underwater world because they have never had the opportunity to learn how to swim,” Branson told Bloomberg in an interview, citing a statistic that one in 10 children is unable to get across a pool. “One of the reasons why I have been supportive about this project is that I believe it will inspire people to want to learn how to swim, snorkel, and ultimately scuba dive—and my greatest hope is that, as that happens, they will fall in love with the world that lives beneath the surface and will become passionate to protect and preserve it.”