When my husband, who has a case of wanderlust, mentioned a second trip to New Zealand, I’m pretty sure my eyes glazed over. Of course I loved the idea of revisiting the islands, but the thought of making that long flight—again—didn’t appeal to me one bit. Teasingly, I said, “Sure, if we break up the plane ride by spending some time in Bora Bora.” I should have known he would take me literally. In retrospect, I wonder if one long flight, rather than a series of flights, would’ve been a better idea.
The first time we flew Down Under, in 2014, we took a nonstop flight from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) into Brisbane, Australia, and returned to DFW via Sydney, Australia. But on this trip, we had no plans to visit Australia.
In July 2014, Marlon Brando’s atoll, Tetiaroa, opened to the public. Curious about all the hype surrounding the luxury resort, we put the Brando on our list of must-see places, along with Bora Bora. And since we had to route through Tahiti to reach both islands, we added a day to see Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, before continuing on to New Zealand.
To reach Tahiti, we flew from DFW to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)— approximately a three-hour flight—and on to Faa’a International Airport (PPT) in Papeete, an eight-hour flight. When we boarded the Air Tahiti Nui plane, I was pleasantly surprised by the colorful interior—turquoise and white with lime-green pillows—but also surprised to see the airline was still flying Airbus A340s. Although the interior had definitely seen its share of wear, I told myself to relax. With four engines, two pilots, and two copilots, what could possibly go wrong?
In November 2018, two months after our flight, Air Tahiti Nui began “refreshing” their aging fleet with the delivery of their first Boeing 787-9, and by 2019 their entire fleet will be 787s.
When we arrived in Papeete, we were met by Fifi, a representative from the Brando, who drove us to the Intercontinental Hotel to freshen up after our flight. We showered and changed clothes in a private bathroom, courtesy of the hotel, and went downstairs for a lavish buffet breakfast while we waited for our charter flight to Tetiaroa.
All flights in and out of the Brando atoll are made by private aircraft operated by Air Tetiaroa. After a thirty-minute wait in Air Tetiaroa’s terminal, we were joined by two other couples, and we all boarded a six-passenger Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander aircraft, the same model of plane we had flown several times in Tasmania and New Zealand, as well as the Caribbean.
Due to crosswinds, our pilot, Victorien, warned that the ride would get choppy as we neared the island, but otherwise we should expect a smooth flight. I’ve never had a “smooth” ride in a small plane, so I was prepared for turbulence, but who could focus on “chop” once the island came into view? As the Brando’s website stated, our approach really was an “unforgettable introduction to Tetiaroa.” The atoll is stunningly beautiful—white-sand beaches and lush green islands surrounded by crystal clear turquoise and cobalt-blue waters.
The resort has thirty-five villas along the coast of Motu Onetahi, and each is set back from the beach for added privacy. Our one-thousand-plus-square-foot villa overlooked Mermaid Bay. The entrance opened onto a living room with a small bar. To the left was a TV room. To the right, a master bedroom and master bath with a shower, and outdoors, a tub on an upstairs deck with a wooden surround for privacy. At the back of the villa was an elevated, open-air deck, a plunge pool, and a covered dining area. As for resort amenities, the Brando has three restaurants, two bars, a spa, and an organic orchard and vegetable garden.
Our plane was met by a small welcome party, and after a few photos, we climbed aboard a golf cart to take a tour of the island’s facilities before being shown to our villa. There was a lot of advice on how to deal with jet lag, but we had our own cure. We changed into beachwear, ordered room service, and cracked open the complimentary bottle of champagne in our room. When our food arrived, we carried our lunch, along with the complimentary fruit and cookie platter that accompanied the champagne, to the beach to eat. Afterward, we curled up on the two-seater patio lounge and napped until dinnertime.