A royal family in the Middle East with an ideology akin to his own "and deep pockets" is helping Sir Richard Branson realise a dream that owes much to the work of philanthropist John D Rockefeller.
Branson's newest property, Mahali Mzuri in Kenya, opens next month under the umbrella of his Virgin Limited Edition portfolio. The Kenyan game lodge is on a private concession in the path of the annual great herd migration, and forms a cornerstone of the 62-year-old entrepreneur's new strategy of using his benefactors' cash to buy up big tracts of land, "while we use our experience to set up little boutique hotels".
"Rockefeller is someone I admire tremendously," Branson told Gourmet Traveller during a recent Australian visit to address the National Achievers Congress. "[His son, Laurence] bought a lot of land in the US Virgin Islands and made sure it was protected for generations to come. I'd like to do the same."
As well as getting a ringside seat on the migration, guests in the new Kenyan lodge will be supporting the environment and its people. "I was approached by a friend who said the migration was in danger of being destroyed by cattle farms," Branson says. "We've rented [the land] off [Maasai farmers], taken on their kids to work and they've moved their cattle elsewhere. It's a win-win situation.
"We're seeing if we can buy some rainforest areas in Madagascar and create a Limited Edition property alongside it. Something good could come out of that."