Giles Coren and Monica Galetti work alongside staff at the exclusive Brando Resort to serve 5-star luxury to guests paying up to £11,000 per night.
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All the over world there are remarkable hotels
born of bold vision and daring endeavour.
This is how I ought to live.
Whether it's one of the remotest hotels on earth,
hidden on a Pacific island...
..or a sumptuous resort
on one of the highest mountains in the Middle East...
What an incredible view!
..the people running these hotels
strive to create the perfect sanctuary.
But what does it take to offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences
in stunning locations?
Construction was a logistical nightmare.
No water, no source of power.
I'm a restaurant writer, newspaper columnist and critic.
I have opinions on just about everything.
He's not a very good driver, is he?
And I'm a chef who's worked for the top end of the hospitality industry
for well over 20 years.
This is awesome. Whoo!
We'll travel to amazing hotels in every corner of the world...
..to spend time getting to know the people
working away behind the scenes.
I polished Elton John's fruits.
You polished Elton John's fruits?!
Do you recall life under apartheid, has it changed for you?
Nelson Mandela was the first black president.
Given me more inspiration to achieve what I want in life.
Join us as we venture inside...
..the world's most extraordinary hotels.
This private plane is approaching an island retreat
in one of the remotest places on the planet.
Lying in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean
is the atoll of Tetiaroa.
A necklace of 12 small islets
surrounding a ludicrously turquoise lagoon
is sheltered from the deep ocean waves
by an uninterrupted coral reef.
Tetiaroa lies 30 miles north of Tahiti in French Polynesia.
Three flights and well over 24 hours travel away from the UK.
It's pretty much as far away from any landmass as you can be.
This Eden also attracts the kind of marine life
that would have made Darwin's jaw drop.
And hidden in the shade of the atoll's whispering palm fronds
is a breathtaking resort.
We're not on our way to any old hotel.
We are on our way to the Brando.
This place is considered to be one of the most exclusive,
eco-conscious hotels in the world.
It's very difficult for somewhere to live up
to the sort of expectations I have about this,
because this is the furthest I've ever been anywhere in the world -
and I've been reading about Captain Cook on the way here.
The Bounty, and the whole history of it.
The beauty - people have gone on for 300 years about how beautiful it is.
It's possible you could fly over in a plane and go, "Eh",
but I didn't - it was absolutely amazing.
It's not like it's always been my dream to come here,
but now that I've seen it, I realise it should have been.
When the plane was coming down, I just was, "Where is it?"
You know, "Where is this resort?"
It's so beautiful, lush, green, blue.
I was born in Samoa, so I want to see the similarities.
It's a bit like coming home -
in the culture, as well as the surroundings to what I'm used to.
So, it is special being here.
Thank you. See you later.
Time to go our separate ways and immerse into hotel life.
The Brando's 35 villas, restaurant and spa
are all spread out across the atoll's only inhabited island,
This eco-resort is open all year round.
The most expensive room here costs a gob smacking £11,000 a night.
Staff work around the clock to run the 5-star beach-side restaurant...
..offering French and Polynesian cuisine
that uses ingredients from the organic garden...
..A state-of-the-art spa
using locally sourced extra virgin coconut oil...
..and provide water sports in the crystal clear lagoon
alongside the chance to swim with stunning marine life...
..but, perhaps most impressive of all,
each villa has its own secluded beach.
Privacy is prized so highly that there is no reception.
A chauffeur whisks guests off to their villas,
feet barely touching the ground.
Seclusion is the ultimate luxury for the rich and famous...
..and since the resort is hidden behind the tree line,
celebrities and US presidents alike can't get enough of the place.
Before we get to work there is just time to check out our rooms.
So, Monica, welcome home.
This here is the magic key.
Rumour has it this is megastar Leonardo DiCaprio's favourite villa.
Well, it's been whispered that Barack Obama prefers mine.
Look at that!
I don't think I want to go anywhere else.
I've got the perfect spot.
All the villas are made with environmentally friendly materials.
Inside is a blend of old and new,
as the roof is thatched with local pandanus leaves.
Yet the bespoke emperor sized beds, sexy outdoor bathrooms,
and 24-hour hi-tech butlering
show an attempt to deliver the utmost contemporary luxury -
and despite its remoteness,
it's a super air-conditioned, super comfortable, super high spec room
that's simply bigger and more comfortable than my actual house.
I'd almost say it's too high spec -
it protects you a bit from the place -
but the fact is that people who can afford to come here are so rich
that they inevitably expect it.
That's got to be the nature of the tourism here.
There's such an emphasis on personalised service here
that my chauffeur has returned
with a nostalgic gift.
I was telling Ludo on the ride over that as a child I used to eat this,
and he said "I'll find you one", and he's got me one here.
There are just so many enormous, and beautiful,
and probably delicious fish -
and I've only been here ten minutes.
I just want to strip off and go and harpoon something...
..within the parameters that are acceptable
to the conservation project in this area, of course.
I mean, like, not a turtle.
The whole resort exists due to the efforts of passionate visionaries
including lawyer-turned-hotelier Stan Rowland.
Tetiaroa is really a natural marvel.
It's one of the most spectacular places I've ever been in the world,
and one of the most spectacular places in the world.
It's got a combination of not only natural beauty,
but it's got a rich cultural history.
The charms of the region
inspired the crew of the 18th century ship HMS Bounty
to mutiny against their captain and go native.
Two centuries later,
the island mesmerised the superstar Marlon Brando
when he arrived to film a Hollywood version of the story.
He fell in love with both the island of Tetiaroa and the leading lady,
and he ended up with both of them.
Marlon Brando bought the atoll in 1967 for £200,000,
and he soon began building a primitive hotel
in the shape of a few wooden huts,
calling it Tetiaroa Village.
I'm meeting up with Stan to find out more
about Marlon's fascination with this place.
Actually, his hotel, the Tetiaroa Village,
was on the far side of the island -
but he loved this place,
the whole concept of the hotel was actually conceived
in the early meetings with Marlon Brando.
He provided a lot of the ideas behind what we're doing today.
Some of them a little bit fanciful -
the idea of generating electricity with electric eels,
which we have... which we have not followed up on!
-How was he planning for that to work?
A series of tanks and, I guess, some sort of extraction,
I'm not sure if it really came and...
..but he had ideas like that, but he was a great idea man.
He wanted to bring tourists to the island
to raise money to conserve it. Was that the vision?
Yeah, I think he wanted to bring tourists in -
but, yeah, he also had this vision of a university of the sea,
where he wanted people, the great minds of his time
to come together and talk about major issues of his time.
The hotel has come a long way since Marlon's day.
Back then the place was very basic,
lacking in infrastructure and infested with mosquitoes.
In the late '90s, Brando brought in hoteliers
to plan an upgrade of the resort
in keeping with his environmental ethos.
Construction of the new Brando hotel began in 2007,
involving hundreds of people.
The project was fraught with difficulties...
Construction, to be frank with you, was a logistical nightmare.
no source of power, no electricity.
We had to start from scratch.
..but Marlon Brando's influence on the new project was immense.
He was insistent on building a resort that was carbon neutral.
Every decision made here was driven by a desire to be eco-sensitive,
such as using only sustainable timber in construction -
and the carbon footprint was so light
that the hotel has been given a top environmental award.
The new resort eventually opened in 2014...
..but sadly Marlon Brando died before ever seeing it finished.
It's 5:30 in the morning and I'm off to start work.
Over 250 French and Polynesian staff run this resort...
..but every job here depends on this faraway island being fully stocked.
The man in charge of all deliveries is French logistics manager Nicolas.
He's been working here for six years.
I'm going to be Nicolas' first mate
as we travel to the hotel's reef dock
to meet a ship and collect crucial supplies.
There are two literally six foot blacktip sharks there.
Just fish, they eat fish only.
He's seen me. He's obviously tasted Englishman before.
These sharks are, in fact, only young
and are protected by the surrounding coral reef.
The lagoon inside acts as a watery creche
as the reef keeps out the bigger predators.
If it were cut wide open allowing big boats in to deliver supplies,
the delicate ecosystem would be destroyed.
-So, is that the boat coming to meet us?
So the hotel has come up with an eco-friendly way
to receive deliveries.
-Is our breakfast on there?
The clever solution is a crane on a platform constructed over the reef.
This crane not only lifts cargo coming to the hotel,
but also anything returning to the mainland.
Giant, massive bags with Brando written on them.
Shaped much as he was in later years.
Big boats moor up on the outside to unload
while Nicolas' small barge stays on the inside.
This way, the reef remains intact,
and the lagoon ecosystem is protected.
This one has less impact on the environment inside
because if you dig a pass, there is a new current inside,
there's a lot of new species going inside -
and you change all the things inside the lagoon.
Your life would be much easier
-if the boat could sail in and moor up at the hotel.
It's just wonderfully incongruous,
because they're basically dockers in paradise.
In fact, that's a good idea for a documentary series.
It also makes you aware that it's all very well
to fly here to come on holiday,
but someone has to do an awful lot of work.
And that someone is now me.
I'm putting a hard hat on, I have to wear one.
I'm very relieved, because this apparently weighs five tonnes.
If it fell on my head, I'd want to have a plastic hat on.
Geezer's got two hats on, he's taking no chances.
Don't think he knows what I'm on about.
-I should ask him.
-I need your help!
Oh, sorry. He needs my help.
The team shifts nearly 2,500 tonnes of goods a year.
Today we're collecting, amongst other things,
tanks of coconut oil biofuel to run the resort's eco generators...
Be careful with your hand. OK, dude.
..as well as materials for villa repairs
and resupplies of quality meat from Tahiti and beyond.
We're even picking up bikes
to be used by guests to explore the island.
By 7:30am the housekeepers are also well into their working day.
If I see it, somebody else can see it.
You can definitely see that is not...
That's not really clean. You want to see perfection.
I'm a bit crazy with that.
In charge is executive housekeeper Stephanie...
Look, this is great. That's nice.
..who learned her trade at the Ritz in Paris
and has been at the Brando for three years.
That's the difference between four-star and five-star.
I'm joining Stephanie and her crew
to learn how they try to deliver the highest standards
to the most exclusive guests in the world.
-Happy birthday, cherie!
You get the best out of your team when they're happy.
All the time, what I say to them, "If you have any problem,
"anything you want, just come and tell me,
"and we arrange something."
We try to organise whatever they want.
Stephanie's 34 eco cleaners
use only natural products and no damaging chemicals.
Right, so, into the room we go?
-Let's go, OK.
Every morning the pressure is on
to make all 35 villas spotless in just a few hours -
and we're doing it barefooted so we don't drag in sand.
We just want... I just want to move it.
Got nice decoration.
-Look at that.
-And this is really shiny and that's perfect.
That's beautiful. So beautiful.
This is amazing.
This room that we're preparing,
this is going to be for some Hollywood VIP?
-Come on, Steph, give me something to go on!
-It's so professional.
-No, no. It's not really...
Yeah, that's maybe professional, but it's just normal.
You know, they come here to be part of our life.
Just sharing with us this paradise -
and we definitely... we can't tell you the names.
To work at this hotel, staff must sign a confidentiality agreement.
-Monica, we need to work now.
This is so ridiculous.
Asking for help to fold a towel.
This... I feel hopeless.
-There we go.
Why, yes, of course, I do all my towels like this at home.
And does that go to the back?
Exactly. It's even better than me!
You make it perfect.
-OK, you start tomorrow, Monica.
We have a problem with something now.
Something happened, a customer can say "Oh, something's wrong with it."
So, always like this. Yeah, just make sure.
Because, like this, look, what I find.
-But you see everything.
-I wouldn't be happy if my room...
For housekeeping, it's one villa down, 34 to go.
On the hotel's reef dock,
I've been such a help getting the deliveries off the ship
that Nicolas has promoted me.
I can't really believe that I'm operating a crane -
on my own, for the moment -
on a reef surrounded by literally shark-infested waters.
Now we move really slowly.
I want to go that way a bit, don't I?
So, this one to go left, yeah?
It's like some hideous game show.
Is it not swinging too much?
Would you normally have somebody there to help...?
-Do you want me to do that?
-Yes, if you want to.
The last container needs to be dropped onto the barge,
and with the ship having left,
it falls to me to guide it into position.
I'm just going to help him manoeuvre the crate into space.
Because it was either him do it and me lower it
and squash him and kill him,
or vice versa, without the squashing and killing.
Big gust of wind and it's early lunch for the sharks.
-Yeah, good. Good worker.
Job's a mighty fine one.
This is man's work.
It's very, really, quite embarrassingly thrilling.
The thing is if you're some geezer spending £4,000 a night on this hotel
you'd still be in bed having your croissant
and flicking through Instagram or something instead
of out here working, seeing amazing sunrises.
Amazing views that normal people simply don't get.
I'm back in time to deliver supplies
to the hotel's kitchen before breakfast.
-Here you go.
-Thank you very much.
Thank you. See you later.
It's fast approaching check-in time.
This is the best job ever.
I'm helping the housekeepers with some artistic final touches.
So, it's a VVVIP
having a first wedding anniversary.
There's a clue.
Adornment with native flowers such as the tiare
signifies welcome in Polynesian culture,
and it's learned from a young age.
There we go.
She's got me paranoid, like, picking up every little thing now!
-You have to go?
-OK, I'll see you after.
-OK, I'll see you later.
-Thank you. Bye.
OK, she's gone. Shall we have a drink at the minibar before...?
It's a joke.
28-year-old Heitiare, whose Tahitian name means bouquet of flowers,
has been cleaning villas for three years.
She works eight-hour shifts
and lives on the island in staff quarters
away from the guests' private beaches.
The villa is ready with five minutes to spare,
so I persuade Heitiare to join me for a paddle.
Ah, look at that. Hello.
It's like a sea cucumber...
And you don't touch?
Guests say they are lured here
not only by the remoteness and luxury of the resort,
but also by the nature that surrounds it.
After a busy shift I suddenly spy something extraordinary
from the breakfast terrace that highlights exactly why.
What did you see?
It's a definite whale, definite whale.
Definitely a whale.
My God, just leapt out.
there are binoculars knocking around on tables in case you see whales.
It's not just like they're put there
in case you're disappointed with the small portions.
I'm very glad that they had them there.
I'm not very good with binoculars.
There again. Look at that.
Proper sort of Captain Ahab moment.
The white whale...
..and all that "thar she blows" stuff.
I've never seen a whale before. Did anybody pick up my phone?
So exciting was it that I dropped my phone and didn't go back to get it.
So... You can tell it was a whale.
Wouldn't do that for no cormorant.
Listen to the ocean, that reminds me of home.
It's 6pm, before service starts,
and I'm keen to know more about the inner workings
of the open air restaurant here.
Setting the table.
The maitre d' in charge is Adrian,
who's lived in French Polynesia nearly all his life.
We are way more than just waiters here.
People want to speak with us.
They want to understand why we are in a place like that.
They are going to ask questions to us.
It's not only about food and wine.
To see how the hotel strives
to create a luxurious dining experience...
-I'm in training.
-Yeah, you are in training.
..Adrian has made me his apprentice for the evening.
All right, this doesn't happen often.
Honestly, you better hope you keep me away from your guests.
I'm normally better in the back of house.
Yeah, yeah. I've been told that.
-Yeah. But it's fine.
-Is that the right way for this plate?
And how long have you worked here?
Almost two years now.
I came with my father here 25 years ago.
We actually came many times.
There is a species, it's called coconut crab,
and my dad loved that so much.
He actually used me as a decoy.
So, he was taking me in the forest, putting me in the middle,
and was like, "Tap with your foot," and the crabs were just coming out
to see what was coming from the tree...
-..and so he was just grabbing the crab -
and that's why I came.
Marlon was there from time to time, but he didn't...
Marlon Brando was here and then...
Yeah. Any take on a traditional food on this menu?
-Adapted for this.
The tuna, which is the most common dish
that we do in French Polynesia.
Crab meat with mayonnaise,
fried served with curry and coconut foam.
And the majority of the fruit and veg that's on here -
are you importing a lot into the island?
Everything is mostly coming from French Polynesia.
-For many reasons. We want to make things right,
and to make things right,
we have to think also about the place where we are living.
Not only on the ecology part,
but also in the service, in the food, in the drinks.
It's the whole thing.
We are a new generation of resort, and that's what we want to be.
It's so pretty.
The silhouette of that boat is just beautiful, isn't it?
I'd never get any work done out here.
I would constantly be taking this wine glass
and just sitting down here with it.
Well, that's what we do on the day off.
With plenty of covers this evening,
the kitchen will be serving East-West fusion -
classic French and Polynesian inspired dishes.
-So this is your main kitchen here.
One of which is very familiar to me.
It's so funny. I had this on my lunch menu about three weeks ago,
back in London.
This traditional dish is called poisson cru, made with raw fish,
like tuna diced vegetables from the hotel's garden,
a squirt of lime juice...
Oh, c'est magnifique.
And all mixed together with the magic ingredient -
freshly squeezed coconut milk.
This dish embodies the Polynesian culture and what we are about.
I like the way it's been served.
The orders are coming in thick and fast,
and the popular dish of the night is...
..the poisson cru.
-Hi. This is for you.
-Thank you very much.
However much diners may like the food, there are always leftovers...
..and every morning, the waste from the restaurant
is taken to be processed in a digester for 24 hours...
..turning it into compost
to enrich the soil of the hotel's organic garden.
A host of fruit and veg and even vanilla pods are grown here,
with the aim of making the kitchen 80% self-sufficient
within the next few years.
One delicious but potentially hazardous ingredient
found everywhere on the island is coconut.
The man tasked with making the island safe
by trimming coconuts for the kitchen is eagle-eyed John.
This morning, I'm going to be John's assistant.
A troublesome tree in this villa's garden needs a trim.
The hotel prohibits heavy machinery that could damage the beach,
so John uses an old school technique.
It's dangerous even putting on your workwear!
I mean, that could go horribly wrong
if you were running for a bus in a pair of them.
May not stand under it.
With the aid of his medieval crampons,
John's attempting to summit a 60-footer.
Technology that looks like it comes from the 15th century -
but he's defied gravity!
Apparently, John's the only person on the island
brave enough to do this.
They tested, like, ten people,
and he was the only one brave enough to go to the top.
We are in the presence of some serious courage.
It does look quite precarious, doesn't it?
Oh, my God.
That thud when those things hit the ground. Hey!
That's like a rugby ball full of concrete,
and if that fell on your head,
it really, really, really wouldn't be funny.
Even though everybody would laugh.
Of course, we know what's going to happen next.
My name's Forrest. Forrest Gump.
Do you remember, with the shackles, and they come off.
You know what I mean?
Like this... Sort of...
This is dangerous, you know. Anyway...
All my weight on my heel.
I've got to try and pull that one out. OK.
OK. We're cooking with gas here.
This is amazing!
You get over the fear, you conquer the fear, and you get up here,
and then you're just the king of the tropics.
I want to spend the rest of my life just living in the trees.
Look out belo-o-ow!
Come on! You didn't really think I was right up at the top, did you?
Guest safety is taken very seriously by all members of staff.
Pool boys must equip visitors with a life-saving device.
This is very important.
A GPS. When you press here, this sets you on the computer.
Anyone needing help in the lagoon won't be waiting for long.
The care and attention doesn't stop there.
The hotel even employs landscapers
to literally beachcomb and remove sharp coral
for the benefit of guests' soft soles.
I love bees. They are my family.
Another job that you just don't see at any ordinary hotel is beekeeping.
I'm going to help veteran beekeeper Stephane
harvest the month's quota of honey for the kitchen.
Before we head off to see the hotel's hives,
he wants to show me just how influential
Marlon Brando was around here...
..even when it came to apiculture.
Marlon ultimately failed to produce regular honey,
but Stephane has been far more successful.
This is definitely one of the most surreal things I've done!
Stephane's tasked me with an important job.
Smoking the bees.
Which makes them more docile and less likely to sting.
Around 2.5 million bees are at work here,
producing more than a tonne of honey a year for the hotel.
Wow. Isn't nature amazing?
This organic honey is renowned for its taste,
as these bees live in a pollution-free,
flower filled rainforest.
Very special and quite unique.
We are collecting around ten kilos of honey
that the kitchen desperately needs to keep up with guest demand.
This guy's a legend. Those stings in your hand.
Stephane processes the honey by hand,
giving me the chance for my first taste.
Oh, my goodness. That's the taste of paradise, it really is.
Oh, my goodness. Bring me some toast.
After the wax has been scraped off,
the frames are slotted into an extractor for ten minutes...
..after which, liquid honey can then be poured.
I feel like sticking my mouth underneath it.
Look at that!
That's for me.
That's liquid gold.
It really is. You guys are very lucky, yeah?
People love it. Once they have had it at breakfast,
they're going to ask for it at lunch and at dinner, just with some bread,
and just going to dip the bread in here and eat all day long.
Hotel guests of today may revel in the natural produce found here,
but for Marlon Brando,
the atoll's history and people were the most important thing.
He once wrote, "If I have my way,
"Tetiaroa will remain forever a place that reminds Tahitians
"of what they are and what they were centuries ago."
I'm about to meet up with someone from the Brando family.
Granddaughter Tumi Brando was a hotel guide here,
but recently stepped down to have a baby.
She's travelled over from Tahiti
to share her memories of her grandfather
and his love of this part of the world.
-Do you remember him?
I was 16 when he died.
He had this thing - my grandma kept telling me that he has this...
He was bonding with people quickly,
and he really liked this authenticity in Polynesian people.
Because Polynesians, they are free people.
They are free spirits, and he liked it.
Even if he was Marlon Brando, known all over the world,
He couldn't get them to do things? They wouldn't bend to his wishes...
-..and he liked that.
And Marlon was also adamant that his island
should preserve all aspects of Polynesian culture.
He was a visionary in terms of building a cultural centre here
and making all these customs,
Polynesian customs, traditional customs, alive again.
It was really important for him.
The last time I went to LA, and he was really sick, and he said,
"You know what, you won't come back again if you don't speak Tahitian."
-Because he was speaking Tahitian a little.
-Yeah. I remember him speaking Tahitian.
As one of the hotel's driving ambitions,
staff are taught all aspects of Polynesian heritage
by the resort's own cultural director.
So, we'll go in the forest down here and look at the plants.
I'm joining her to forage for traditional plants
to be used in an upcoming meal involving the staff.
We have so many different plants here that we use.
The forests around the hotel are a treasure trove of ancient wisdom.
If you look in here, we have to collect this little plant here.
Oh, what do you call it?
Oh! I love that.
That's sweet, and now it's peppery hot.
-Oh, that would be great in a salad.
We call it noh.
Is that because when people first ate it, they were like, no, no, no?
They said, no!
This is one plant we have to collect, also,
and we collect the leaves because we wrap our food,
and when we cook meat, we used to wrap it that way, with those leaves.
The traditional practice of wrapping food...
..keeps it tender while acting as a natural seasoning.
That's plenty. That would be great.
It's this kind of traditional wisdom that she teaches
to hotel staff, guests,
and even schoolchildren invited to the island.
It's all about traditional knowledge,
and if that is not passed on,
we will lose all this knowledge and all the traditional practices.
If they do know why this plant is important,
then they will look at it differently.
-To preserve your culture...
-To preserve the culture,
and also to preserve the environment.
To Hinano, the forest is not only a larder, but an incredible pharmacy.
This is a scaevola, and this is a great medicine for...
-Put it in your...
Yes, they are eye drops.
Natural eye drops.
Natural eye drops - and it really helps, with one in each eye.
Look at that. Natural eye drops,
when you've got dry, itchy, irritable eyes.
That's fabulous knowledge.
That's so interesting.
There we go. Quite a few plants.
-It's all about love and giving and caring about someone.
It's throughout the Pacific Islands, isn't it?
Our cultures are all so interlinked in that way.
Hinano leads me to a poignant example
of how easy it is for the traditions of the past to be lost.
These fragile ruins are all that's left here
of an ancient fishing temple.
Missionaries have gathered all the old priest.
They gave the order to destroy all these sites,
and so the Polynesians would never go back.
-Yes, to their practice.
This is our culture.
It's really sad, because, today,
we ought to be able to say, "OK, the religion has done that."
This is what we are trying to give to the children.
This is not a place where you find the devil,
or this is a place where our beautiful and very smart ancestors
would travel this big ocean, went everywhere,
and this is why we should...
Missionaries. They did the same in Samoa.
You can almost feel the desperation in her,
that this knowledge is passed on
and it's carried on for future generations,
and that passion is in her eyes, it's in her voice...
..and you can't help but be touched by it.
I think Marlon Brando dreamt about teaching Polynesian kids
and teaching the world, also,
having an island like this as an example of sustainable development.
I think we are on a path.
And it's a path that embraces not only the preservation of culture,
but also of the environment.
I go to a lot of hotels that claim to be eco-friendly, carbon neutral,
This place is different.
They are implementing some seriously innovative sustainable technology
to deal with their own special, local problems and wider issues.
This is a place that is genuinely as concerned with preserving itself
for the future, and its environment's future,
as it is with giving people a jolly nice holiday.
As part of this philosophy,
the hotel has installed 3,700 solar panels
to help meet its energy needs,
and more than 75% of the resort's energy
comes from renewable sources...
..but by far the most ingenious eco-innovation
is the resort's seawater air conditioning,
or SWAC as it is called.
It was Marlon Brando's idea to install it.
It's carbon neutral, and Eddie the engineer couldn't be prouder.
So this is the famous Marlon Brando air conditioning system?
Yes, the SWAC.
This system reduces the Brando's energy waste by 90%.
To create such eco-efficiency,
a single pipe was carefully laid to the edge of the reef
and lowered to the deep ocean floor.
This, here, is literally where the 2,000 metre pipe,
which goes 900 metres down to the bottom of the sea,
deeper than a person can dream of scuba-diving,
comes in right there,
to cool the whole place, and with that alone, you can just...
I could just turn it off, no more air conditioning.
I'm helping Eddie with the daily checks of the pipe system.
OK, I'm going to go and close the other end of the pipe,
because otherwise, having taken off this one,
the water will go around and come in this way and go everywhere,
and getting a plumber out at this time of night here is impossible.
The cold sea water is passed through a heat exchanger,
which cools fresh water, which is then pumped around the hotel,
keeping it at 20 degrees.
The three huge filters need regular cleaning,
as they can get clogged up with debris sucked up from the deep.
A major blockage could damage the system.
Blimey, that's cold!
Aie! He was alive!
It was alive! And my arm is frozen!
I told you. He's not VERY alive, but he's certainly alive.
It's very, very, very cold water,
so I can well sort of grasp just by touching it
what an excellent way it must be of cooling down a hotel...
..but the world's least effective shrimping system.
The hotel has such belief in scientific innovation
that it has even channelled profits
into building a world-renowned research station.
It's Marlon Brando's university of the sea,
right here within the resort,
and it's a project close to Stan's heart.
It's a million-dollar research facility with wet labs, dry labs,
and a dormitory for visiting scientists,
so this is a fundamental part of what we're all about.
Guests at this hotel pay not only for a luxurious holiday,
but also fund the work of scientists researching the atoll's ecosystem,
and the state of the world's oceans...
..and their cutting-edge work
has even attracted the attention of presidents.
These guys hide in the rocks.
They hide into the rocks?
This morning, we're joining Hinano's husband Frank,
who is the executive director of the Tetiaroa Society,
the hotel's so-called university of the sea.
You just want to have something for the guests to see
when they come around.
We are collecting reef creatures to show guests the type of sealife
that is under threat from global warming.
That's a big oyster.
Put that in the aquarium, and he'll open up.
These are all related to starfish.
And how's it managed to get itself done by Burberry?
Coral reefs are considered to be the rainforests of the sea.
They're vital ecosystems
that support a myriad of different marine species.
Oh, beautiful. Oh, both eyes are coming out now.
-I can't believe it's being held by the octopus.
OK, well, a successful search.
The work that Frank and the researchers are doing
is focused on trying to preserve this coral,
and the marine life dependent on it...
..and it couldn't be more urgent.
Rising sea temperatures
are causing coral reefs all over the world to turn white and die...
..but this phenomenon has not yet reached the waters around Tetiaroa.
Who wants to grab the cucumber?
Yeah. He doesn't have a mouth or anything, does he?
No, there's nothing going to hurt you.
This experiment models the effects of higher CO2 levels in the ocean,
to try to find ways to protect the coral reefs.
So tell me, the incredibly wealthy people who come to stay -
do they care about all of this?
Do they talk about it,
or do they just want to flop and have a pina colada
by the pool and read a book?
We get a lot of sponsorship from guests,
you know, that join us and try and work with us
in terms of what we're doing,
not just for Tetiaroa, but the larger picture globally.
If Tetiaroa's coral were to bleach white and die,
this breathtaking reef that surrounds the hotel and its guests
would become a graveyard.
Coral and the fish and the sea urchins and the sea cucumbers
and all that are living all in one system,
so there's a serious problem if you're...
In terms of losing coral,
and then affecting everything else it cascades down on.
There's a huge abundance of marine life here,
and it's all dependent on the coral reef,
which is why the research that's done here
in league with the hotel is so important,
because if it all goes, the consequences,
well, they are unthinkable.
To comprehend what's at stake here,
Frank's taking us outside the reef
in the hope we'll be able to experience
-Look at that!
We're helping Frank identify any new humpback whales,
to get an overall sense of how their numbers are doing in this area.
It's sort of like seeing a submarine come up.
I was looking through binoculars, and I realised,
why am I looking at it through binoculars?
I'm right next to it!
These whales have migrated thousands of miles
from their Antarctic feeding ground to these waters
to mate, give birth and nurture their young.
And although we are meant to be helping,
it's hard not to just sit and marvel at these incredible creatures.
I've got goose bumps.
And these giants are so calm, Frank gives the OK...
..for us to witness them in their world.
It's only when you see the whole creature up close
that you understand the scale.
This mother, nurturing her calf, weighs nearly 36 tonnes,
and is almost 15 metres long.
Oh, my God!
That is almost a life-changing experience. In fact, it is.
-If my life was not all right already...
-I just can't compare...
You're watching it from here,
you think you're excited watching it from a boat,
-but to be in the water...
-All three of them right there -
and no David Attenborough!
-No! No, no.
It was better than that.
In Polynesian culture,
large marine creatures like whales
are believed by some to be the spirit of people's ancestors.
For many, Tetiaroa itself is a very sacred place.
In celebration of this,
tonight the hotel is holding a rare ceremony
involving the guests and all the staff.
For maitre d' Adrian, who first came to the island as a child,
it holds great significance.
It's a very important celebration for the spirits
to make sure that everything we need, from the sea or from the land,
that we need them to bless what we're doing here.
For centuries it has been believed in this part of Polynesia
that this walk of faith appeases the spirit world...
..which rewards them with bountiful food from the land and sea.
All staff and hotel guests are invited to cross the hot stones -
but it must be done via foot.
For Adrian, the occasion embodies the hotel's commitment
to keeping island traditions alive.
Yeah. It's fine.
It's not even burned.
It's hot. But not that hot.
Nearly 300 staff and guests walk the stones,
as the ritual carries on well into the night.
So, you're going to take that back...
You want me to take it off?
Yes. It's just going to be wrapped around.
In the cold light of day,
I'm helping Adrian close the ceremony.
We are carrying the firewalking wreath
to another of the island's temple ruins.
Would you mind taking off your shoes, please?
Shoes off, yes.
It became a temple more than 1,000 years ago.
This one was meant for the biggest ceremony,
mostly for kings and queens.
People still go there to respect the ancestors,
to show them that we still know that they are there.
The wreath is a sign of gratitude for the wisdom of the ancestors.
-To the front?
And just grab it.
Then you have to walk backwards?
Then, we make another step.
As an islander myself,
it's both moving and inspiring to see such respect
in this young generation of hotel staff.
-It's really meaningful.
I realise how special it is to you.
We have to give back, and never forget what we know.
Thank you very much to be a part of that.
Thank you for letting me be a part of it.
The knowledge about this fragile culture is clearly being passed down
from people like Hinano and taking root.
Before we leave the island, we have one more job to do.
Hinano's teaching the hotel staff
how to throw a traditional Polynesian banquet -
and she's asked us along to help.
OK, that's it.
The oven is a sandpit filled with dead coral
that needs to be smoking hot.
Here what they do is about heating the stones,
getting a certain amount of heat into the stones.
Again, really squeeze it.
Meanwhile, I'm making a fruit pudding
of plantain and papaya called Po'e.
Are these the vanillas from the hotel garden?
Yes - and you're doing a great job.
And it's started.
Thank you very much.
Hinano now offers us the privilege of handling one of the main dishes.
We have some parrotfish down the beach over there,
so if you and Giles could open it...
Gut it? Into the water?
So we're going to wash it up in the seawater.
Isn't that great? It sort of seasons the fish at the same time.
We're entering the shallows for a time-honoured tradition
of preparing fish amongst sharks.
It's like something out of Jaws!
Oh, there's a big one!
As with whales,
some Polynesians also believe sharks to be reincarnated ancestors,
so rather than be scared, it's only right to look after them.
Just like feeding the ducks at Regent's Park!
It's got a little bit... Got a little bit more of something.
Although those ducks can be pretty ferocious.
Oh, this is exciting.
These baby reef sharks are only interested in the leftovers
and any smaller fish. Once they're old enough,
they leave the coral lagoon for life in the outer reef.
-It's like a waste disposal unit, but...
-This is fab.
-I've never done anything like it.
-No, no, no.
How many do you want to get in, then? You want me to sort of...?
That's enough here? And then tie them up.
The food is wrapped in leaves collected from the forest,
then sealed in bags woven from palm fronds.
Look at that!
That is just amazing.
Rammed in like sardines, you might say.
In the middle, in the middle.
Meat in the middle because it's hottest, yeah?
Our feast is strategically laid out across the oven,
and covered with an intricate blanket of hibiscus leaves.
It does look amazing.
This is to protect it from the sand while it slow cooks.
-To weigh it down here?
You're doing a great job. I'm going to hire you!
Can't wait to get in there.
This is the moment of truth.
Wow, smells amazing.
It's no wonder the sharks are hanging around.
Cooking has taken three hours, and as well as our parrotfish,
we can't wait to get stuck in to all the other delicious offerings.
Oh, my gosh!
This is what I used to eat as a child!
There's roasted sweet potato, coconut bread
and mouthwatering pork ribs.
So tender. Oh!
So fresh and so tasty.
That is very, very delicious.
Really, really good.
In our honour, Adrian performs his Polynesian send-off.
I mean, the thing that is most impressive is,
he's juggling surrounded by sharks.
That was fabulous.
Wonderful! The people here have really moved me.
Their desire to celebrate the culture here is truly inspiring.
It's a pleasure to have all of us here,
and we share some great moments together with Monica and Giles,
to welcome you, and of course, for the Brando.
I've actually been caught a little bit by surprise
how sort of personal this journey has been for me here.
The people are soulful.
They are gentle.
They are warm and inviting.
It's been an absolute journey for me
to discover this little treasure in the Pacific.
Everyone here, from Stan and Frank to Hinano and Adrian...
..they're all living with the truth
that Marlon Brando realised 50 years ago,
that, yes, we're living in paradise, but, yes, it's very fragile...
..but what's most important is that they're fighting to keep it safe,
and the whole world is richer for it.
In the first episode of this entertaining and insightful series, Giles and Monica fly to the other side of the world to work in one of the world's most luxurious eco resorts on the small island of Tetiaroa in French Polynesia, not too far from Monica's birthplace - Samoa. Here, surrounded by a beautiful coral reef and an abundance of marine life, they both work alongside the staff of the exclusive Brando Resort to serve 5-star luxury to guests paying up to an eye-watering £11,000 per night. The hotel was the brainchild of Hollywood star Marlon Brando, who wanted to preserve Polynesian culture and marine life - and Giles meets Tumi, Brando's granddaughter, who strives to deliver his vision. Infused with Brando's environmental ethos, the resort is now one of the favourite hideaway destinations for the rich and famous - from Pippa Middleton to Leonardo di Caprio and Barack Obama.
Giles becomes an enthusiastic docker and crane operator as he joins the logistics team to collect supplies using a special concrete platform built to protect the integrity of the reef. Monica joins a veteran beekeeper, harvesting some of the purest honey in the world, and forages for indigenous plants with which to wrap food in a traditional BBQ. Together Giles and Monica gut parrotfish surrounded by local refuse-collecting shark babies, and join the resort's own environmental research team on an extraordinary boat trip to monitor local whales - and experience an unexpected once-in-a-lifetime denouement.