A unique atoll located in the Leeward Islands, Tetiaroa is about 50 km north of Tahiti (31 mi). The island is spread over a surface area of 6 km2 (3.8 sq. mi), or 1445 acres. This atoll has the distinction of being “closed,” which means it does not have passes that transfer water back and forth between the lagoon and the ocean. This prevents any navigation into the interior with the exception of small shallow draft boats.
The diversity of coral is also very important (coral reefs, table coral, and branchy coral) as well as marine biodiversity (pearly shells, seawater clams, rays, fish, etc.). The historical aspects of human settlements are also fascinating. For a long time known as Teturoa or Tetuaroa (the high ea), the atoll served as a temporary residence for the arii (great chiefs) of Arue, and it is here that in 1789, three mutineers from the famous Bounty sought refuge.
Tetiaroa is comprised of thirteen sandy motu (islets). Its flora, typical of French Polynesian atolls, includes 158 vegetal species, which gives it a richness that is quite significant, considering the small land surface area. Further, fourteen species of birds have been recorded, nine of which are sea birds and five are land birds. Tetiaroa atoll, notably Tahuna Iti motu, is still called “Bird Island,” and as such is designated an important bird area (IBA).
Later, it became the residence of the royal Pomare family before being offered to Dr Johnston Walter Williams (1874-1937) in 1904, Tahiti’s only dentist who was consul to England from 1916 to 1935. The atoll then served as a coconut plantation. In 1965, Marlon Brando acquired it for 99 years, with the lagoon remaining the property of the government’s maritime zone.