This week I chatted with Charlie Smith, founding partner of the upcoming BVI Kite Jam. Charlie also heads the watersports program at Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island, so I thought I’d ask him about the Necker Nymph, Branson’s latest watertoy—an “aero submarine” which is basically underwater plane. Promotional, computer-generated photos show a blunt-nosed, shuttle-looking craft with three open cockpits that remind me of the Batmobile’s steering chamber.

The Nymph, according to Virgin Limited Edition’s website, can travel both on and in the sea. Underwater, it uses the opposite of upward lift (downward fall?) on the wings, instead of ballast, for propulsion. “That’s the best thing about it,” Charlie says. “There’s no environmental impact.” The sub hovers above reef life, so there's no chance of damaging corals. Charlie says he's seen other submarines in the Caribbean that are not as environmentally neutral.

As the head of watersports on Necker, Charlie has the honour of being the first pilot that’s being trained to control the sub. “I literally start my training the day after Kite Jam is finished,” he tells me.

Available for hire to groups staying at Necker or chartering Branson’s 105-foot luxury yacht, Necker Belle, the Necker Nymph costs $25,000 per week. And it’s already booked for the end of the month when it will be piloted by one of the engineers. “Our first official flights from Necker are in mid-March,” says Charlie, obviously excited about the prospect of cruising beneath the waves.

"I've done a lot of SCUBA diving and a lot of SCUBA instruction," Charlie mentions. Since Necker Nymph features an open cockpit, all riders must be SCUBA trained before they get to enjoy the underwater toy which the VLE website calls “hydrobatic”—able to do loops and flips when submerged. Hopefully, BVI Yacht Guide will be invited for a spin.  

For more info, see the VLE press release: