Leonardo dicaprio island belize

05.05.2020
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Euronews Living | Will Leonardo DiCaprio open his new eco-resort in Belize in 2020?

The Oscar-winning actor and film producer is no longer just the Wolf of Wall Street, or our beloved Jack from Titanic, hes now a fully-fledged environmentalist on a mission.

Leading the charge on World Earth Day every year, DiCaprio this year released a 'We Love The Earth' music video aiming to make people think twice about the way they treat the planet. He also made a documentary in 2016 with National Geographic, 'Before The Flood', where he met scientists, activists and world leaders to discuss the dangers of climate change.

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Back in 2015, DiCaprio decided to take the plunge and purchase an island in Belize to build his very own eco-resort, set to be ground-breaking in the environmental movement. The island in question, Blackadore Caye, was sold for $1.75 million to DiCaprio and his business partner, who have been working ever since to create an eco-haven in Central America, which is set to open in 2020.

Where exactly is it and why hasnt it opened yet?

Blackadore Caye island is situated off the coast of Belize, with a diverse ecosystem of land and marine species that is recognised globally as part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor region. Nearly 1.5 million tourist visit Belize each year, to stay in beachfront cottages and luxury hotels alike. But Leonardo DiCaprios eco-resort could mark a revolutionary change to tourism in the area, as visitors would come for a restorative experience on their sustainable stay.

The eco-resort was supposed to open in 2018, but the team announced that the opening was to be delayed until late 2019 as it was still incomplete. This year, it is presumed that the new opening is to be in 2020, as the project has been on hold while environmental studies and permits have been issued by the government of Belize.

What would the eco-resort be like?

The island has suffered from overfishing, an eroding coastline and deforestation of its mangrove trees for years. DiCaprios resort is hoping to be the eco-friendly answer to the 104-acre islands environmental problems through building off-the-grid living homes and a research station focused on climate change. It plans to be the Worlds first truly restorative island development.

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When it finally opens, the exclusive eco-resort will join Belize's Four Seasons Hotel, which is also due to open in the near future as a green destination.

DiCaprio's eco-resort will feature a hotel, 36 resort bungalows and 36 estate villas, with details such as circadian lighting and solar panels so that each home is energy efficient. Outdoor and indoor experiences will be merged with open-air buildings surrounded by palm trees, lush, green landscapes and infinity pools.

With unrivalled sunset views, Blackadore Caye is being described as the Maldives of Central America.

What does Leonardo DiCaprio have to say?

DiCaprio is an avid scuba diver. In fact, it was his first trip to Belize to swim in its barrier reef in 2005 that sparked the actors love of the island.

In an interview with The New York Times, Leonardo DiCaprio said about the eco-resort:

The main focus is to do something that will change the world. I couldnt have gone to Belize and built on an island and done something like this, if it werent for the idea that it could be ground-breaking in the environmental movement.

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.

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leonardo dicaprio island belize
Inside Leonardo DiCaprio's eco-resort on a private island off the coast of Belize

In recent years, Leonardo DiCaprio has become an outspoken environmental voice. Earlier in 2016, he hosted Before the Flood, a National Geographic documentary about climate change, and interviewed President Obama about climate action at the White Houses South by South Lawn festival.

Nowthe actor-turned-activist is hoping to create a new model for green hospitality. DiCaprio is helping design anew resort called Blackadore Caye, A Restorative Island. Slated to open in late 2018, itwill be located on a small island off the coast of Belize.

Blackadore Caye (which is also the name of the island) will feature 36 resort bungalows and 36 estate homes, all of which will be powered by 100% renewable energy harvested from solar panels. Rainwater will be collected and filtered on-site and combined with solar-powered desalinization devices to meet the resorts water needs.

Blackadore Caye Master Plan
Master plan for Blackadore Caye development

DiCaprio purchased the island more than 10 years ago for $1.75 million. Though its 104 acres are unpopulated, the island'sbeaches and reefs suffer from overfishing, an eroding coastline, and deforestation of the nativemangrove tree population.

According to the New York Times, fisherman have cut down the coastal mangroves over the years, using the wood for fires to cook fish and conch from the reef. The depletion of the mangroves has allowed more seawater to breach the islands shores and wash away nutrient-richsoil. Without the natural storm barrier the trees provided, saltwater has also penetratedthe island during extreme weather events, and the lingering saline has caused some plant species to die.

To reverse that trend, the development team has assembled a group of scientiststo set baseline levels of resilience and biodiversity, and monitor those factors over time. The projects plans include planting approximately 20,000 new red mangrove trees around the island's perimeter, and fortifying the shoreline by adding strategically placed rocks and sand. Native species will also be reintroduced to restore the island'svegetated cover.

Half of the land will be set aside as a wildlife preserve, and a research station will be established to host scientists conducting ecological studies. Guests will also be invited to work on some restoration projects if they choose.

Blackadore Caye Estate C Pool View
A rendering of an estate at Blackadore Caye

Blackadore Caye will be the first luxury resort to adhere to Living Building Challenge standards, the most rigorous sustainability certification for buildings. Though the square footage of the bungalows and homes has not yet been released, all of the energy-efficient buildings are being designed to capture breezes and keep out heat from the sun. Both human and food waste will be treated on site and composted when possible to improve the islands topsoil.

There will also be a strict list of items and technologies not permitted on the island. Allrecreational vehicles (boats, cars, scooters, etc) will have to useclean energy, and guests will be forbidden from bringing non-reusable plastic water bottles.

The food served to resort-goers will be organic and locally sourced the developers plan to partner with local fisherman and farmers to stock the kitchen. Some greens and produce will also be grown hydroponically on-site.

Blackadore Caye estate rendering
A rendering of an estate at Blackadore Caye

Rental rates for the bungalows and prices for the houses have not yet been determined, but in all likelihood Blackadore Cayes unparalleled level of eco-consciousness and sustainability wont come cheap. The Times estimated in 2015 that estate home prices will range from $5-$15 million. Beaches that perfect deserve all the help they can get.



Leonardo DiCaprios Restorative Island: Blackadore Caye
From Hollywood to ecotourism, Leonardo Dicaprio unveils his new plans for Blackadore Caye, a luxury island in Belize where guests can restore themselves and the environment; its a millionaires guilt-free paradise.Proposed Design for Blackadore Caye |  McLennan Design

Jason McLennon, architect and founder of the Living Building Challenge, was commissioned by DiCaprio to design a 68-villa eco-resort on a private island in Belize. DiCaprio sits on the board of several environmental nonprofits and is well-known for his generous contributions to environmental causes and lending his voice as narration to powerful environmental films. He was recently appointed as UN Messenger of Peace by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, who called DiCaprio a new voice for climate advocacy.

Blackadore Caye is home to the 104-acre project, to be completed in 2018 by New York developer Delos. The resort will feature an arc of floating suites built over the water and a network of artificial reefs and fish shelters. It will also be home to an indigenous plant nursery focused on manatee conservation, which include the replanting of mangrove trees and replacing invasive species. Its located a short 15-minute boat ride from San Pedro. The project will be closely monitored by a talented team of scientists, designers and engineers who, along with the landscape architects, will closely monitor the impact on the islands environment.

DiCaprio, who is currently filming an adventure drama, The Revenant, fell in love with Belize on a scuba diving trip in 2005, and purchased Blackadore Caye for $1.75 million with Jeff Gram, the owner of Cayo Espanto Island Resort, another luxury vacation spot in Belize. Gram will hopefully bring his experience in owning and operating island resorts to the new venture. He says Blackadorewill be an incredible private island that will set the mark for all future island developments.

DiCaprio told The New York Times, The main focus is to do something that will change the worldI couldnt have gone to Belize and built on an island and done something like this if it werent for the idea that it could be groundbreaking in the environmental movement. He loves Belize because of the countrys uniqueness and because it is home to some of the most biodiverse marine life and the second largest coral reef system in the world.

Blackadore Caye |  People News/Flickr

Blackadore Caye will be replete with all of the standard features of a luxury resort, including sprawling villas, infinity pools, and stunning sunset views. The wild, unpopulated island will be transformed by 68 villas and 48 private homes, which will cost between five and 15 million dollars.

Its restorative aspect refers to the healing effect on visitors, and on the island itself. Blackadore Caye has suffered from years of overfishing, eroding coastline, and mangrove deforestation. This project hopes to restore the island and bring it new life as a luxury destination. Roughly 45% of the island will be designated for conservation and, all new construction will live up to Living Building Challenge standards. Developers hope to rely on local laborers, who are trained in green building techniques. Plastic bottles are strictly banned from the island, and once guests set food on Blackadore Caye they will go through an ecology orientation program.

Ecotourism has become a booming industry and is responsible for around eight billion tourists a year worldwide. Blackadore Caye hopes to push the notion of sustainability to include restoration. DiCaprio has a bold vision for the island: 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.

Leonardo DiCaprio Danilla/Flickr

DiCaprios venture has already riled some critics. Jan H. Kantz, senior lecturer at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration has said, No hotel can be truly sustainable because you have to fly to get there. He feels that people are buying the status of staying at an exclusive eco-resort. If you really care about sustainability, instead of enlarging your carbon footprint by flying to a remote island and then creating the garbage that they need to compost, just give money to a conservation program. However, Leonardo DiCaprio disagrees, arguing that visits to Blackadore Caye will help reverse some of the environmental damage the island has already suffered.

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