TETIAROA, FRENCH POLYNESIA —For legendary actor Marlon Brando, who died in 2004, paradise began with a discovery and a dream. While filming the 1962 historical classic Mutiny on the Bounty in French Polynesia, the Oscar-winning actor found nirvana in the form of a 12-island atoll known as Tetiaroa and made it his home (falling in love with his 19-year-old co-star in the process).
A devout environmentalist, Brando’s ultimate dream was to create a space that was a model for sustainability and a centre for education and research that could be enjoyed by visitors and residents alike.
Partnering with hotelier and Tahiti resident Richard Bailey in 1999, the pair developed the world’s first luxury eco-carbon resort, a successful marriage of five-star understated glam and preservation. The result is The Brando, where simplicity and tranquility coexist beautifully with the environment.
Nestled in the dunes on 193 acres, the 35 beachfront villas (one, two and three bedrooms) sit on the lagoon, each with their own infinity plunge pool, outdoor tub, private outdoor dining cabana and living and media rooms.
Above: Brando Island pops out of the South Pacific not far from Tahiti.
Designed by the French architectural firm Pierre-Jean Picart, the overall theme is one of living in a Polynesian “smart hut” with all the modern and elegant sensibilities while paying a nod to the Polynesian heritage.
Located on a lagoon 50km northeast of Tahiti, Brando was not the only luminary to be captured by the crystal aquamarine waters and sandy-white beaches. Former President Barack Obama worked on his memoirs for six weeks at the resort while actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp (a close friend of Brando, he can often be found in the kitchen visiting the staff or at the beachfront bar) are also regulars. And since the only way to reach The Brando is by a picturesque postcard perfect ride on an eight-passenger private plane, British Royal sister Pippa Middleton found the privacy of the resort perfect for the first leg of her honeymoon.
The real star is the island itself, where green sea turtles, lemon sharks, manta rays and an assortment of colourful tropical fish and birds share the sacred space.
Above: Marlon Brando fell in love with the island while filming Mutiny On The Bounty, one of his best movies.
Island time takes on a new meaning, where the words unplug and unwind are the order of the day.
While the days can be simply tranquil, activities are as varied as the island’s flora and fauna. An afternoon bike ride (each villa comes with its own two-wheeled transport along with golf carts – no cars are allowed), snorkelling, paddle boarding, diving and sailing are worthy pursuits.
Located just a short boat ride away, guests can visit Bird Island where thousands of birds call the untouched motu home and you can catch an up-close and personal glimpse of frigate birds and noddies. Or unwind at the Varua Te Ora Spa where you can enjoy a Tahitian tamanu oil scrub treatment in a suspended driftwood-woven tree house known as fare manu (home of the bird) or a coconut oil massage in rooms that literally resembles a giant bird’s nest.
If you want an educational experience, visit the library and Explorer’s Center where you can study Polynesian culture, history and island life and take classes in the Polynesian language and learn how to paint your own pareu (printed sarong).
For the ecologically-minded, a tour of the facilities showcases how the resort became the first to achieve Net Zero energy use by turning renewable resources such as coconut oil, solar and biofuels into energy, and piping seawater into the land for air conditioning. Researchers from all over the world also visit the ocean university to study Tetiaroa’s unique marine environment.
Above: Brando Island offers exclusive guests like Barack Obama a secluded private hideaway.
The Brando’s main restaurant, Les Mutinés, offers Polynesian-inspired East/West fusion with classic French dishes from award-winning Chef Guy Martin of Le Grand Véfour in Paris. Designed with a ceiling that resembles a boat, the feeling is one of dining on a lagoon with a world-class wine cellar.
The resort opened its latest restaurant, Nami, last fall and there guests can experience land and sea cuisine prepared on a teppanyaki iron griddle by Japanese Chef Kaito Nakamura. And be sure to toast Brando at the end of the day with a cocktail at the thatched roof Bob’s Bar (named after Brando’s assistant Bob, who he shared many a drink and a laugh with at the original Dirty Old Bob’s beach bar).
Sadly, the actor did not live to see his dream come to life as he passed away 14 years before the opening. But he summed it up best when he said: “Tetiaroa is beautiful beyond my capacity to describe. One could say that Tetiaroa is the tincture of the South Seas.” •
JUST THE FACTS
• Room rates starts at $843 Cdn per night.
• Info: https:thebrando.com
• Getting there: Fly from Tahiti / Info: https:www.tahititourisme.com