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Once Upon an Island

Private islands and atolls occupy a sacred place in our imagination. The Brando’s untarnished natural beauty and remote location has become a metaphor for simpler times and a less frantic lifestyle, away from the constant reminders of civilization and cellphones.

By Caroline Tapp-McDougall

With resorts popping up everywhere, each more grand than the other, we had to wonder if it is still possible to find a place of incomparable beauty and unrivalled elegance in a setting where time truly can stand still. Without word of a lie, we found our answer at The Brando.

Mutiny on the Bounty

Lying about 60 km north of Tahiti in French Polynesia, and accessible only by a charter aircraft, is a small private atoll known as Tetiaroa. Its coral-protected and sun-drenched islands are almost entirely undeveloped and delightfully inaccessible.

Tetiaroa’s charm and natural isolation attracted Marlon Brando in the early ’60s, while filming his epic historic film Mutiny on the Bounty. Brando became so enamoured of the atoll and its protected lagoon that he befriended its lone inhabitant, an eccentric, somewhat caustic Polynesian woman. As the story goes, the woman let Brando build a vacation shack on the island’s east side, and he married a local and had several children. Brando eventually managed to acquire an ownership interest in the island, which the king approved, and put down more lasting roots.

Today, the stunning beachfront that captured Brando’s imagination is home to his namesake, The Brando Resort. The Brando is one of the most ecologically sustainable and eco-technologically sophisticated first-class resorts in the world, situated what is arguably one of the most beautiful places in
the world.


No footprint in the sand
Built around a mere 35 one-, two- and three-bedroom private villas, the resort leaves virtually no environmental footprint. Brando, when alive, set his sights on pioneering the revolutionary ecosystems that still sustain the site. There’s a first-of-its-kind deep-water cooling system that was a successful pilot for larger systems that cities like Toronto would eventually emulate. And The Brando’s airstrip is lined with solar panels that flawlessly deliver all of the resort’s electricity. Plus virtually every scrap of food, much of it grown on site, is composted to fertilize the experimental gardens.

These technical innovations that make the eco-supreme Brando Resort so unique are all but invisible, unless one is curious enough to step behind the scenes for a tour of the laboratories and an educational chat with resident scientists. The eco-innovation continues, it seems, with some of the world’s best and brightest being lured to continue Brando’s legacy.

The resort itself is also virtually invisible from either the beachfront or landside. Each villa has a private and secluded walkway (with bicycle path) that is unseen from the adjoining units, and tastefully the roofs lie well below the dense tree canopy. Similarly, each private beachfront infinity pool and patio is discreetly hidden from its neighbours. This imaginative approach to privacy is carried throughout the shared spaces; the main infinity pool deck offers secluded seating spots for groups of two and four, and the main lounge and bar even have private treetop “pods.”


Far and away

The Brando is, no doubt, the ideal place to write one’s memoirs (as Barack Obama did) or to disconnect from technological tethers to home and office. The island’s uncompromising commitment to seclusion and privacy runs deep in the ethos of the service offered by genuinely caring staff. They anticipate wants and needs, and extend a level of hospitality that can’t be taught or trained.

A few days here and we realize that this authenticity is simply part of the cultural and social fabric of French Polynesia. And although The Brando can’t claim exclusive rights to this, it has successfully amplified it
to perfection.

With so many superlatives, some travellers might rightfully be a bit suspicious. But to them we’d say: Close your eyes, imagine the most serene beach, overlooking the most idyllic ocean, as you sip fine champagne in your state-of-the-art villa, and you’ll have a fleeting glimpse of paradise. Fear not the long flight, and you’ll experience this paradise for days and nights on end at The Brando.


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Getting to The Brando…

Airlines from around the world offer flights to Faa’a International
Airport in Papeete, Tahiti. From there it’s a short but spectacular
20-minute flight to Tetiaroa onboard Air Tetiaroa.

Travel from Tahiti to Tetiaroa is by private aircraft operated by Air Tetiaroa—the exclusive provider of passenger service to the island. Air Tetiaroa operates two six-passenger Britten Norman aircrafts, as well as one twin-otter aircraft with a capacity of 14 passengers, which depart from a private terminal at Faa’a International Airport in Tahiti.

When your international or domestic flight arrives at Faa’a International Airport, you’ll be transferred to Air Tetiaroa’s private terminal for your 20-minute flight to paradise. Although the flight is brief, it will provide you with fabulous views and an unforgettable introduction to Tetiaroa.