BY: JESSICA BEUKER
If you didn’t fall in love with Leonardo DiCaprio when he portrayed Jack Dawson in Titanic, or that time he made a powerful address at the UN summit meeting on climate change, or even when he created his own foundation dedicated to protecting the Earth’s wild and natural spaces—don’t worry, he’s giving you another chance. The actor and environmental activist is planning to save his private island by turning it into an eco-friendly luxury resort, complete with habitats for fish and manatees and a nursery to regrow ocean fauna and freshly planted mangrove forests.
Blackadore Caye, 104-acres of wild, unpopulated land off the coast of Belize, was purchased by DiCaprio in 2005 for just under $2 million. The island has suffered from overfishing, an eroding coastline and the deforestation of its mangrove trees. The once plentiful palm trees have been uprooted and used to landscape the grounds of hotels in San Pedro—the nearest big town from the island. According to the New York Times, the resort will open in 2018 and feature sprawling villas, infinity pools and stunning sunset views. The villas for the guests will be built on top of a massive platform arc that stretches over the water, while artificial reefs and fish shelters will be underneath. The nursery will grow indigenous marine grass to support manatee conservation and the mangrove trees will be replanted, replacing invasive species.
“The main focus is to do something that will change the world,” said DiCaprio in his interview with the New York Times. “I couldn’t have gone to Belize and built on an island and done something like this, if it weren’t for the idea that it could be groundbreaking in the environmental movement.” Almost 45 per cent of the island will be conservation area. The Times reports that the resort will be built using as many native materials as possible, as well as relying on local laborers who will be trained in green-building techniques.
The resort will include 68 guest villas as well as about 50 private houses, which will range in price from $5 million to $15 million. Prices for a stay at the villas has not yet been announced. While the price tag might seem expensive, the initiative is meant to promote eco-tourism defined as “responsible travel to natural areas, which conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people.”
McLennan Design created a digital rendering of how Blackadore Caye will look after an environmentally friendly redevelopment.
Guest guidelines will be put in place to ensure maximum eco-friendliness. For example, plastic water bottles will not be allowed on the island and guests will go through an ecology orientation program upon arrival.
According to the Times, DiCaprio will partner with Paul Scialla, chief executive of Delos, a New York City-based developer. DiCaprio told the Times it had taken him 10 years to find the right development partner. Restorative Islands L.L.C., which is owned by Scialla, will build the resort at Blackadore Caye, and Restorative Hospitality, a division of Delos, will be its operator. “The idea at Blackadore Caye is to push the envelope for what sustainability means,” said Scialla to the Times. “Moving the idea beyond environmental awareness into restoration.”
Leonardo DiCaprio hopes that the resort will open in 2018 (McLennan Design)
According to a study by the World Resources Institute, eco-tourism contributed roughly $196 million to Belize’s economy in 2007. Eco-tourism includes seeking out destinations that offer untouched natural scenery and making accommodations with as little environmental impact as possible. “Blackadore Caye, a Restorative Island” will be yet another checkmark on good guy Leo DiCaprio’s saving the planet to-do list.