The Stewards of Tetiaroa: Tetiaroa Society & The Brando

May 5, 2020 by Hidden Doorways

“It is my hope that the island will serve as an ecological model… not only a tourist preserve but a marine preserve as well a place for all manner of scientific research and investigation.” -Marlon Brando

American actor Marlon Brando first came to Tetiaroa in Tahiti while filming Mutiny on the Bounty and was instantly enchanted by the island’s rare beauty. He teamed up with local hotelier and conservationist, Richard Bailey, to create The Brando with a sustainable future in mind for travelers visiting its eco-rich shores. It is a pleasure to introduce you to Frank Murphy who is the Executive Director of The Tetiaroa Society. He shares insights with us on the Tetiaroa Society’s activities for The Brando guests, current conservation efforts and how they are evolving as a sustainable tourism model during the time of the pandemic.

As our lives feel like they are on pause, our earth is responding quite differently. Nature and wildlife continue to carry on and flourish. The sky is clearer, pollution has dramatically reduced and animals are returning to their natural habitat. Travel transcends borders while connecting us to be more mindful about our footprint and the ability to make a positive impact in the world around us, a core belief to our ethos.

How does the Tetiaroa Society continue to uphold Marlon Brando’s vision with research and technology?

Marlon Brando’s vision for Tetiaroa was to support a community, education programs, scientific research, and conservation programs with sustainable tourism. In collaboration with the Brando Family Trust, The Brando Resort, and the local community, this is exactly what Tetiaroa Society is doing. The Brando Resort of course is at the core of this as a) an amazing example of luxury tourism with a minimal environmental footprint, and b) a major source of support for Tetiaroa Society operations. Marlon also brought international researchers to Tetiaroa and of course we have continued and greatly expanded that program. Tetiarao Society operates an Ecostation that hosts and facilitates research and conservation programs. It may not be commonly known but Marlon Brando was always scanning the horizon for new technological answers to ecological problems. He was the one that first identified the Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC) system that eventually was built by The Brando and also used by the Ecostation.

What are some ways that you introduce guests at The Brando to the island’s nature and culture?

The island of Tetiaroa is an atoll with 12 small islets (motu in Tahitian) that make up all of the land surface. Two of those motu are leased and occupied by The Brando Resort, and all of the rest are a private nature preserve. Tetiaroa Society has a team of professional guides, trained in the natural and cultural history of the island, who provide resort guests access to the nature preserve part of the island. Along with the resort, the Tetiaroa Society has designed tours that highlight the natural and cultural features of the island – seabird nesting sites, the coral reef system, archaeological sites, etc. For guests the great thing about visiting Tetiaroa is that they not only get to stay at an incredible resort, but they also get to explore an amazing Pacific atoll.

What are some activities that children can get involved in?

The Tetiaroa Society operates the Lagoon School where children visiting the island can participate in educational programs designed to explore the nature and culture of Tetiaroa.

As environmental stewards of Tetiaroa, do you see progress with your initiatives? How have you inspired other conservation non-profit organizations?

The work of protecting and preserving Tetiaroa involves scientific research, conservation practices, education and communication programs. It requires strong partnerships and collaboration with universities, research institutions, other NGOs, and the local community. Tetiaroa Society has been fortunate to have built a community of researchers and educators that are dedicated to the preserving the island. This has resulted amazing research programs on invasive species control, green sea turtle conservation, coral reef ecology, archaeology and cultural preservation, and a variety of other topics. As a result of the success of these collaborative endeavors we began to gain international recognition in 2019. Along with The Brando we received an award as the Eco-organization of the Year for EarthX 2019 in Dallas, and Mission Blue designated Tetiaroa one of its Hope Spots. 

What is your top initiative that you hope guests at The Brando take-away?

When guests visit Tetiaroa, they get to spend some time on an atoll, a spectacular island built incrementally and maintained by healthy coral reefs that is now a sanctuary for native flora and fauna. We hope that first of all they are inspired by the natural beauty of this place, and by our commitment to preserving it. But we hope that this inspiration results in action. There are many ways to contribute to saving our island Earth, whether it involves science-based actions, or community involvement, or simple adaptations for acting responsibly towards nature. On Tetiaroa, we and our partners embrace all of these ways of protecting our planet, and we hope that visitors to the island take these examples home with them.

How is the Tetiaroa Society evolving as an ecological model during the unsettling times of the pandemic?

An important lesson that people are learning as a result of the present pandemic is that, for our own well-being, we need to take nature seriously, and good science and wise action are key to that. We are also learning that we can go to amazing lengths to adapt in the face of a serious global threat. All of this serves us well as we come to terms with climate change and all that needs to be done to counteract the effects of our own actions. On a local scale Tetiaroa Society has always sponsored and facilitated projects that are addressing climate change and its effects on oceans and islands. Now it is also mobilizing on a much larger scale with the Blue Climate Initiative and Summit. Here, via a summit planned for 2021 we will target breakthrough solutions that combat climate change while protecting and conserving our oceans, leveraging their power to address some of the greatest challenges of our time – renewable energy, nutritious food supplies, clean drinking water, improved human health, flourishing biodiversity, and sustainable ocean economies. For more details, view their Blue Climate Initiatives.

Contact Details:

The Tetiaroa Society


The Brando

Tetiaroa, Tahiti

French Polynesia
Telephone: +011 689 40 866 366


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