Brando Island

French Polynesia 2018: Brando Island—Day 4

Obōz Footwear

Curious as to the stewardship of Brando Island, I wanted to know what conservation practices had been implemented to preserve the atoll’s natural resources and to minimize man’s impact on it.

How did they collect and store their water? What about waste management? And were they able to grow some of the food used in their three restaurants, or was everything transported to the island from nearby Tahiti? To get answers, we signed up for the green tour.

We met our guide at the concierge desk and away we went, pedaling our bikes to the first stop on our tour, the Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC) building. The concept, which is simple in principle but took years to implement, is to harness the cold naturally stored in the ocean depths and run it throughout the resort using the cold water to air-condition the villas. Marlon Brando first heard of the principle in the 1970s but did not live to see the idea become a reality.

Our next stop was the desalination plant, where Tetiaroa removes the salt from seawater and stores the desalinated water in huge tanks. The water is not used as potable water. No one told me, so I was filling my empty water bottle from the tap. I don’t seem to have suffered any ill effects. 

On to the sewer sanitation area. Here the gray water is separated from the solids and the waste water is used to irrigate, while the solids are shipped to Tahiti. Then what? I didn’t ask.

The island’s recycling program is extensive, and what they can’t dispose of, such as batteries or other hazardous materials, are shipped to Tahiti for recycling. 

We rode to the island’s airfield. Photovoltaic solar panels flank the airstrip. They provide over half of the resort’s energy needs, and solar heating provides all of the island’s hot water. 

The resort uses coconut oil biofuel to drive its power station whenever the oil can be purchased, and soon all vehicles on the island will be powered by the sun. As for the guests, you can reduce your carbon footprint by pedaling on.

The final stop on the tour was the organic fruit orchard and vegetable garden. The resort grows a wide variety of vegetables, fruit, and herbs, and I was pleased to note they use coconut husks as mulch in their planting beds. We did the same when we lived in Trinidad, even in our flowerbeds.  

We wrapped up the day with another trip to the spa for an afternoon massage, and later, dinner at Nami, the teppanyaki grill.

I thought you might enjoy some villa photos for an idea of the accommodations and one last beach walk. To see our back patio of our villa and the beachfront location, check out an earlier blog post: https://patkrapf.com//2019/05/09/french-polynesia-2018-brando-island-day-1/


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French Polynesia 2018: Brando Island—Day 3

Day three turned out to be busy but fun. We booked the guided bird tour to see the nesting sites of the seabirds in the region. You are prohibited from beaching on Bird Island, but you can tour the waters around the island to see the birds. We were the only ones in the area, and as we glided quietly through the water, we watched and listened, in silence, to the seabirds going about their daily routines. 

We left Bird Island and motored on to Motu Onetahi to explore the forest. Manu, our guide, explained the valuable work the Tetiaroa Society is doing to restore the neighboring islands as sanctuaries for endangered native species. To do so, an assertive program has been put in place to eradicate the birds’ biggest threat—invasive rats. The rodents  have had a devastating effect on the seabirds’ nesting habitat. 

That afternoon, we had reserved seats for the whale-watching tour. Although we were fortunate enough to see them, we could not swim with them as many guests have done. But we felt privileged to even catch a glimpse of them. At first we had our doubts, but after much patience, we saw a female and her calf surface and swim on, pursued by a male whale whose intent was to kill the calf and mate with the female. We did follow her and her calf for over a half hour, keeping our distance as to not further stress her. As she rode past the reef and out into open waters, the male gave up his pursuit.

What we hadn’t anticipated on the tour, as it was too early in the season, was seeing green sea turtles, but as soon as we left the lagoon and crossed the reef into open waters, we spotted two turtles that appeared to be mating. From October to March, you can take a nighttime tour when the females come ashore to lay their eggs. If you time it right, you can watch hatchlings emerge from the nests.

We arrived back at our villa in time to shower and change for dinner. While we sipped a drink at Bob’s Bar, Heana was on the beach at our villa preparing our romantic dinner. It was her first since she had been hired, and she was excited but a bit nervous, she told us. No need—she did great. 

Side note: Pacific Ironwood is called “Toa” by the Polynesians. It means “warrior” and this wood is as tough as nails, living up to its name ironwood.

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French Polynesia 2018: Brando Island—Day 2


Day two started and ended on a leisurely note, exactly as we had planned. After breakfast at the Beachcomber Café, we took a stroll along the beach. When overhanging coconut trees or other vegetation blocked our path, we waded into the shallow waters of the turquoise lagoon and swam around them, mindful of the rough reef formations that protruded from the white sands—to protect us and the reef. 

After our beach walk, we returned to our villa, collected water bottles, and stowed our cameras in the baskets on our bikes before we went for a ride around the island. Every villa has it own bicycles, and they are numbered so you can identify yours. 

In the afternoon, we shopped at the boutique for a few souvenirs, one of which was a prized jar of Brando honey, and then spent two hours sunbathing before we headed to the spa for a massage. 

Over dinner at Les Mutinés, we mapped out day three of our visit.


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