The long-gestating eco-resort dreams of Leonardo DiCaprio are finally on the verge of being realized. The actor, who purchased Blackadore Caye with a partner some 10 years ago, has announced updated plans to transform the 104-acre island into a world-class conservation and luxury destination. 

"The main focus is to do something that will change the world," DiCaprio told 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."

DiCaprio purchased the 140-acre Blackadore Caye for just under $2 million in 2004.

DiCaprio purchased the 140-acre Blackadore Caye for just under $2 million in 2004. (Photo: Google Maps)

For as long as I've been writing about the environment, DiCaprio has been plotting to do something with Blackadore Caye that would raise the bar for eco-tourism. Back in 2007, it was announced that he was partnering with the owners of the Four Season Resorts chain to create a sustainable hotel that would transform the island into a "a test bed for innovative green technologies such as hybrid power systems." That partnership ultimately fell through, but it seems that DiCaprio's recent investment with Delos — the real estate firm behind those high-end "wellness apartments" in New York City — has reignited those plans. Paul D. Scialla, co-founder of Delos, will develop the project with DiCaprio under the name "Blackadore Caye, a Restorative Island."

“The idea at Blackadore Caye is to push the envelope for what sustainability means — moving the idea beyond environmental awareness into restoration,” Scialla told the Times. “We don’t want to just do less harm or even have zero impact, but to actually help heal the island, to make it better than before.”

Two of the island's biggest problems, coastline erosion and deforestation, will be solved by replanting native trees and mangroves, original features that were stripped over the years by fisherman and developers back on shore. Blackadore will also act as a sort of research lab for scientists, with more than 45 percent of the island designated as a conservation area. A nursery on site will grow indigenous marine grass to support a manatee conservation site, as well as other plants intended to replace invasive species. 

On-shore homes will be built according to green standards, with heavy use of solar and natural cooling.

On-shore homes will be built according to green standards, with heavy use of solar and natural cooling. (Photo: Google Maps)

As for the resort itself, DiCaprio is taking the unusual step of building the 68 guest villas atop an arc-shaped platform on the water. The structure will also double as an artificial reef to protect and nurture fish species below. Less impressive in this author's eyes is the decision to also build 48 luxury homes on the island itself, with each costing between $5 million to $15 million. It would have been more impressive in my opinion to have seen the island itself left more as a project in conservation and less a development. At the very least, it's good to know that all of these structures will be built with as many native materials as possible and according to strict green standards. Current renderings also show, as expected, as heavy dependency on renewable energy sources. 

"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," DiCaprio added. "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."

The eco-resort on Blackadore Caye is expected to open sometime in 2018. 

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Leonardo DiCaprio's private island to become showcase eco-resort
Actor says development of his 104-acre Blackadore Caye off Belize will be 'restorative,' with conservation and sustainability at the core of the project.