Brando was before his time in his plans for a sustainable community on Tetiaroa. As technology caught up with his dreams, he began to look for a partner who could help him realize his vision for his island.
The perfect match was to be found not far away in the shape of
Pacific Beachcomber and its owner, Richard Bailey. Richard had long been at the forefront of sustainable tourism in Polynesia. In fact, he successfully installed the first Sea Water Air-Conditioning system in one of his two InterContinental Hotels at Bora Bora.
What's more, Richard actively supported marine research through the not-for-profit organization
Te Mana o te Moana (The Spirit of the Ocean), run by Dr Cecile Gaspar. One of Dr Gaspar’s most successful projects is the monitoring of green sea turtles nesting on Tetiaroa.
So it was that Brando agreed to a new vision for Tetiaroa one that would see a new research centre established to oversee the development of an earth-friendly hotel, spa and dwellings that would be 100% self-sufficient in energy.
My mind is always soothed when I imagine myself sitting on my South Sea island at night. If I have my way, Tetiaroa will remain forever a place that reminds Tahitians of what they are and what they were centuries ago.
Brando fell in love with Tetiaroa
in 1960, when he was scouting locations for Mutiny on the Bounty. This sliver of green on the horizon loomed large in Brando's imagination. Soon he was negotiating to buy the 12 motus that had once been the private retreat of Tahitian princesses. He took possession in 1966 having met Tarita, the love of his life.
Almost his first act, in keeping with the spirit of the times, was to give the lagoon back to the people of French Polynesia. Brando's dream was to maintain the pristine condition of Tetiaroa, especially the safe haven that its lagoon provided for nesting green sea turtles. He foresaw a sustainable ecological habitat for people, plants and wildlife. When Marlon Brando died in 2004, half of his ashes were brought to Tetiaroa.
Perhaps the most famous romantic of all, Paul Gauguin, came to Tahiti in 1891 to escape everything that is artificial and conventional. Gauguin's reputation brought many authors and artists to the islands, notably Somerset Maugham and Rupert Brook.
Marlon Brando was not the first romantic to come to French Polynesia. Nor was he the last. One of the first was Herman Melville, who jumped ship in 1842, whose South Sea experiences came to feature in the great American novel Moby Dick. In 1888, the author of Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson, dropped anchor to find inspiration.
Aquarius the water carrier inhabits a quadrant of the sky known as The Sea, close to Capricorn and Pisces. Ancient Polynesians saw sharks and whales in the same heavens, using them to find islands. Aquarius is symbolic of the bohemian spirit of the Sixties.