Tetiaroa Atoll is an atoll about 50km north of Tahiti. The area of the atoll (above the water) is 6 km2. 1450 acres (585ha) of sand are divided into 12 moths with different surfaces. The lagoon is approximately 7 kilometers wide and 30 meters deep. The atoll does not have a reef opening (deep channel), which makes access to the ship almost impossible. The atoll has a perfectly clear blue lagoon, has coral heads around the beaches, plenty of water, bright white beaches, and typical of the atoll, plenty of coconuts and other vegetation adapted to the saline soil.
On Onetahi Island there is a Brando Resort and a runway. In 1960, when Marlon Brando was filming “Mutiny on Bounty” in Tahiti and Morea, he saw this atoll. And then he bought it. Wanting to live on the atoll, Brando built a small village on Motu Onetahi in 1970. It consisted of a runway for airplanes, 12 simple bungalows, a kitchen, a dining room and a bar, and everything was built from local materials: coconut wood, thatched roofs and even large sea shells for sinks.
The village has become a place for friends, family and scientists who study the ecology and archeology of the atolls. Eventually the village became a modest hotel run by his Tahitian wife Tarita. The hotel has been operating for more than 25 years, even after Brando left French Polynesia to return to Los Angeles. After his death, Brand’s son Teihotu lived on the island for a while.
After his death in 2004, the executors of the estate granted development rights to Pacific Beachcomber SC, a Tahitian company that owns hotels throughout French Polynesia. Teti’aroa Pacific Beachcomber SC began construction on Tetiaroa in 2009. The construction went in several phases. In February 2014, it was announced that the Brando Resort building was completed. Brando was officially opened to the public in July 2014. It is an ultra luxurious resort. They are officially committed to protecting the environment and preserving the atolls on which they are located.
This is from their site:
“We are committed to preserving and protecting the natural splendor and precious biodiversity of Tetiaroa; respecting and supporting Polynesian culture, hospitality and traditions; and achieving a negligible carbon footprint.
We will support research, education and outreach aimed at increasing the knowledge of and appreciation for the natural and cultural heritage of tropical islands and their people. And we will use, encourage and support innovation to address local and global environmental and sustainability issues.
As stewards of Tetiaroa, we are committed to preserving and protecting the atoll and being a responsible member of both our local and global communities. We will deal fairly and honestly with our staff and suppliers in an atmosphere of mutual trust, accountability and reward.
We will strive to be a model for the rest of the world. We will leave Tetiaroa a better place than when we came and continually seek to enhance the lives of all those who visit.”
By the way, Barack Obama was in Brando in March 2017, right after his term expired. He had a great time there. That atoll is a luxury resort for such clients. Their slogan is “Save Tetiaroa, save the planet”.
Regardless of Tetiaroa Atoll having a healthy reef, and being somewhat untouched by human activity, there is still much to conserve. According to Island Conservation, Tetiaroa Atoll is one of the most important seabird breeding sites in all of French Polynesia. It is also one of the largest nesting sites for Green Sea Turtles. Also is home to ecologically important and healthy coral reefs, which is why this atoll is specifically of importance in the region.
They marked it as a Hope Spot and considered it one of the most pristine marine environments in the South Pacific. They stated that the presence of invasive rats threatens the flora and fauna at Tetiaroa Atoll. Those rats feed on the seeds of native vegetation and attack Green Sea Turtles’ hatchlings, nesting seabirds, and crabs. They are one of the main treats on the islands and atolls, especially isolated ones.
Restoring balance for the atoll’s ecosystem should protect endangered native turtles and birds, and also should enhance the resilience of surrounding coral reefs, and as result, making them more resistant to the impacts of climate changes. Also, restoration should benefit reef fish populations, enhancing food security for local peoples who are connected to healthy coral reefs.
Also, the owners of the atoll established ,,Tetiaroa Society”, with authority and responsibility to manage, conserve and protect the entire atoll. They are working closely with many partners and other ecology-protection groups to protect Tetiaroa Atoll. Here is their ,,Tetiaroa conservation and sustainable use plan” PDF https://www.tetiaroasociety.org/sites/default/files/research-docs/Tetiaroa-CASUP.pdf that has useful stuff to read.
Here is some quote from this plan (it is much larger):
Tetiaroa is a natural wonder of astonishing beauty and significant environmental, historical and
cultural importance. It is vital that this treasure be conserved, restored and protected so that its future is as
rich as its past.
The Conservation and Sustainable Use Plan (“CASUP”) attempts to provide a united vision for the
future of Tetiaroa and a plan for managing this natural marvel to facilitate ongoing preservation and
protection and to make it a model of sustainability. It is hoped that through the CASUP the health, diversity,
and resources of the Tetiaroa terrestrial and marine ecosystems and the wildlife they support, and the
island’s rich cultural heritages, will be protected forever.
Readers of this Overview are cautioned that a review of the entire CASUP is essential to
understanding it. This Overview is intended merely as an introduction and broad overview of the CASUP.
1) Scientific Research
Human activities are driving the twin crises of climate
change and biodiversity loss, making environmental sustainability
the defining issue of our time. Addressing this grand challenge
requires a far better understanding of complex social-ecological
systems and the capacity to predict human and natural change at
the scale of management action. Tetiaroa Society should help in
meeting this challenge through the use of Tetiaroa’s unique
resources in scientific research.
• Form a Scientific Advisory Board (“SAB”) consisting of local and international scientists
(particularly those in the Pacific Region) with expertise in the major scientific disciplines that
underpin Tetiaroa Society’s mission.
• Leverage the considerable international scientific capacity present in French Polynesia.
• Establish facilities (such as the Tetiaroa Ecostation) and recruit staff to support scientific research
on the atoll and communication of its results to key stakeholders.
• Support scientific research on Tetiaroa through work with partner institutions that have the
capacity to help Tetiaroa Society achieve its research goals, as guided by its Scientific Advisory
2) Coral Reef Ecosystem
On a global view, coral reefs are often called the
rainforests of the sea, both due to the vast amount of species they
harbour, and to the high productivity they yield. Aside from the
hundreds of species of coral, reefs support extraordinary
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biodiversity and are home to a multitude of different types of fish and invertebrates.
• Survey some indicators of the climate change (temperatures and salinity of the coastal
• Observe and interpret the temporal variations of biogeochemical and biological
characteristics of the lagoon and the outer reef.
• Check assumptions on the effects of climate change and evolution of the human pressure on
• Develop holistic remediation programs.
3) Sea Turtles
Tetiaroa is one the last remaining important nesting site for green
sea turtles in the Society Islands. This gives the atoll a high priority
in turtle nesting conservation and also in inventory and biological
studies. On the IUCN list of threatened species word-wide, green
sea turtles are listed as “endangered”, and the hawkbill turtle is
listed as “critically endangered.” Among the threats to sea turtles
are poaching, pollution, food resources availability and global warming.
• Update knowledge: Continue surveys and inventories, learn genetic repartition, and obtain a
better understanding of life cycles, diet, habitat zone and pollution effects.
• Protect: Maintain pristine coastal habitats and feeding grounds, protect against poaching, help
injured sick or weak turtles, set up a conservation plan for nesting sites, measure effects of global
warming, and create a territorial hatchling nursery (if permitted).
• Educate: Write an illustrated guide on sea turtles found around Tetiaroa, organize and
coordinate education sessions with schoolchildren, students and local population on sea turtles
of Tetiaroa (both on the atoll but also as outreach programs on other islands), and create a
partnership with day tour charters that offer their guests beach walks on Rimatuu and Tahuna Iti
to train them for green turtle nest survey (and become part of our turtle observatory) and how
not to disturb the incubation of eggs.
4) Flora and Vegetation
Tetiaroa is one of five atolls in the Society archipelago but
the only one of the Windward islands group (which includes the
high volcanic islands of Tahiti, Moorea, Maiao and Mehetia). Its
native flora is relatively similar to those found in other atolls of the
Society and the Tuamotu archipelagos, and has been profoundly
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altered by both Polynesians and Europeans on some motus (mainly by coconut plantations).
• Improve and update knowledge on the native and alien flora.
• Educate and build capacity: train the Tetiaroa Society guides, write an illustrated guide of the
flora, set up “discovery trails” in the different vegetation types, organize and coordinate
“weeding” and native species replanting sessions with school children, students, and other
volunteers including the hotel staff and clients.
• Restore and protect: control coconut trees in some motus, control alien weeds, prevent new
introductions of alien plants, reintroduce extirpated (locally extinct) native species.
Part of the exceptional wealth of Tetiaroa is the diversity
and density of its seabird population. The well protected and
preserved habitat of Tetiaroa provides favorable nesting
conditions, and the richness of the lagoon and the proximity of the
open ocean provide seabirds a wide foraging area. The atoll is
classified as an IBA (Important Bird and Biodiversity Area) by
• Improve knowledge on Bird life on Tetiaroa.
• Minimize the impact of threats to birds.
• Enhance habitats for marine and terrestrial birds.
• Restore marine and terrestrial bird species on motus where they have been extirpated.
6) Coconut Crabs
Coconut crabs (keveu) are the world’s largest terrestrial
arthropod, reaching sizes up to 1 meter from outstretched leg to
leg, and weighing as much as 5 kilograms. Coconut crabs can
live up to 60 years, and reach sexual maturity after approximately
6 years. Tetiaroa should be a protected reserve for coconut
• Quantify: An atoll-wide monitoring effort should be undertaken with staff and guides of Tetiaroa
Society and hotel staff, many of whom are Tahitian and know how to locate and catch coconut
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• Protect: Protection of coconut crabs will come with conservation and protection of the lagoon
• Educate: Educate visitors via rangers and guides about this unique crab and its threatened
status, and restrictions against its harvest on Tetiaroa, and provide information about this rare
crab and its threatened status that could be incorporated into education programs for visiting
local children via the cultural program.
A number of introduced species present on Tahiti may not
have yet been introduced to Tetiaroa – most notable are
mosquitoes, ant species and spiders. Eliminating present alien
pest species and preventing the introduction of additional ones
should be a priority.
• Eliminate alien insect pest species of medical, veterinary, economic and/or ecological
• Prevent the introduction of alien insect (pest) species.
• Leverage the presence of beneficial species to foster innovation.
8) Alien Species Management and Biosecurity
Islands are fragile ecosystems and their biodiversity is
more vulnerable than usual to disturbance or “perturbation.” One
of the strongest drivers of disturbance to island ecosystems is the
introduction of alien (non-native) species, some of which can
become invasive. These “invasive species” can have dire effects
on the ecology and economy of islands, in many cases leading to
local species extinctions.
• Eradicate introduced rats, invasive mosquitoes and introduced land birds from Tetiaroa
• Establish terrestrial and lagoon biosecurity on Tetiaroa
• Manage invasive alien plants and ants.
9) Cultural Heritage
In Polynesia, culture and history are tied to the natural
world. The spirit of the ancestors lives on in the natural world and
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therefore respect for the land and lagoon is respect for the ancestors and their relationship with nature.
Tetiaroa should be used in a way that honors the ancestors and the rich Polynesian cultural heritage of the
• Create a Cultural Advisory Board (“CAB”) with members of the local community. This committee
should be charged with defining and managing the cultural heritage of Tetiaroa.
• Create a symposium/workshop series to discuss and define the cultural heritage of Tetiaroa. This
would allow a larger section of the community to contribute to the history and culture of Tetiaroa
and support the efforts of the Cultural Advisory Board.
• Carry out the programs developed by the Cultural Advisory Board.
Tetiaroa is an important site in Polynesian history and
culture. To date a total of over 90 archaeology sites have been
identified on Tetiaroa. The amazingly rich cultural and historical
heritage of Tetiaroa needs to be understood, protected and
• Conduct more extensive archeological surveys and studies across the atoll and, with appropriate
authorizations, excavate archeological sites on Onetahi, Ti’araunu, Hiraana’e, Horoatera,
Rimatu’u, and Reiono.
• Create a system of stewardship of sites across the motus that is in the hands of and directed by
local Tahitians, so that historic and linguistic knowledge returns to its source, the Tahitians
11) Educational Program
Education is a key part of any conservation plan. On
Tetiaroa there will be a local education program that brings
students from local schools to the atoll, and facilities that can be
used by these local schools as well as community groups and
• Create an education program with local schools,
construct an education camp, and begin the education program.
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Tetiaroa is a small atoll – one of the smallest of French
Polynesia _ and in light of that we can consider that it will be very
sensitive to overfishing, especially if only a few species are
• Promote a consultation committee involving local
fishermen, scientist and other users of the ecosystem.
• Evaluate ecosystem change due to the establishment of the ZPR.
• Enhance fish stocks through a “Post-Larvae Capture and Culture” (PCC) program.
Tourism operations on Tetiaroa should follow Sustainable
• Create a tourism working group among active
stakeholders that will set guidelines with advice from
experts in many different fields
• Obtain descriptions of all local tourism operations
and activities on Tetiaroa and work with active members of this group to review guidelines.
These tourism activities will mainly occur on Rimatu’u and Bird Island.
• Meet with all stakeholders to try and create a consensus on guidelines and monitoring of future
• Meet with lagoon committee to coordinate future tourist activities on the public domain. Discuss
potential threats from jet skis, sea/float planes, floating homes, fishing, kitesurfing, windsurfing,
and drones. Develop comprehensive regulation strategy for tourist activities on the atoll.
14) Built Environnement – The Brando
The built environment on Tetiaroa consists of The Brando
– a luxury eco-resort located on the motu of Onetahi that is
committed to becoming a new model of sustainability. As part of
their commitment to preserve and protect Tetiaroa, the Brando
Estate and Pacific Beachcomber have agreed that there will be no
commercial development on any of the motus of Tetiaroa other
than Onetahi and Honuea, and that the remainder of the atoll will
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be maintained as a natural reserve.
• Limit future development on Tetiaroa to the motus of Onetahi and Honuea, with limited
exceptions for cultural, educational, scientific programs (such as a children’s cultural and
educational fare on Rimatu’u) and recreational activities (such as bird watching platforms to
minimize stress on the bird population).
• Use the built environment (The Brando) to help support conservation, scientific and educational
• Ensure that all construction blends harmoniously with the environment.
• Avoid all over-water structures including piers, floating platforms, floating hotels and restaurants,
houseboats and long-term anchorages.
• Avoid the destruction or impairment of any natural habitat or resource on which plants or animals
• Use mitigation, restoration and enhancement programs in all construction to achieve a net
benefit to the natural environment.
• Operate exclusively with renewable, non-fossil energy sources using the sea, sun, coconuts and
other renewable resources.
• Determine the carrying capacity of the atoll for different activities and maintain a sustainable
level of human activity vis-à-vis the natural environment.
(Post updated in 13. February 2022)
HERE IS OUR BIG TETIAROA ATOLL GALLERY (90+ PICTURES)! Click on the picture, wait for a little until they load in the gallery, and scroll them. (additionally, you can press F11 to enlarge the gallery even further)