Blancan eaux Lodge

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2003, 12:00am

Where? Perched above a pristine river in the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve in Belize.

Deep in the jungle, then? Created by Francis Ford Coppola, whose experience in making Apocalypse Now fuelled a love-hate relationship with steamy settings, the hotel is accessed by a dirt-track road an hour's drive from the nearest town.

Must have been an ambitious project? Coppola bought the abandoned lodge in 1982 and set about converting it into an eco-friendly retreat - a major feat of organisation that included building a hydro-electric power source.

Well, he is known for his energy and perfectionism . . . And it shows. The hotel is a gem - elegant, exotic and luxurious - with seven cabanas and villas including the director's own.

Guests can sleep in Coppola's bed? Like the rest of the accommodation, his residence has a handwoven thatched roof and a generous-sized deck. The built-in beds are made from tropical hardwoods, and the triangular-shaped bath has been sunk into the floor below an open roof.

Rustic, then? More an idiosyncratic mix of antique colonial (carved wooden furniture in rich dark tones) and ethnic details (brightly coloured textiles and ceramics). The final touch is homely: the odd autographed film poster and family photographs of beaming Coppolas.

Who does it suit? Eager beavers or lounge lizards? Torpid guests can listen to the nearby waterfall from their hammocks, while keener types can bathe in the rock pools, explore the nature reserve or visit the Mayan ruins at Caracol, 48km away. There's also a Balinese spa where guests can de-stress.

What's on the menu? Excellent pizzas, cooked in a wood-fired oven and topped with Roma tomatoes from the chef's 1.2-hectare organic garden. The Californian wine is from Coppola's Napa Valley estate.

Anything else we should know? Film buffs will be bowled over by the fan in the bar, which is the one that featured in Apocalypse Now.

Garden cabana US$120-$180 (HK$934-$1,400); riverfront cabana US$155-$210; honeymoon cabana US$185-$235; two-bedroom villa US$305-$380; Francis Ford Coppola Villa US$330-$405. All prices include breakfast. Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, PO Box B, Central Farm, Cayo District, Belize; Tel: [501] 824 3878;