SAN PEDRO: Academy award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio is developing a multimillion dollar eco-resort off the Caribbean coast of Belize.
DiCaprio, a high-profile environmental activist, purchased Blackadore Caye, 104 acres of wild, unpopulated land, with partner Jeff Gram 10 years ago.
The Hollywood star has joined with Paul Scialla, the chief executive of Delos, a New York City-based developer, to create an eco-conscious resort there.
Scheduled to welcome its first guests in 2018, “Blackadore Caye, a Restorative Island” will feature all the amenities of many luxury resorts, with sprawling villas, infinity pools and stunning sunset views.
Blackadore Caye has suffered from overfishing, an eroding coastline and the deforestation of its mangrove trees, and the partners are set on extensive restoration.
The villas on the island will be built atop a massive platform that stretches in an arc over the water, with artificial reefs and fish shelters underneath. A nursery will grow indigenous marine grass to support a manatee conservation area, and mangrove trees will be replanted.
The resort’s impact on its surroundings will be monitored by a team of scientists, engineers and landscape architects, some of whom have spent more than 18 months studying Blackadore Caye.
DiCaprio, an avid scuba diver, visited Belize in 2005 to swim its barrier reef.
“Belize is truly unique,” he said. “It has the second largest coral reef system in the world, and it has some of the most biodiverse marine life, like the manatee population and almost every species of fish you can imagine. Then there are the Mayan temples and the culture.”
Shortly afterwards he bought Blackadore Caye for US$1.75 million with Gram, the owner of Cayo Espanto Island Resort, a luxury vacation spot on another private island in Belize. Gram has pledged to bring his experience in owning and operating island resorts to the new venture.
Blackadore Caye will adhere to the Living Building Challenge, stringent environmental requirements including water and energy self-sufficiency created by lead architect and designer Jason F McLennan.
About 45 per cent of the island will be designated a conservation area, and the resort will be built using as many native materials as possible. The developers also hope to rely on local labourers who will be trained in green-building techniques.
Guests will reportedly be given guidelines on what they can take to the resort. For example, plastic water bottles will be prohibited. On arrival, guests will undergo an ecology orientation program.
Wellness programming will also be part of a stay at Blackadore Caye. Self-improvement guru Deepak Chopra, founder of the Chopra Foundation for health and well-being, will spearhead a program focused on health and anti-aging.
The 68 guest villas will have access to nearly a mile of secluded beach, grassland and jungle. Prices for a stay at the villas have not been announced, but for those who prefer their own houses, 48 will be built with price tags ranging from $5 million to $15 million.
Blackadore Caye is 45 minutes by boat from Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport in Belize City and a 15-minute boat ride from San Pedro, the nearest big town.