In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, forming part of the Polynesian triangle, 116 islands emerge like bubbles from the depths. It’s the French Polynesia. Its very name evokes idyllic landscapes, remote beaches, crystal-clear waters, ukulele melodies and the warmth of its people. Polynesia is one of those places that make your heart beat faster.
After a 24-hour journey, including flight connections, and feeling very tired, I landed in Papeete. As soon as I stepped out of the plane, I realised that I was in French Polynesia. I had finally arrived!
The first thing you notice when you arrive in Polynesia are the scents: tropical fragrances of tiare, tipanier flower, coconut, which together with the sea breeze, welcomed me.
The adventure began on the island of Tahiti. After a tour, we left the bustling capital, Papeete, to reach the heart of the island on a 4x4. The landscapes change progressively until you find mountains, slopes, rivers and waterfalls. A lush vegetation that you would never have imagined to find in Polynesia. There, our insider told us about the customs and traditions of the ancient Polynesians, and how they found anything they needed in nature.
The best thing without a doubt was the food they had prepared for us. An exquisite delicacy based on local and fresh produce. Poisson cru watered in freshly squeezed coconut milk!
Then, after a short flight to Raiatea and a nice boat ride, we arrived at the island of Taha'a. Taha'a is known as the island of vanilla, and the rich aroma of this pod is part of the ambiance. In this small motu is where the Relais & Châteaux Le Taha'a Private Island is found: a quaint Polynesian-style hotel created to experience the traditional Tahitian lifestyle. The island is especially quiet, offering an authenticity hard to find elsewhere.
Le Taha'a has a wonderful coral reef within walking distance, with a multitude of colourful fish. Letting yourself be carried away by the current while you observe the marine life is simply amazing.
During my stay in this motu we visited a pearl farm managed by a family that has been in business for more than four generations. The quality of the pearls is amazing, as well as finding out how these wonders are created over a long period of time and always respecting the ecosystem.
We also sailed aboard a prao, a traditional Polynesian boat in which, thanks to its network structure, you can sail very close to the water, while you observe the fish and manta rays. Le Taha'a Private Island also features a heliport, which can be reached from Bora Bora after a 10-minute flight.
We had the opportunity to visit the island of Raiatea, which shares the same coral reef as Taha'a. Raiatea is a sacred and very energetic island, it’s the cradle of the Polynesian culture, and in it’s the Marae of Taputapuatea, recently declared World Heritage by Unesco. A sacred temple known for being the place where the world of the living intersects with that of our ancestors.
Our next stop: Bora Bora, the pearl of the Pacific. Bora Bora is unmissable, and as soon as you catch site of it from the airplane, it’s hard to believe that it’s real. One of the things that impressed me the most on this island are the colours. Bora Bora boasts an unimaginable range of blues; it seems almost incredible that nature can create such beauty.
Flying over the majestic Mount Otemanu by helicopter, observing the lagoon and the ocean from the air is a unique experience. Few places in the world can offer such a natural sight.
One of the culminating moments that will remain engraved in my mind forever was swimming among sharks and rays. It’s more impressive from the outside than from the water, since the lemon or black fin sharks are calm and peaceful creatures, and the manta rays caress you in search of food. Thanks to our captain we were lucky to see three striped rays! Without thinking for a second, I jumped into the water and swam with them, admiring their elegant swinging in the depths of the lagoon.
The sunsets are also mind-blowing; they’re magical, and you can not help but admire how the light, together with the clouds, create ephemeral chromatic works of art. The presence of the imposing Mount Otemanu changing colour, the scent of the sea, the pleasant breeze aboard the catamaran, with the entire lagoon to ourselves, made me feel completely alive.
And when I thought that there couldn’t be anything more marvellous, that my eyes could no longer assimilate more beauty, I arrived at The Brando! The most beloved property of Marlon Brando is today a unique resort. The Brando is located in the beautiful atoll of Tetiaroa, in the only inhabited motu of the twelve that compose it. The resort is simply striking; from the moment I saw it from the plane I knew that something very special was waiting for me.
It’s not surprising that Marlon Brando fell in love with this island during the filming of Mutiny on the Bounty, because if God was generous with Polynesia, he was even more generous with Tetiaroa. The Brando offers the perfect combination: exclusive villas, all with swimming pool, exquisite service, haute cuisine by chef Guy Martin (awarded three Michelin stars for his restaurant Le Grand Véfour de Paris), natural paradise and sustainable ecology. It’s genuinely peaceful.
What captivated me the most about The Brando is its commitment to the environment and to fulfilling the actor’s wish of preserving the ecosystem and ensuring the conservation of the plant life and wildlife of the atoll. The air conditioning systems work with seawater, there are desalinators to convert it into drinking water, solar panels to cover energy needs and a generator set that works with coconut oil. In addition, The Brando is associated with the Tetiaroa Society, an NGO focused on preserving the island's sustainability through programs based on conservation, research, education and guided programs for resort guests.
It offers sustainable luxury and makes you feel like part of the project. You can learn more about the research, observe lemon shark pups up close, admire the seahorse bank, see how the sea turtle community has returned to settle in Tetiaroa after a long time, discover bird species that you’d never seen before…
It’s hard to express in words the special beauty of this island, and what it offers. It's something energetic, a connection between nature and yourself that you have to experience first-hand. And so came the time to say goodbye to The Brando and Polynesia.
For a moment, it seemed like everything had been a dream, but no, nothing is further from the truth. Because when you come back home you realise that Polynesia has reached deep into your heart!