The Brando: Carrying Forward a Legacy of Conservation
December 2, 2022 by Katherine Favor
When Marlon Brando first arrived here in 1960 while filming Mutiny on the Bounty, he instantly fell in love with Tetiaroa’s crystalline waters, its cornucopia of lush flora, and its abounding biodiversity. He founded The Brando, a prestigious and luxurious eco-hotel, as a way to both share Tetiaroa’s beauty with the world, and also to protect it.
The tiny island of Tetiaroa is a thriving and lush, yet delicate and vulnerable ecosystem. The dazzling coral reef that rings the island is home to 167 species of colorful fish, green turtles, spotted eagle rays, and hundreds of other aquatic species. Just beyond the coral ring, dolphins and whales can be seen rising in and out of the water on their migratory path.
The island itself is home to dozens of threatened species of birds, who find refuge in the quiet, undisturbed canopies of trees. The island is teeming with life, but will only continue to do so as long as this fragile ecosystem remains in balance.
Nestled into this flourishing Eden is The Brando Resort, whose elegance and breathtaking sustainably-designed architecture reflects the natural beauty of the surrounding island. Marlon Brando started this hotel as a way to ensure that the island would remain protected into perpetuity: “It is my hope that the island will serve as an ecological model…not only a tourist preserve but a marine preserve as well as a place for all manner of scientific research and investigation.”
The Brando is dedicated to ensuring that this remote corner of the world stays pristine and uncorrupted. Every element of the hotel has been meticulously designed so as to have as small of an environmental footprint as possible, and much of its revenue goes toward funding research and educational initiatives to keep this island ecosystem healthy and thriving.
How is The Brando accomplishing this?
Earth: The Brando’s exquisite beachside villas are constructed from locally-sourced wood and are LEED Platinum certified, with energy efficiency built into their very architecture. The food served at The Brando’s four world-class restaurants is sourced from the hotel’s acres of organic gardens and food forests – just steps from the kitchen – giving the term “local food” an entirely new meaning. All food waste from the hotel is composted and turned back into fertile soil that nourishes those same gardens, allowing the hotel’s food to be grown in an entirely closed-loop system.
Air: Instead of using energy to run the hotel’s air conditioning system, the Brando’s Sea Water Air Conditioning System (SWAC) utilizes the ocean’s natural cooling waters to cool air passively. Coils filled with air are run deep under the ocean’s surface, and the sea gently refrigerates the air within the coils, requiring only a fraction of the energy of normal air conditioning systems.
Fire: The same rays that shine down from the sun onto Tetiaroa’s secluded white sand beaches are harvested and used for solar energy. Solar technology powers 50% of the energy needs of the hotel, helping to satisfy its goals of being completely carbon neutral.
Water: The water for the irrigation of The Brando’s organic gardens and food forests, as well as its gorgeous landscaping, comes from a wastewater management system that recycles and cleans the island’s water, ensuring that not a drop goes to waste.
Life: The Brando, in partnership with the Tetiaroa Society, is a sponsor of the Blue Climate Initiative, a global program dedicated to researching and implementing innovative solutions to protect the planet’s precious oceans and ocean ecosystems. Scientists from all over the world come to the Brando’s world-renowned research facility to study its intricate ocean ecology and to develop protocols for protecting it. The Eco-station at Tetiaroa evolved out of Marlon Brando’s marine academy, University of the Sea, and it now serves to study and protect threatened species such as turtles, sharks, birds, crabs, and other animals that depend on the island as a primary nesting ground. To increase awareness about biodiversity and conservation, the Brando’s Tetiaroa Society partnership also created a program called The Biosphere Tetiaroa, which educates hotel guests about the vast array of wildlife found on and near the island.
Every detail knit into The Brando exudes a reverence for the rich culture, biodiversity, and natural beauty of Tetiaroa. Visitors can learn about Tetiaroa’s aquatic life through a private tour of the eco-station led by researchers themselves, and then can experience those animals up close as they snorkel or kayak through coral gardens. Guests can join a guided birdwatching tour or nature walk in the morning, and attend a Tahitian dance show or a lecture about Polynesian culture at The Library and Explorer Center in the evening.
Those who stay at the Brando leave transformed, taking with them a deep appreciation for this island’s land, history, people, and natural creation. But what guests leave behind is just as important. Visitors to The Brando not only experience Tetiaroa’s beauty, but contribute directly to preserving it.
There is a Tahitian proverb that the people of this land live by: “The land is the chief, and the people are merely its servants.” The Brando is a hotel that lives out this proverb, functioning as a conduit through which guests can not only experience the transformative beauty of Tetiaroa, but also serve it in return, ensuring that the delicate balance of this unique ecosystem is preserved for years to come.
Tetiaroa, French Polynesia