Gluten-free and lactose-free, but with a beautiful view in Pipa

Filha da Lua is located in front of Minas beach, in Pipa (RN)

Charming bungalows in a protected area with sea views, construction and maintenance with sustainable basis and the first 100% gluten and lactose-free restaurant in Rio Grande do Norte. These are some of the attractions of Filha da Lua, an ecolodge opened on Minas beach, in Pipa, (RN), by a Belgian couple, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A few years ago, Inga and Frederic D’Ansembourg became enchanted by the Brazilian northeast and decided to open a sustainable building for celiacs and people with lactose intolerance. The land purchase process, which began in 2012, was lengthy and bureaucratic, but the original project was ultimately “better than the order.”

About 16 months after opening their first property, the couple are about to open the doors of a second hotel in the area. Semper Vivo, as the new development was called, will have twice as many guests as Filha da Lua, which has 17 suites.

“As the purchase of the land where Filha da Lua is now located was time-consuming due to administrative challenges, we also purchased the land for the second hotel. Semper Vivo will target a more diverse audience, with international cuisine, complementing the hotel scene in Pipa,” says Inga.

Located 10 minutes from the center of Pipa and opened in December 2020, Filha da Lua added to the scenario started by other “charming” properties in the region, such as the pioneer Toca da Coruja. Despite highly variable occupancy rates during the pandemic, the performance was “good enough” to confirm the opening of the duo’s second premises in July next year.

Inga and Frederic are quite secretive about investing in their projects. Also, they had no previous experience in hospitality when they decided to open Filha da Lua. Frederic is a businessman and member of a Belgian noble family and Inga is an opera singer.

Map travelers were inspired by ecolodges such as Brazil’s Vila Kalango, in Jericoacora (CE) and the many immersive journeys they took to destinations such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali and India to bring their projects in Brazil to life.

There are 17 suites spread over bungalows furnished with furnishings from the region and from the couple’s other travels around the world.

The passion for the country is said to have started thanks to Inga, during a carnival in Rio de Janeiro, followed by a season in Jericoacoara, still in 2005. Years later, they arrived in Pipa on a “spectacular full moon night” (hence the name of the place) and they decided they would turn those lands into a family address as well.

Initially, the land where Filha da Lua is now located was to be converted into a private residence for the family, so that they could spend part of the year there and also welcome family and friends. But the project took on new contours until it came up with the idea of ​​a sustainable lodge, with a restaurant that offered healthy dishes.

The Filha da Lua (daily with breakfast from R$850.00 per person) was built in 2018. Two years later, the doors of the property built on the protected cliffs of Praia das Minas, facing the sea, were opened in a region also famous for spawning turtles (helped in part by the Tamar Project).

All suites are spacious and with huge balconies, divided into bungalows on stilts and surrounded by greenery. The decoration combines furniture and local objects with the collection they collected during their travels around the world, especially Bali.

The swimming pool of the new Semper Vivo hotel is scheduled to open in July

“Creating a gluten-free and lactose-free hotel was our proposal from the start, as there was nothing comparable on the market,” explains Inga. “But above all, the hotel focuses on wellness and health, which has become even more important in the context of the pandemic.”

Thanks to this proposal, Filha da Lua attracts a specific audience from the outset, but is certainly not limited to it. And the restaurant also surprised the locals. “We are raising awareness that many of the local dishes can be served gluten-free and lactose-free,” he says.

Over the course of nearly a year and a half of business, the guest profile has changed and become more diverse thanks to new business strategies. “This changed especially after our participation in ILTM Latin America [o mais importante evento de turismo de luxo do país]as we started to work more closely with several luxury travel agencies, we became Serandipians/Traveller Made employees and we were represented by Key Partners in key markets,” says Inga.

The suites and balconies are very spacious: breathing space and integration with nature

Social and sustainable essence for the project

While they spent a long time in Pipa, waiting for the permits to officially start building the hotel, they realized that the future of the company would depend on preserving the beaches and that if they brought luxury tourists to destination, it was essential to also invest in local education and training. Even in teaching English, still tacky in the region so international tourism could be consistent.

Thus, two of the social projects were born. Firstly, the Hello Pipa and Hello Barra schools (in neighboring Barra do Cunhaú, about 14 km from Pipa), where children, teenagers and adults in the region learn English for free.

There are 230 students in the free English courses at Hello Pipa

Today, at Hello Pipa alone, 230 students are served. The aim is not to make them part of the staff of the couple’s hotels, but to train them for the market, as the majority of the population in the region works with tourism. But the opposite has already happened: some hotel employees decided to join the teaching programs.

“Our goal is to provide students with job opportunities, both with us and with other hotels and companies in our community. After all, we are all in this together”, defends Inga.

Another important project of the couple is the organic farm Pachammamma, in the neighboring district of Sibaúma, whose production of herbs, fruits, vegetables and various vegetables the kitchens of the hotel, schools and also the Cicchetti restaurant, one of the busiest in the center of Pipa and of which the couple is partner. The farm is based on biodiversity through permaculture, on organic crops in agroforestry systems (SAFs).

The farm supplies organic products for school lunches and for the hotel

“We realized that the only way to give the locals free education was to offer them free meals as well. That’s how our project came about,” says Inga. Hello Pipa and Hello Barra students receive daily food after classes. Many went there just for the food, but ended up staying to learn a second language.

The singer and businesswoman also believes it is critical to empower women and girls through education and give them access to jobs that make them more independent and secure in a patriarchal society.

“But it’s not just about empowering women. It’s about empowering people to seek every opportunity together to make the world a better place,” explains Inga. “It’s all the result of collective work and everything we do at Filha da Lua and its social projects is a complete concept,” says Inga.

Designed to work in harmony with its environment, the ecolodge between the Atlantic Ocean and the dunes “applies sustainable construction practices to conserve forest and land” from the start.

It is built with reforested eucalyptus wood and each bungalow is built on stilts to maintain the permeability of the soil without affecting it. The hotel also uses solar energy and has created a 100% ecological waste station. Filha da Lua does not use plastic or hazardous/harmful chemicals in cleaning the property, and the new hotel will follow.

“We source our products from small local producers, our menu is healthy, we respect all wildlife, we are constantly learning and sharing culinary skills, knowledge about naturopathy, agroforestry and their techniques to conserve water and produce clean food. We create a flow of ethical conscience in hospitality. It’s all part of the same project,” says Inga.

The amenities on offer to guests are all locally sourced, arranged in large reusable displays. Even bamboo toothbrushes and handmade toothpaste are offered.

Filho da Lua is built with reforested eucalyptus wood and each bungalow is built on stilts to maintain the permeability of the soil without affecting it.

The 100% gluten and lactose free menu is also popular with guests and visitors without dietary restrictions – especially for breakfast,
always served à la carte, with a sea view, with different types of bread, pastries and “cheese”, all without gluten or lactose.

The hotel offers tourism experiences that it develops for guests in collaboration with members of the surrounding communities, from horseback riding to the top of the Cacimbinhas dunes to Kitemaster Pipa kitesurfing school.

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