Easter Island

Megalithic statueEaster Island is a destination that seems to inhabit our subconscious. The image of those great stone moai with their backs to the vast Pacific strikes some chord within us, recalls some ancient, creative urge.

This is the world's most isolated bit of land, a tiny pinprick in the great pacific, a mound of consolidated lava and ash from three submarine volcanoes. The natives call their island Rapa Nui or Te Pito o Te Henua, "the navel of the earth."

Linguistic and cultural comparisons indicate that the first humans on Easter Island arrived from the west, most likely from the Marquesas Islands or Mangareva, as part of a greater migratory process which spread Polynesian culture throughout the South Pacific. However, the twelve centuries which elapsed between the arrival of the first intrepid 'settlers' near 500 AD and the 'discovery' of the island in 1722 by the Dutch admiral Jacob Roggeveen are among the world's great mysteries.

European sailors visiting Easter Island found that the natives could not explain the construction and transport of the great moai megaliths, the largest of which exceeds sixty feet in height. Nor could they decipher the rongo rongo tablets whose hieroglyphic script appears to be a forgotten form of written language. Somewhere in the past - a past which seems to have seesawed from ancestor worship, monument building and population growth, to deforestation and food shortages, feuding and in some cases even cannibalism - the old knowledge had been lost. It is the mystery of these disappeared artisans, and the awesome presence of their works, which continues to draw scientists and seekers from across the globe.

TreesToday, Rapa Nui National Park protects most of the island's archaeological sites, and the native todomiro forests that once graced the island are being replanted. Opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding abound on the island, while a rich marine ecosystem of corals and colorful tropical fish makes Easter Island a prime destination for scuba diving and snorkeling.

In the waters near the island, diving conditions and marine life are similar to other South Pacific islands.

Easter Island rests on a broad submarine platform, part of a long east-west volcanic ridge or 'hot line.' This platform provides an abundant phototropic zone that supports 144 species of algae and 111 species of tropical and pelagic fish. Six species of corals grow in shallow water around the island, though there are no coral reefs. About one-fifth of all marine flora and fauna is endemic. The lack of coral reefs around the island has resulted in pronounced coastal erosion, including submarine cliffs and extensive caves. Visibility in these cobalt seas can exceed 120 feet, and water temperatures average 70°F.

Thanks to the Tourism Promotion Corporation of Chile : 202-530-4109


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