Stay in the epitome of island luxury and absorb serious Galapagos-level conservation thrown in, for free. This is at The Brando, on 77-hectare Onetahi private island in French Polynesia’s Tetiarøo atoll. Marlon Brando fell in love with the atoll when filming on Tahiti. He bought it and it’s still owned by his family.
Onetahi is the atoll’s only inhabited island, and here you have the airstrip, the all-inclusive 38-villa resort and a village to house the 230 team members. From the guest viewpoint, the overall picture is superlative. For a start, all pools are so obviously private you can swim 24/7 free of cossies or even budgie-smugglers. Wake up with the sun, cross a three-metre deck, down five multi-hued crystalline steps to one end of your nine-metre pool. Around is a 360° vista of white sand, green undergrowth and turquoise lagoon (blue ocean beyond the white reef, 400 metres out).
With the exception of three-bedroom #103, and a two-floor four-bedroom Residence with a superb kitchen and indoor and outdoor dining for eight, villas are identical. Number 203, for instance, is approached past two numbered city bikes and along a 25m walkway. The villa’s eight metres deep, its 25m width divided into three. Compressed bamboo floors and rattan-look or cream walls rise to an open-rush high-point ceiling. The left-hand space is a media room and office. The central living room leads through French windows, to the deck. The right-hand space is sleeping, changing and abluting, with an outdoor soaking tub. Internet, by the way, is world-class, no password needed.
Food’s a delight. Lunch, perhaps, off a tuna poke bowl. Dine in what looks like an upside white ship hull with floating white nets delightfully separating tables. Toast happiness, in Rothschild Champagne, included. Whenever you want, young French mixologists, who sport the tattoo bodywear that’s ubiquitous among all-age with-it Polynesians, are wizards at flamboyant bespoke concoctions. Breakfast, say on your deck, could include pastries that warrant France’s highest honour, Concours du Meilleur Croissant au Beurre AOC Charentes-Poitou.
There are water and land experiences galore. The eco-Green Tour shows Sea Water fuelling air-con. Bottles are compressed to road-fill granules, food waste is composted overnight to soil for the kitchen garden.
But it’s the Ultimate Tour, to another island, that’s truly mind-boggling. One of The Brando’s eight full-time world-class scientists leads into dense undergrowth as red Boobys nesting in trees, observe with fascination. Other species, super-inquisitive, swoop as if kamikaze dive bombers. Intruder palms, sailed as coconuts, all the way from Asia, jostle with indigenous Pua Tea trees (their candyfloss-like interiors drop as softest ground cover). Decades-old coconut crabs appear with nightfall. Day-time, hermit crabs race to find bigger shells into which to plop.
Final memory – as the Air Tetiarøo 19-seat Viking DHC6-300 taxied along the island’s solar panel-flanked runway for its twice-daily 20-minute flight to Papeete’s international airport – was a 30-ish couple saying four nights was not nearly enough. A couple of guys celebrating entering their 70s agree.
Mary Gostelow publishes the daily girlahead.com, a weekly newswire Mary Gostelow’s Inner Circle, and a unique weekly 15-minute industry Mary Gostelow Girlahead Podcast, all part of Almont Global.