TETIAROA - THE ATOLL THAT KEEPS ITS DISTANCE…
The mysterious island jewel of Tetiaroa, meaning "who stands apart” in Tahitian, is a 4.5-mile wide atoll and is located just 36.5 miles north of Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia on the island of Tahiti. It is probably most famously known for its now deceased, legendary owner, the charismatic Hollywood actor, Marlon Brando.
In 1965, the famous actor, Marlon Brando, fell in love with the pristine atoll while shooting the film “Mutiny on the Bounty.” He decided to purchase the atoll for a 99-year lease, build a small runway and a hotel with 13 bungalows exclusively for guests. Being an advocate of protecting the environment, Brando conserved the original appeal of this magnificent and peaceful atoll.
The atoll, which consists of 12 motu (small islets) with poetic names like “shimmering sand,” "still hand” and “traveler’s friend,” is in itself a world apart.
It is surrounded by a protective coral reef with no opening to the sea, keeping the water of the lagoon warmer than anywhere else and thus creating one of the richest marine life habitats in the world.
Today, Tetiaroa is a pristine and untouched atoll, having resisted tourism and development due to its private and exclusive ownership status over the years.
This enchanted atoll is also known for being home to one of Tahiti's only protected bird sanctuaries as well as an intact and healthy environment.
A Forgotten History
The atoll once known as “Te-Tua-Roa” – meaning "high tide" - was considered somewhat a royal playground for the wealthy and upper class as it used to be a summer residence or private getaway for various ruling families, ari’i (chiefs), and kings of Tahiti over the years. Legends from ancient times tell of royal treasures that were hidden on the atoll.
In 1789, three deserters from the Bounty became the first Europeans to visit the island during the ship's 23-week stay in Tahiti. It was after their departure that the famous “Mutiny on the Bounty” took place.
In 1904, the royal Pomare family of Tahiti gave the island to Johnston Walter Williams, a dentist and British Consul who had moved to Papeete in 1902. As a private island, Tetiaroa changed hands a few times before being acquired by Marlon Brandon in 1965, after filming “Mutiny on the Bounty.”
Over the years, Marlon Brando came to the island a number of times and used it as a getaway from his hectic life in Hollywood. It is said that he always cherished these moments on Tetiaroa, even though he didn't actually spend as much time there as he would have liked.
Tetiaroa- A Legendary Atoll
Being a fervent protector of the environment, Brando worked hard to conserve the original charm of the atoll by resisting large-scale commercial developments, which were always being presented to him.
The only hotel that ever operated on the island was owned by Marlon Brando and was shut down shortly after his death. The hotel, known as Hotel Tetiaroa Village, was an exclusive place offering rather basic amenities at upscale prices. Its 13 thatched-roof bungalows "fares" were most sought after by wealthy honeymooners and newlyweds. Teihotu, Brando’s son, used to run the hotel and is currently Tetiaroa’s only official inhabitant.
Today, an eco-friendly hotel project in homage to Marlon Brando is in the works - "The Brando.” This was Brando’s vision to create a project, which will resonate with visitors and also foster opportunities for guests to get to know both the place, the environment and the people of French Polynesia.
The project is being overseen by Tahiti Beachcomber SA, whose CEO, Richard Bailey, owner of several luxury resorts in French Polynesia, was a good friend of Brando’s and had been working with him for many years to fulfill their joint vision to develop an environmentally sustainable resort.
From Tahiti-Tourisme, posted Friday 8 October, 2010