The Tahiti Traveler

Tetiaroa

The Marlon’s favorite island

Tetiaroa is a little atoll in the Society Islands located 32mi north of Tahiti. Composed with 13 motus (little islet), the atoll does not have a large enough passage to the open sea making it accessible only by plane or small boat. It has a splendid 7 kilometre-wide blue lagoon with 30m depth. The atoll offers many beautiful white sand beaches.

Also called the Birds’ Island, Tetiaroa is an Eden for thousands of birds that live on the atoll all year around. The wildest motus shelter a large population of frigate birds, Blue-footed Booby and terns. Among these islets, the Tahuna Rahi motu seems to be one of the most appreciated by these species.

This private atoll was for a long-time, the “summer residence” of the Pomare family (the royal Tahitian family). It was an ideal place for rest and relaxation. Then, the royal family donated it to Johnston Williams in 1904 (an exceptional dentist in Tahiti at that time) who set up a copra farm. The atoll became particularly famous in 1966 when Marlon Brando bought it from the Polynesian government. He obtained the atoll for the sum of $ 270,000. The actor literally fell in love with the island six years earlier after the shooting of the “Mutiny on the Bounty”; a film in which he played Christian Fletcher. Marlon enjoyed a few years of his beautiful haven; a place he always wanted to be preserved and dominated by nature. He built a small airstrip and a rudimentary hotel managed at that time by his Tahitian wife Tarita. The dream pursued by the actor was to build a place dedicated to wildlife preservation, an eco-friendly complex with little impact on the atoll’s biodiversity as well as a site of protection and education. Unfortunately, the Hollywood star died before his project came to fruition.

Nowadays, Tetiaroa is still a private atoll managed by the Brando estate representing the interests of Marlon Brando’s heirs. Urged by Richard Bailey (president of Pacific Beachcomber group), the atoll is about to welcome on one of its motu a community built around a luxury eco-resort. This resort will notably include a scientific research centre in a complex self-sufficient in renewable energy. With a permanent concern for the respect of the environment, the hotel will adopt an approach of sustainable development over the long term. This green resort will be called “The Brando” in his memory. The construction of this prestigious hotel should be completed in 2013. The hotel will target the LEED Platinum certification (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) rewarding the high environmental quality of the project.

Tetiaroa – the idyllic atoll well-known through the world thanks to Marlon Brando – is on the verge of welcoming an ambitious pioneer project unparalleled in the world. It could be a model for the future developments in such a fragile environment ?