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In around 200 BC, settlers from Southeast Asia arrived on the shores of the Tahitian islands, creating a unique language and culture that flourished for 17 centuries. Among these islands was Tetiaroa, which became the favoured retreat of Tahitian royalty. The atoll first came to the attention of European readers in the journals of explorer Captain James Cook. Located thirty-three miles north of Tahiti, Tetiaroa is part of the Society Islands, an archipelago named by Cook in 1769, in honour of the Royal Society of London.
In 1961 Marlon Brando came to Tetiaroa while filming Mutiny on the Bounty and was immediately enchanted by the island’s rare beauty. Enthralled by the Polynesian way of life, he resolved to find a way to own this piece of paradise and succeeded in purchasing the atoll in 1967. Brando saw his island as a place where innovative new technologies would enable a self-sustaining community for visitors, full-time residents, and scientific research. He built and operated a small hotel of his own, with limited success. In 1999 he reached out to hotelier Richard Bailey, founder of Pacific Beachcomber, for help with myriad operational challenges. After a rocky start, a friendship and true collaboration formed, and in 2014, The Brando resort opened its doors with 35 oceanfront villas and has built up a staff that numbers almost 200.
French Polynesia comprises 118 pristine islands and atolls and is mainly differentiated by the culture and topography of the destination.
From a cultural perspective, French Polynesia is unique as it benefits from an interesting juxtaposition of great French cultural influences mixed with a strong native Polynesian heritage. Together, the French and Polynesian cultures have been woven to form an authentic and rich cultural fabric which defines the uniqueness of French Polynesia today. From the spoken language to traditional dances, music, art, food and tattoos, the Tahitian culture is intrinsically part of every life coupled with a touch of French flair. Tahitians are proud people. That sense of pride permeates every aspect of the Polynesian lifestyle and it is the reason why visitors will never feel hassled or pressured into making a purchase when shopping. This has a lot to do with the fact that money is not considered to be as important as respect. Tahitians place great importance on eye contact, hello, goodbye and courtesies such as please and thank you.
This destination is a marvel in so many ways. It is spread over an area almost as large as Europe but all of its landmass put together results to be approximately the size of Wales! French Polynesia’s incredible topography also stands apart from any other island destinations such as the Maldives. The geography ranges from jagged volcanic peaks with lush valleys and bountiful flora and fauna, to low lying atolls such as Tetiaroa, void of any mountains where everything revolves around the gorgeous lagoons. The scenic diversity of the islands make way for a myriad of experiences and activities while still being a secluded paradise oasis.
With the large majority of staff being Polynesian born, the team is committed to preserving and protecting the natural splendour and precious biodiversity of Tetiaroa; respecting and supporting the culture, hospitality and traditions; and achieving a negligible carbon footprint. This is evidenced from the moment visitors arrive and are greeted with Polynesian songs and dances. Guests can learn any number of traditional Tahitian life arts – from how to open and “use” a coconut to pareo making to music lessons. They can also visit ancient marae, or stone temples, that are being lovingly preserved by Tetiaroa Society. The Brando also has its very own “faapu”; a vegetable garden which Tahitian ancestors first started, and the tradition continues to this day and now provides fresh, organically grown produce for the restaurants at the resort.
There are all of the things you would expect from a six-star resort: private plunge pools at every villa, three restaurants, a world-class wine cellar, two bars, around-the-clock room service. But The Brando offers some experiences that can’t be had anywhere else, such as watching baby sea turtles hatch (November thru March) and make their way to the sea. Humpback whales return every year from July through October.
The atoll is a natural playground, to be explored with fins and snorkel, a paddleboard, kayak or boat. There is absolutely nothing to compare with exploring Tetiaroa by covered boat, in a small group for the “Ultimate Tour,” or privately with your own guide, stopping for snorkeling or even a motu picnic along the way. On the “Flyfishing Experience,” guests can fish for Giant Trevally, Bonefish and Triggerfish on a catch-and-release basis. They can lend a hand with fisheries research by tagging selected fish with Tetiaroa Society. On land, there are amazing walking tours to explore the various motus (islets). If you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of the incredible “Kaveu” coconut crab.
Varua Te Ora Polynesian Spa is a must, with its feet on a lily-covered pond and its head in the treetops. Guests have 24-hour access to the fitness centre or can play on the lighted tennis court and take home a ‘permanent souvenir’ by learning Tahitian dance, music or cookery. There are plenty of activities for children, too, including a fun an educational experience, “Lagoon School.” Finally, the resort boasts a fine boutique and pearl shop, Hinerava.
The Brando's clientele is a mix of international guests and appeals to all age groups - couples, multigenerational families, friends travelling together. There are many high-profile guests and groups of friends who buy out the entire property. The Island also brings in guests interested in the history of Tetiaroa and seeking a private island with more than just a pristine beach. Most guests are eco-conscious travellers and are drawn in by the island’s sustainability and the self-sustaining luxury environment. As well as all this, guests come to The Brando for its exclusivity and utter seclusion. The Brando clientele comes to disconnect from their hectic lifestyles, to reconnect with each other and nature all while being in a peaceful environment.
The Brando is loved by many well-known celebrities who come to the island more than just once. The exclusivity and super-luxuriousness of the resort is just one of the reasons for celebrities to visit but also the fact that it is located in one of the most remote areas of the world, offering the famous complete seclusion in their own personal sanctuary.
Access to the island only by The Brando’s dedicated air carrier, and a strict no-paparazzi rule, guarantee the privacy celebrities seek when they choose to holiday here. Tetiaroa is also available for exclusive use, where guests are able to rent the entire resort for extreme privacy. The entire atoll is comprised of 12 islets, all of which are under the protection of Tetiaroa Society rangers.
The Brando operates exclusively with renewable, non-fossil energy sources drawn from the sea, the sun, and other renewable resources, with no sacrifice to luxury and comfort. It is the world’s first and foremost post-carbon resort in French Polynesia and the first to be awarded LEED Platinum Certification, the highest Green Building Council environmental certification for sustainable building design and operations. They were also one of the first to have implemented a special mosquito program where sterilized males are released, which eradicates breeding.
The centerpiece of The Brando’s sustainability focus is the Sea Water Air Conditioning system (SWAC). This cutting-edge technology was recommended by Marlon Brando and deployed by Pacific Beachcomber. It cuts energy use by 80%. There are approximately 4,000 solar panels on property that provide more than 70% of the resort’s energy needs (saving 500,000 litres of fuel each year), thus creating the largest customised battery energy-saving system in French Polynesia. For thermal energy The Brando uses Coconut biodiesel, paving the way for 100% renewable energy
An aggressive recycling program has earned The Brando five consecutive Gold Turtle Awards by French Polynesia’s recycling agency. Giant “Eco-Digesters” turn food waste into usable compost. All disposed-of glass is crushed and reused for onsite walkways and building renovations. Guests participate in the effort: each villa has separate bins for glass, plastic and paper waste.
A huge, sophisticated water complex guarantees 100 water self-sufficiency. Wastewater, treated physically and by aquatic plants, is used for watering ornamentals and for cleaning. Groundwater provides irrigation for the vegetable garden. Collected rainwater is used for pools, laundry and flushing toilets, and a reverse osmosis process makes seawater suitable for drinking.
A popular “Green Tour” is available twice every day, a must for anyone interested in what makes The Brando a world leader in regenerative travel.