What to Do on Rapa Nui a.k.a. Easter Island
Any student of environmental science is familiar with the story of Easter Island. Just like the Mayans or the Incas; there is an air of mystery and many questions surrounding the history of the Rapa Nui. How and why did they carve the enormous Moai (giant statues), how did they move them across the island, why on earth would they cut down all their trees? Some of these questions have been answered by archeologists and anthropologists, but many questions still remain.
Easter Island is one of the most remote places in the world. It is located 3700km from the coast of Chile and 4200 km east of Tahiti. Many people do not realize that the island belongs to Chile; actually, many people do not realize that this place exists at all. The island was formed by a series of volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. There are three main volcanoes that form the points of the triangular shape of the 163 sq km island and less than 6,000 people live on Rapa Nui today. There is some debate among scientists as to when the island was first populated, but the consensus is that Polynesian seafarers arrived somewhere between 1300-1700 years ago, making the island one of the last populated places on earth.
Most of the coastline is quite treacherous with lava tubes and crashing waves creating hundreds of sea caves; there are just two sandy beaches. Legend has it that Hotu Matua was a king who originally colonized the island by landing at Anakena beach. This beach has become an important archeological site where several Moai were erected that may have celebrated his legend. The giant statues are made of volcanic rock and were constructed by master craftsmen directly at the quarry on the side of an extinct volcano, a place the locals call The Factory. There are almost 900 Moai dispersed throughout the island. It is believed that the Moai were a sign of success and power and that tribes began to use the Moai as a form of competition among the different clans. Moving these giant sculptures required man power and ingenuity. In addition to using palm trees for home building and fire, the logs were also used as rollers to move the statues to the various platforms around the island.
After many decades of competition between tribes the Rapa Nui culture reached its apex. Eventually, the depletion of the island’s trees led to the demise of the people. Without the trees to prevent erosion, crops were washed away. Hungry people began to battle and the once robust population was greatly reduced. The ancient beliefs were replaced by the cult of the Birdman. Part of this tradition involved someone swimming from a cave on the island to an islet to collect the egg of a nesting tern. Whoever was able to achieve this successfully was named the Birdman and would become the chief of the clan.
Once the population began to stabilize, tragedy again struck the island in the form of slave traders, who devastated the island’s healthy population. Then later still, the missionaries came and decimated the culture and destroyed precious artifacts, artwork, and tablets that were instrumental in understanding the history and the language of the island. The history of Easter Island is tragic, yet fascinating, and is a testament of what can happen when we deplete our resources.
There is a friendly small town atmosphere in Hanga Roa, the island’s only settlement. Everyone in town knows each other and townspeople offer a pleasant greeting in the street. The people of the island are extremely proud of their culture and enjoy showing it off. The island’s religion is an interesting mix of the ancient Birdman Cult and Catholicism, with the priest wearing a feathered headdress during mass.
Things To Do-
There is a wealth of things to do on the island. Archaeological sites abound with priceless treasures. Please remember to be respectful of artifacts.
Parque Nacional Rapa Nui covers much of the island. Many of the following sites are located inside the national park. There is an admission fee of $60 that is good for 5 days after the first time it gets stamped. Although camping is allowed in the park, you must be accompanied by a native islander to camp there.
Anakena is not only the location where Hotu Matua originally arrived, but it is a beautiful white sand picture perfect beach complete with imported palm trees. What makes this beach more interesting and than others you might find in the South Pacific is the row of Moai that lines it.
Ahu Tongariki is one of the most impressive collections of Moai on the island. A trip to the island would not be complete without a selfie here.
Rano Raraku is the nursery, where the Moai were born. At this extinct volcano you can view as many as 600 Moai in various states of completion, partially buried, or lying down. The view at the top of the crater is not to be missed.
Rano Kau is the volcano where the Birdman cult started their competition to retrieve the egg from the islet. Don’t leave the volcano without checking out the boulders with petroglyphs that illustrate the birdman and their god Make Make.
Since the island is so small it makes it an excellent place to get around on bicycle. You can easily rent a bike to explore the entire island.
If you need to go to the post office, which is just half a block from Caleta Hanga Roa, be sure to check out all the letters to the Easter Bunny.
Atariki Rapa Nui Diving Center is the premier dive company on the Island. Diving Easter Island is in a world of its own. The visibility is among the best anywhere and you will see fish species that you won’t see anywhere else on earth. Don’t leave Rapa Nui without a snorkeling or dive trip with Atariki Rapa Nui. You can find them in Hanga Piko or visit their website.
To make reservations –
Call: 032 255 0227
If you are looking to camp on Rapa Nui check out Camping Mihinoa. You can tent camp, stay in dorms, or in private rooms. The showers are always hot and airport pickups are free with your stay! There is a nice communal kitchen with everything you need to make a lovely meal. There’s a laundry service and lockers to keep your belongings safe. They are located between Hanga Roa and Hanga Piko on the lookout point where you can enjoy the best sunsets on the Island. Visit them on the web to learn more or
Email: email@example.com or Call: 32 255 1593