Oct 292011

There are many places on the planet that I long to explore.  My travel list grows faster than I am able to cross off locations.  All of the places on my list excite me, or else they wouldn’t make the list.  But then there are those places that invoke a deeper, more innate yearning.  Places that cause my heart to beat faster at the mere mention of the locale.  For me, one of those places is Easter Island (it’s Polynesian name is Rapa Nui).

Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world.  It lies between Tahiti and Chile, and it’s closest inhabited neighbor is the tiny island of Pitcairn (of Bounty fame).  It’s a volcanic island, that is now a territory of Chile.

So why do I long to visit this small rock in the middle of the ocean?  There are three main reasons.

Reason 1 – The Moai

These mysterious statues, carved from volcanic stone, represent the island’s ancestors.  There are over 800 Moai, many standing proudly as if to guard or watch over the island.  The stone platforms on which they sit are called Ahu.

Ahu Tongariki Moai - Photo by Author Rivi from the Wikipedia Commons

I’ve been drawn to these imposing statues since I first saw them in National Geographic as a kid.  Perhaps the allure lies in the unanswered questions that shroud them in mystery.  How were they carved?  And even more mysteriously, how were they moved across the island and erected in an era without cranes and heavy machinery?  Many scientists, historians and archaeologists have speculated on this, but the mystery lingers. It reminds me of just how much we don’t know about the world and our ancestors.  And that’s OK, because not every “problem” is meant to be solved.

Moai at Rano Raraku - Photo from Wikipedia Commons, Author Aubina

Reason 2 – Island History

Easter Island’s true history is as mysterious as its magnificent Moai.  Where did its first inhabitants come from?  Easter Island is part of the Polynesian triangle, and most people believe that its first inhabitants were Polynesians that miraculously sailed through vast stretches of open ocean to reach the island (most likely from the Marquesas or possibly Mangareva in the Gambier Islands).

The islands’s tumultuous history is rich with stories of disease, deforestation, European and South American contact, massive population decline and resource depletion.

Reason 3 – Crystal Clear Waters with Unbelievable Visibility

Most divers probably don’t think of Easter Island as a dive destination, but due to its lack of pollution, it’s waters boast an impressive visibility of up to 160 feet (50 meters).  In addition to its crystal clear waters, the underwater landscape is legendary.  The island’s volcanic nature has created imposing formations such as caves, cliffs and tunnels.  You can even spot toppled moai underwater.  The island has two dive shops – Orca Diving Center and Mike Rapu Diving Center.

The only airline currently flying to Mataveri International Airport on Easter Island is LAN.  The travel time is 5-6 hours from Santiago, Chile.  LAN also has two flights a week from Pape’ete, Tahiti and two flights per week from Lima, Peru.

Look forward to my report from Easter Island sometime in the future.

What destination do you long to visit?

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