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The Brando: Finding The Ultimate Paradise In French Polynesia

Hidden in the deep depths of the South Pacific Ocean, 30 miles north of Tahiti, lies the private atoll of Tetiaroa – a necklace of 12 small islands that surround a jewel-toned turquoise lagoon.

Once the playground of Tahitian royalty, Tetiaroa was bought by Marlon Brando in 1966 after the actor fell in love with both the people and the place during his filming of Mutiny on the Bounty, and now that legacy lives on at The Brando – a super exclusive, eco resort that is redefining luxe castaway.

The Brando, only accessible via helicopter or a flight via The Brando’s fleet of private planes, is as about as remote as it gets – which is why A-Listers such as Beyoncé, Barack and Michelle Obama, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie have been flocking to the Polynesian paradise since its inception in 2014. As I board the 14-seater plane from the private terminal at Tahiti Faa’ airport, this is as close to celebrity as I have ever felt, and that’s just the beginning of the gold star treatment on offer at the resort.

The Vibe

If the breathtaking blues of the lagoon aren’t enough to make you shed a tear from the air, the reality of their beauty on the ground is even more spectacular. It’s hard to fathom such a place can exist. After we are greeted by traditional Polynesian music, it is clear that respect is the moda operadi for the Brando. Respect for the people, the place, the culture and the earth are at the root of this luxury offering.

I’m struck by how wholly peaceful the place is. The sound of the distant crashing waves of the South Pacific, the soft lapping of the lagoon, and the island’s whistling winds become the soundtrack of our stay. What is even more striking than the peace is the privacy and, with a roster of clients that would rival the Met Gala, you can understand why this is crucial to The Brando’s success.

We lap around the resort in an electric buggy for a tour of the amenities – which include a fine-dining restaurant, two further restaurants, two bars, an astounding spa, a gym, a pristine tennis court, and naturally, countless opportunities to take in the views of Tetiaroa. The laid-back luxury of the resort means that while there is a long list of activities available to you, from boat trips to whale spotting to snorkelling, you can take part in as much or as little as you like. If you want to watch the waves roll in from your private villa for the foreseeable future, that is just as celebrated as hiking the Jurassic motu in search of three-foot coconut crabs.

The conservation efforts are deeply impressive. This isn’t just a no plastic eco-resort; it’s considered, thoughtful, deliberate and smart. For example, The Brando is climatised via SWAC (sea-water powered air conditioning), and 75 per cent of the resort’s energy is powered by solar panels. “Tetiaroa is a jewel, it deserves nothing less than the Brando,” explains Tihoni, head guide at the Tetiaroa Society – a non-profit organisation set up by The Brando that acts as the guardian of the atoll. And, when a place this spectacular on earth exists, it’s only right that everything about it be preserved, cherished and championed.

The Rooms

There are 35 private, one to three bedroom villas spread across Turtle Bay (best for sunrises) and Mermaid Bay (best for sunsets), as well as one private residence, complete with staff quarters. The villas, like everything else at the resort, celebrate Polynesian traditions and nature; the wooden walls and woven roofs encapsulate the barefoot luxury feel of the place, with all the finishes you’d expect from a top tier hotel.

My one-bed clocked up a generous 1000+ square feet, and comes complete with a private walkway entrance with bicycles for getting around, a spacious bedroom (with an MTV Cribs-style pop up television if you tire of the lagoon view), a dressing room that even my two suitcases couldn’t fill, an office and media room, a living area, a double bathroom and an outdoor bath. Outside a decking leads to a covered dining area, a tempting private pool, an outdoor shower, and of course beach access. The set up made it impossible not to dash into the lagoon from my villa as if I were in the live-action remake of Moana.

The Food + Drink

Though you are on a remote island in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, the variety of food and drink on offer at The Brando would have you believing you were in Paris. The hotel has recently teamed up with ‘enfant terrible’ French Chef, Jean Imbert – the raffish head chef of the esteemed Plaza Athénée, for an overhaul of its 20-seater fine dining restaurant Les Mutinés. No detail goes overlooked from the map-like menu documenting your culinary journey, to the jaw-dropping chandelier – shaped like a ship – that fills the intimate space.

Breakfast is served at Beachcomber Cafe, the resort’s casual dining offering, and is an elegant continental offering of perfectly sliced fruit and delicious eggs. The local honey made from neighbouring coconut flowers, however, takes best in show – particularly when paired with chunks of comté.

Bob’s Bar, whose name makes tribute to Marlon Brando’s long-time friend, Bob, is a reconstruction of Brando’s original hangout, offering another casual dining option including Marlon’s smash burger that was so good it had me running back for seconds, and a desert of coconut ice-cream encased in coconut shell with warm chocolate sauce poured into the middle (which I will think about for the rest of my life).

Te Manu Bar, suspended above the beach, offers breathtaking views of the lagoon and the starry sky, alongside an exceptional number of Clase Azul offerings for tequila lovers, while the hotel’s teppanyaki restaurant, Nami, hosts an intimate (just eight seats) option for an evening of Japanese flavours created in front of you with sake pairings.

The Spa

If it’s tranquillity you seek, the experience at The Brando’s Varua Te Ore Polynesian spa will have you discovering more than just peace of body and mind. Situated in the middle of a dense green oasis, surrounding a freshwater lake, the spa is a destination in its own right. Offering holistic treatments inspired by Polynesian traditions (the all-inclusive package allows guests one treatment per day) in cabins that look like elevated birds’ nests – don’t skip on the traditional Tahitian massage that rolls out knots like you haven’t just travelled to the other side of the world.

The Little Extras

Beyond the spa there are plenty of activities that allow you to immerse yourself in the local way of life, from Polynesian dance classes (thankfully under the cover of a beach hut – privacy has never been more essential), weaving, whale watching (August to October), and a host of water sports.

The To-Do List

The Green Tour conducted by the Tetiaroa Society is well worth scheduling in. It’s rare that a recycling system could garner our attention for 20 minutes, but the eco workings of the resort are as much a wonder as the island itself.

An unmissable activity is the Tetiaroa Ultimate Tour, by boat, around the atoll with guide, Teva, from the Tetiaroa Society. The Brando’s boat takes you out across the lagoon for what I can guarantee is the most magical two hours of your life: exploring the motus – reef islets of broken coral and sand that surround an atoll – that make up Tetiaroa including bird island; hunting for the aforementioned coconut crab; and culminating at the Queen’s Bath. It’s near on impossible to describe the water at this famed spot, and it’s no surprise it was a favourite among Tahitian royalty, it is, for lack of a better word, magnificent.

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