Nature for everyone: Pipa’s Ecological Sanctuary

Santuário Ecológico Pipa

After Fernando de Noronha we spent a few days in Natal. Dani and Juan Miguel, friends of a good friend from law school, had accepted to host us.  We spent a few wonderful days with them, talking and taking a break from tourism. We lived three “normal” days, working on the computer, cooking at home and enjoying the tranquility of not having to do anything.

The big attraction of our stay n Natal was to meet David Hassett, the guardian of the Ecological Sanctuary of Pipa. We talked with him about the Sanctuary and the challenges that exist to realize the dream of finding equilibrium between man and nature. During our meeting, David asked us to not become defeatist, but always have hope and defend our vision of a better world. He himself is no defeatist, and although today’s situation is not as good as it could be, he certainly did his part.

Vista do Mar

When he acquired the land of the sanctuary almost 30 years ago, David dreamt to be instrumental in maintaining Pipa a rustic and preserved place. He was not able to contain the region’s development (e.g. the latest urban development plan of the town reserved a big part of the municipality for urban expansion). Still, his commitment to the future visitors of Pipa and the existing life there resulted in today’s visitors being able to appreciate the original fauna and flora.

The Ecological Sanctuary of Pipa conserves 90 hectares of Atlantic Forest and guarantees that the beach of the Bay of Dolphins and a part of the Madeiro beach remain almost wild. Besides conserving, the Sanctuary also offers educational activities on environmental topics for public and private schools and opens its space for scientific research. The area has been used to develop research on a lot of different topics: from horseflies and lizards to the geology and geodynamics of the cliffs. Rcently, one of these projects resulted in the discovery of a bird species that had never been registered before. Today, the main research project present in the Sanctuary is the Tamar Project (on sea turtles), which is run in partnership with the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio).

The main source of financial resources is the entrance fee to visit the Sanctuary. Visitors pay 5 Reais and can follow several educational trails on the Atlantic Forest and enjoy amazing views of the Bay of Dolphins and the Madeiro beach, among others. If they are lucky, visitors can also see some local animals. We saw a Jacu family (a turkey-like wild bird) when we walked through the woods and several sea turtles from the Turtle viewpoint.


The resources made through the visitors are just enough to cover the maintenance of the Sanctuary, but there are no resources left for improvements. According to David, the challenges to attract more funds are many. On the one hand, partnerships with the public sector, although beneficial, are mostly of a short timeframe and not systematic. This makes it difficult to reach significant results. On the other hand, the Sanctuary was not able to collect funds through the private sector. Attempts to explore the market for seedlings and seeds of native plants where without success. Currently, the Sanctuary assesses the alternative to convert isolated research projects in systematic research programs as to strengthen institutional partnerships.

David is also concerned with the future of the Sanctuary. Thinking to ensure that it continues to exist for many years, he decided to transfer the ownership rights and its administration over to a foundation that will be created to take care of the Sanctuary. This foundation will be composed of at least 23 friends and environmentalists, of whom several work for important environmental agencies such as ICMBio and IDEMA (state agency of Rio Grande do Norte), while others live in Pipa and have different backgrounds.

Trilha - Trail

Beyond the Sanctuary, we also discussed the development of Pipa over the years that David was there. He noted with sadness that the Chapadão, a cliff above the Praia do Amor. (Beach of Love), was transformed from an area full of irregular and rare rock formations into a flat area. A tractor had been used to level the area to facilitate access for visitors and enable construction. He also told us with sorrow that most of the areas located at the brink of the cliffs with a beautiful view of the coast are today private property and with restricted access.

The story David told us about the development of Pipa and the fact that areas like the Sanctuary are the exception and resorts and gated communities are the rule, confirm what we were discovering during this trip: nature is luxury. To enjoy nature people have to pay a lot, in the case of Pipa, the cost of one of the resorts or pousadas.

It should not be like this. As David reminded us, the stretch of land directly on the sea is public land. As such, the Union should guarantee the access for all and protect the beauty that covers and covered the Brazilian coast for the benefit of all. Unfortunately, government prefers to sell this land for the benefit of a few and to collect property tax!

From David and his experience with the Sanctuary we learned that we cannot change the world alone, but that we should give our best to do our part. David certainly contributed his part. And you?


2 comments to Nature for everyone: Pipa’s Ecological Sanctuary

  • Maíra Prado

    Aqui é Maíra, prima da Ana e do Kiko, que conheceu vocês na Pousada Casa de Taipa em São Miguel do Gostoso…
    Tenho “seguido” vocês por aqui, lendo seus relatos e admirando essa vida maravilhosa de viajar e conhecer lugares maravilhosos =)
    Boa viagem, fiquem com Deus!

  • Lucas

    queeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee maaaaaaaaaaassa

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Translation support - Suporte nas traduções: Manuela Sampaio


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