THE BRANDO, French Polynesia | A private island once owned by Marlon Brando has been grabbing attention due to its high-profile guests. Pippa Middleton just jetted off there for some exotic privacy on her honeymoon, and Barack Obama chose this 35-villa resort off the coast of Tahiti as the quiet, contemplative place to write his memoirs after eight years in the White House.
Pure tropical fantasy — the Brando encapsulates everything you imagine luxury castaway chic to be. Arriving from the air, the boomerang-shaped island within a remote atoll in the South Pacific, shimmers into view like an Instagram dream. A swish of searingly bright white sand demarcates the lush, forested interior from the sparkling, aquamarine sea, and the island is encircled by the indigo ocean that shelves deeply away into the ocean.
For most of us, a desert-island idyll such as this is out of reach. There’s a huge price tag to such remote beauty and extraordinary luxury. So, it’s good to know that the Brando is setting itself up as an example to other hotels, pioneering interesting developments within sustainable tourism. Last year, the Brando won Condé Nast Traveler’s Best Resort in the World, so we know guests are more than convinced. It's also sending a clear message to other resorts: you can be number one and self-sustainable.
Green living on an atoll is a challenge. How does the Brando manage it? Firstly, nature takes priority, dictating the design. The island’s vibe is untouched, due to careful landscaping, so all the villas hewn from local timber and topped with palm fronds, are set back from the beach, hidden among foliage. No flashy over-water villas here. All around the forest thrums and shifts, happily merging with the architecture.
Care for the environment, which the resort refers to as 'Stewardship', is woven through every element. There’s conservation aplenty including reef maintenance and fish preservation, safeguarding of the green sea turtle and coconut crab. Polynesian heritage is nurtured through storytelling and dance. Deep in the jungle are ancient Polynesian temples, still being explored by on-site archaeologists. Education is prevalent too, so visitors can go home filled with a zeal for sustainability; and local communities learn the importance of protecting their own environment.
The Brando has already been awarded many accolades for their innovative energy solutions, including a LEED platinum certification. The hotel operates exclusively with renewable sources — even using coconut oil to help power the resort. One of the most interesting developments, and one that's already making a vital difference to other hotels’ energy consumption, is the innovative seawater air-conditioning system (SWAT), which is harnessed by pioneering green technology that uses the cool water from the deep ocean distributed in pipework around the resort.
The Brando has a vision, and it’s a global one. It turns to the island itself for inspiration; exploring its past and looking into the future. It’s as much about the tourists as it is about the local community, with an outreach programme that focuses on highlighting cultural heritage and the environment.
Not least because, travellers today are seeking more substance. It is not enough to be soul-shakingly beautiful. It becomes meaningless if the beauty that lured us can’t be protected or preserved. Travel to far-flung places means very little if we don’t learn something about heritage or the local people; that's what provides a sense of place and identity. You don’t have to be Pippa or Barack to understand this — it’s the future of every destination we want to visit.