Outside Magazine Contributing Editor Hampton Sides recently traveled to Tetiaroa and shares his experience in this article, “We had Marlon Brando’s Island Utopia to Ourselves.”
Sides dives into the atoll’s history as a destination for Tahitian royalty, explores Marlon Brando’s path to ownership, and interviews Tetiaroa Society Executive Director Frank Murphy about how together with The Brando we are fulfilling Marlon Brando’s vision for an ecologically thriving Tetiaroa.
“Brando’s obsession is our obsession,” Murphy tells Sides. “His dream for Tetiaroa is our dream. We’ve just carried on, in agreement with Marlon’s ideas.”
Part of that vision is that Tetiaroa be a living laboratory for scientists worldwide to test cutting-edge theories that could have a global impact combating climate change.
“It’s a fantastic thing to contemplate,” says Murphy, “that here on a small atoll in the middle of the Pacific, we might be able to have some effect on the future of the planet.”
This is currently being put to the test as Tetiaroa Society and Island Conservation embark on an ambitious, ground-breaking project to protect Tetiaroa in 2021 by removing invasive rats from every island in the atoll using drones. Dozens of scientists will be studying the project to document in real time the impact of rat-removal on nearby coral reefs. A study published in 2018 showed that coral reefs on rat-free islands were healthier, more resilient to warming waters, and hosted larger and more fish. Building on this body of work could have incredible real world implications worldwide for addressing climate change.
None of this would be possible without The Brando. Tetiaroa Society and the Brando have a unique, successful relationship that benefits the island, the people, and the planet. Guests of The Brando are the backbone to this.
“Tetiaroa Society has been described as the ‘moral authority’ of the island,” writes Sides. “If the Society is about maintaining the island’s health, the Brando is where it gets much of it’s funding…Richard Bailey, chairman and CEO of Pacific Beachcomber, the company that runs the Brando, has said that he wants to create a ‘virtuous cycle’—instead of the usual vicious one—between paying guests and the protection of the environment that lures them in the first place”.