7 April 2015 | By David Rogers
The actor Leonardo DiCaprio is planning to build an eco resort on his private Caribbean island. The actor acquired a share in the 104-acre Blackadore Caye off the coast of Belize in 2005 for $1.75m.
The resort will include 48 private houses and 68 villas built on a platform in the shape of an arc (pictured) that stretches over the water.
“My crazy ideas have turned out to be a hit”– Jeff Gram, island’s co-owner and resort developer
Underneath the platform will be artificial reefs and fish shelters. There will also be a farm to grow indigenous marine grass to support a manatee conservation area, and mangrove trees will be replanted, replacing invasive species.
A team of designers, scientists, engineers and landscape architects will monitor the resort’s impact on its surroundings.
The architect for the resort is Jason McLennan, the founder of the Living Building Challenge.
He told The New York Times: “With the onset of climate change, there are huge challenges, so we want the structure to not only enhance and improve the environment, but to be a model for the future. That includes restoring the island, creating conservation areas where we can hold research conferences, and regenerating the entire ecosystem to bring it back to its original form and beyond.”
DiCaprio told The New York Times that his main focus was “to do something that will change the world”.
He said: “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.”
DiCaprio is well known for his contributions to ecological causes. Last October, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation donated $2m to marine conservation projects. These included improving fisheries protection in Europe, the US and Central America and establishing marine preserves in the Pacific Islands and the Arctic. It also is earmarked for protecting threatened sharks and furthering Antarctic conservation.
The resort, which is being developed in co-operation with New York real estate company Delos, is intended to be “restorative” in the sense of having a positive impact on its environment.
The island is located on the 300km-long Belize Barrier Reef, the second longest reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in eastern Australia.
Some 950 square kilometres of the reef are already covered by marine conservation zones. Despite this, however, more than 40% of its coral has been damaged in the past 17 years. The main causes of this are hurricanes and increasing water temperature, which leads to “coral bleaching”.
Blackadore Caye is a 45-minute boat ride from Belize City and a 15-minute boat ride from San Pedro, the nearest big town.
It was a popular spot for fishermen, who would stop on their way to markets in Mexico and cut mangrove, using the wood for fires to smoke their catch. More recently, the island’s palm trees have been uprooted and used to landscape the grounds of hotels in San Pedro.
The island’s co-owner is resort developer Jeff Gram, who owns the nearby island of Cayo Espanto, a popular destination for super-rich tourists.
Among the extra services offered at that resort are hot and cold towels at every meal or snack, serving all drinks with a white linen wrapping and having a private houseman and an assistant for every villa.
In an interview with website Private Island News in 2012 he said: “My crazy ideas have turned out to be a hit. I like to refer our level of service, attention to detail and offerings as ‘ridiculously wonderful’.”
The current price for two guests range from $1,695 to $2,295 per night, according to Cayo Esanto’s website.