The Brando: Tahiti's Virtually Mosquito-free Eco Resort

eco tech eco tourism holiday destination tourism

An atoll formerly owned by Hollywood legend Marlon Brando, is one of the most exclusive, luxurious, ecologically advanced holiday destinations in the world, and even more so in Tahiti. Aptly named The Brando, one night can set you back AUD5,800 in this stunning resort on Tetiaroa. The only thing that gets bitten when you arrive is your wallet because there are practically no mosquitos to bite you back.

Guests are unlikely to be bitten by mosquitoes due to a sterilisation programme that has slashed Tetiaroa's mosquito population by at least 95%. Led by Dr. Hervé Bossin of the Institut Louis Malardé, the programme breeds and releases non-biting male mosquitoes infected with a Wolbachia virus that makes wild females - who do bite - sterile.

Similar initiatives, aimed at stamping out diseases such as Dengue and Zika, are underway in Australia, Colombia and China.

An Eco-Tech Marvel in the Middle of the Pacific 

The Hollywood legend who the atoll was named after envisioned the tropical island to be an ecological haven. Now it has developed into a hideaway for the rich and famous seeking to enjoy and soak up some sun with their conscience intact. Beyoncé and Barack Obama were recent guests.

Current owner Richard Bailey claims it is close to becoming carbon neutral and self-sustainable. Electricity at the complex, for example, is generated from solar panels and coconut oil biofuel, while waste water is used for sustainable irrigation.

And the resort's cooling system uses a "closed loop heat exchanger" that takes very cold sea from 900m below the surface of the Pacific Ocean to cool the fresh water and air circulating around the complex. As the cooling system is powered largely by water pressure, it uses very little energy as well.

"It is often felt that sustainability is not compatible with the luxury end of the hospitality market, but The Brando proves it is possible," says Prof. Graham Miller, who holds a chair in sustainability in business at the University of Surrey.

But, of course, visitors to The Brando have to fly to Tahiti first then take another "20-minute flight to paradise", so there's still carbon left on their footprints in the sand.

Hot Bed for Conservation Warfare

Mosquitoes are not the only pests scientists are working to eradicate. Rats are also a big problem for the ecosystem of the atoll.

"Rats eat everything from baby turtles to sea birds, and that is bad news for the coral reef too," Frank Murphy says, the executive director of Tetiaroa Society.

Technology could help here, too. The team wants to use 2.2m-diameter drones to drop poisonous bait designed to attract rats but not other species. The operation, only the second ever, will be led by Island Conservation, a US NGO that protects endangered species by removing invasive ones. They've done something similar to invasive rats in the Galapagos Islands.

"Rats can cause the collapse of the entire terrestrial ecosystem," says Island Conservation's Sally Esposito.


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