Johnny Jet feature premiers on the Travel Channel, January 1st

The last time I saw John DiScala – better known as Johnny Jet — was at the JW Marriott tour in Chicago. Exhausted from a day long flight from Helsinki I wandered into a journalist’s dinner at the freshly opened hotel and saw my old friend sitting among a group of eager young writers and polished senior management. As usual, he was lighting up the room and vivaciously engaging with the crowd. Sulking into my seat at the edge of the table I remember thinking to myself that this guy never stops.

The next evening as we quietly listened to the dulcet tones of Emmy Rossum at the opening reception I asked him about his travel schedule. “Something big” was all that he would reveal, something about a travel show that he had in the works and that had a big client behind it.

It turns out that that client was the Travel Channel, and the project was a special covering the hottest destinations for 2012. Airing on the 1st of January at 9PM Eastern, the special features Johnny hop scotching around the planet profiling some of the best upcoming destinations from Necker Island with Richard Branson to the adventure capital of the world in New Zealand.

Reached by phone late this week, Mr DiScala had only excitement to express about the show, suggesting that “some destinations for this feature you would definitely expect – but some might surprise you.” Either way, we’ll be tuning in at Gadling Labs for the premier. You can watch the special at 9PMEastern on the Travel Channel or scattered across the schedule thereafter.

Richard Branson hosts Kite Jam in British Virgin Islands

British billionaire adventurer Richard Branson is throwing a kite boarding festival in the British Virgin Islands starting this weekend, with top kite boarders from around the world descending on the topical paradise to challenge the big winds, big waves, and one another.

Dubbed the BVI Kite Jam, the event kicks off on Saturday, Feb. 27th with a VIP party and fashion show sponsored by Billabong. On Sunday, boats will begin shuttling guests and competitors to Necker Island, Branson’s luxurious, no expense spared, private playground. That island will serve as the base of operations for the week, with competitions and other events taking place there and on several surrounding islands.

The actual competitions get underway on Monday, March 1st with daily races and free style events lasting throughout the week, culminating with a pro rider showdown on Friday, March 5th. In addition to the various competitions, there will be regular kite clinics, allowing visitors to learn the sport for themselves, and a nearly endless string of awards ceremonies, luncheons, and parties.

The Kite Jam isn’t exactly for the casual kite boarding enthusiast however. Prices for the week long event begin at $25,400 for a single room in the Necker Island Great House and run as high as $28,350 for the Master Suite, with several other options inbetween. Those prices are all inclusive however, granting access to all the events and include all your meals and drinks as well. Quite the bargain, although it should be noted that the price does not include participation in the actual competitions themselves.

Anyone want to go “halfsies” on one of the suites?

Richard Branson’s new toy: A submarine with twist

Some people hop in the water with a rubber duckie or scuba mask, Sir Richard Branson goes down under in a submarine.

Virgin’s founder and self-made billionaire Branson already owns an international airline company, record label, mobile phone company, a few Caribbean islands and toys that would make James Bond jealous, and now he’s adding one more piece of fun to his flare: the Necker Nymph.

The UK’s Daily Mail reports this submarine-turned-plane can “dive to depths of up to 130-feet,” and is being rented out to the lucky guests who are visiting Branson’s private home on Necker Island. The Nymph has enough room for one pilot and two guests. Before you hop in the tube, though, guests must undergo scuba training and few safety trainings. Once you’ve passed your required courses, get ready for a scene.

If you’ve never been underwater in the British Virgin Islands, here are a few things you can expect to see on your way to Necker:

  • Centuries-old shipwrecks, including those captained by Blackbeard himself
  • Schools of fish, surrounded by mile-long reefs and coral
  • Dolphins and whales, depending on the time of year you travel
  • Underwater caves and spectacular rock formations

The Nymph comes at a price. You can rent this wild ride for $25,000 a week, but only after you’ve shelled out the minimum £55,000 (approximately $88,000) for seven nights on the luxury catamaran, the Necker Belle. Of course, all this can be yours only after you rent out a private stay at Necker Island (prices vary, but start at around $50,000).

Side note: I was privileged to set foot on Necker Island and I can assure you the price is worth the journey.