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Unearth the Mysteries of Easter Islands Giant Moai Statues

Published by Kristin Cowles, Editor-in-Chief

Country: Chile

The Experience

The Tapati Festival of Easter Island is an experience that peers into a remote culture with traditions such as chanting, dancing, parades, customary body decoration, and spear fishing competitions, all originating from a civilization that was one of the youngest inhabited territories on earth. Easter Island also known as Rapa Nui, is a Polynesian island that lies off the coast of Chile, and is one of the worlds most isolated populated islands on earth. Theory has it, that at its peak, the Rapanui people found themselves trapped in an environment that was unable to sustain their population and a rapid crash in their civilization followed.

Best known for its massive stone statues called Moai , Easter Island is home to over 887 of these world famous carvings, of which some 360 still span the island coasts, while others are now in museums or buried under shifted soil. The period in which these stone monoliths were created is still debated, with estimates of 100,00 CE to 170,00CE. What is know about these artifacts is they were created from volcanic tuff by hand and from there laboriously moved to various places on Easter Island. The design of the Moai statues share a fairly standard design and range in size from 23 feet high and 200 feet long, to some just 6 feet tall.

There are several sites on Easter Island to check out, one of the most popular is Rano Raraku which is at the base of the volcanic crater. What many people don’t know about these Moai statues is that this was not their intended resting place. Rather they were abandoned scattered about before being moved to traditional platforms called "ahu" where they would be placed to over look ceremonial areas and villages, with their backs to the sea. Another popular site is Ahu Akivi, which unlike other sites is found inland and features statues with red scoria headdress’s known as Pukao, carved from red lava rock.

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When to Go to Easter Island

The best time to visit Easter Island is from December to February, coincidentally at the height of their summer. This will also allow you to enjoy the Tapati Festival which typically takes place the last week of January and the first week of February. If you go October – November or March – April you can expect to have the island to yourself but be prepared for lower temperatures and less flight availabilities.

Odds n' Ends

Some things to keep in mind about an Easter Island adventure is that you are truly embarking into a culture that is very removed from modern tendencies. It’s a life experience for sure, but be prepared to go without the normal luxuries like golf courses, theaters, or bookstores.

Other things to keep in mind is that there is no safe drinking water outside of the village, so be sure to pack ample supplies when you head for the day. Getting around too see the sights you have a few options, by horseback which is approximately $40 cnd. for three hours, expect to pay extra if you want the owner to be your guide, by car which is approximately $50 - $70 cnd. for a day rental, or an outrigger canoe which will run you about $15 to go out with a guide. If you are planning to journey here on your own versus a tour you can go budget by staying at residenciales which are extensions of private homes and ranges in price from $25 - $30 cnd. Doing this will also give you an edge with the locals for insights on great things to do during your stay. Other activities that can be done while staying on the island is hiking, snorkeling and scuba diving, but the level of difficulty is quite moderate to high.

On your flight over to the island be sure to stock up on cash, either the native currency of the Chilean peso or the American dollar, as you will be hard pressed to find someone willing to take a credit card once you land. The last note to keep in mind about this unique embankment is that you should try to make it part of a bigger trip to keep costs down, as flights can be costly if flying from your home. If you roll into a bigger trip to South America flights to the island can be bought for as low as $95-$270 cnd. out of Santiago, Chile.

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