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Highlight - Mysterious Easter Island

Easter Island is located in the Pacific Ocean at 3.700 km from the coast and presents a warm subtropical climate, with rainfall all year round and nice temperatures. This island is home to 50 endemic species of flora, like toromiro, makoi and huau huau, among the fauna, we find mainly sea birds like white pirquero, gaviotines (manutara) and tropical birds. It was declared a national park and historical monument in 1935 to preserve its extraordinary natural and cultural heritage and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. The place is ideal for horseback riding, cycling, hikes, bird watching, diving, and photography. Every year in February the island celebrates Tapati Rapa Nui (Rapa Nui Week), the main cultural and artistic activity in the island. It starts the first week of February and lasts 10 days, during which a series of ancient ceremonies are carried out, such as body painting contest (takona), story telling (rui), sliding downhill on banana tree trunks (haka pei) and the election of the queen of the Tapati.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by a guide at the airport with a flower necklace and taken to my hotel. With the afternoon at leisure, I decided to start exploring this gorgeous tropical island with a walk along the coast, soaking up the sun and observing surfers take advantage of the wonderful waves. Once the sun set (something you mustn’t miss) I went for a walk on the main street to try some of the island’s ceviche – by far the best I have had so far – as well as their local beer!

The following morning I took part in an excursion across the Moai Route, which highlights some of the most iconic moais in the island; there are over 800 of these colossal statues scattered around the island, each unique and of different importance to the natives.

Our first stop was at Ahu Vaihu, a site where the moais are facing down as an indicator that people have been laid to rest there. After we visited Ahu Akahana where the first king of the Island was buried and the Rano Rakuru Volcano, an impressive crater where the ancient natives used to carve the moais before transporting them to their final location. 

Next we visited Ahu Tongariki which is the biggest moai platform on the island with fifteen restored moais; these were originally destroyed in May 1960 by a tsunami.

In the afternoon we visited Ahu Te Pito Kura to see the magnetic rock and the moai Paro – the larges statue in the island. Afterwards we went to Anakena for a swim and to enjoy the sun. This is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island with white sand beaches and large coconut trees; the tropical appearance of the beach made me think I was in Hawaii.

The following day we visited the Rano Kao Volcano to admire its inner fresh water lake inside the crater, which is covered with totora. On top of the crater, the Ceremonial Centre of Orongo can be found where each year the Tangate Manu (Bird Man) Ceremony was celebrated. At this site, you can see over a hundred petroglyphs left there by the ancient natives to represent the god Make Make and Tangata Manu amongst others.   

The ancestral tours continued to the caves of Ana Kai Tangata, which hosts a large number of cave painting before taking us to the Ceremonial Platform of Ahu Vinapu. 

In the afternoon we visited Ahu Akivi, home to The Seven Moais of Rapa Nui; these are the only statues in the island positioned facing the sea. Afterwards we visited Ana Tepahu (The Cave of Bananas) and Puna Pau, where the pukao (the hats for moais) where carved.
Pukaos where used to represent natives of higher social status and were rare with less than eighty on the island overall.

During these excursions we also learned about the different tribes that lived in the island, their social classes, how they sustained themselves and their way of live before the revolution including how they carved the moais and their various ways to transport them. 

The next day I was scheduled to go on a boat tour at Los Motus followed by a snorkelling session. Unfortunately the weather conditions were not ideal for this particular activity so instead I decided to give scuba diving a go. The overall experience was amazing, having never done anything of the sort before I was wary but it turned out to be a very relaxing activity! The water was crystal clear and the coral reef was full of life and colour. 
Had the sea not been so rough that day, I may have even given surfing a go!

In the evening I went to a dinner show at one of the local restaurants located on the main street (Atamu Tekena). The tropical cocktails, seafood starter and main course and a succulent passion fruit tart were a great way to start the evening. Afterward I got my face painted with traditional symbols in preparation for the show.

The cultural ballet gave the audience a great insight to the Rapa Nui culture.
The hostess, who was dressed in traditional Rapa Nui clothing, narrated a story between each dance to explain to the audience the meaning of each amongst their culture. The dancers were incredibly skilled, energetic and passionate about representing their culture through dance. At the end of the show, they invited members of the audience to join them on stage to show and try out their dancing skills.

I didn’t have anything planned for the following day so decided to explore the island a little more, in the process ended up getting a traditional Rapa Nui tattoo with a turtle.

Mokomae is the only certified tattooist who is originally from Easter Island.
He mentioned how he also danced at Kari Kari (one of the local restaurants) so I decided to go to a second show and check out his skills. I am very glad that I decided to do this as the show was completely different to the one from the previous night, with more dancers, other elements and less breaks but equally as good. It is noteworthy that this is the oldest dance group in Rapa Nui and they execute their show without microphones, striving for a more authentic feel. At the end they also invited the viewers to join them on stage which I decided to do as it was my last night in Easter Island.

On the last morning, I was gifted a necklace with a wooden token of a traditional Rapa Nui Moai to commemorate my time in Easter Island.

This was an absolute dream come true! The overall experience was amazing beyond my wildest expectations. I would definitely recommend it to anyone and will be definitely be returning for the Tapati Festival.



SAMPLE ITINERARY:
MYSTERIES & TREASURES OF RAPA NUI 5D/4N

Day 1 
Reception at Mataveri Airport with flower necklaces. Transfer to a hotel in Hanga Roa. Overnight.

Day 2 
A full day tour, along the Moai Route visiting the “Ahu” (ceremonial platform in ruins) Vaihu, a place surrounded by enormous statues which have fallen face down, and the Ahu Akahanga, where the first king of the island was buried. Further along, visit to the Rano Raraku Volcano, which is the most spectacular crater in the zone and where the former island-people carved the giant statues from the volcano's quarry, situated close to the southern shore of the island. Here it is possible to observe the different stages in the Moai construction, the biggest one still remains at the basis of the quarry and is more than 20m long and weighs just less than 200 tons. Afterwards, visit Ahu Tongariki, the biggest Ahu on the Island with 15 Moais, destroyed by a tidal wave in 1960 but restored to its original position. Finally, an expedition to Te Pito Kura, an ancient settlement with a mystical circular stone, finishing at Anakena Beach. Free time to enjoy the warm sea waters that surround the island. In the afternoon, return to the hotel. 

Day 3 Hanga Roa-Volcán Rano Kao-Orongo-Ahu Akivi-Hanga Roa
Half-day tour to the Rano Kao Volcano, whose deep crater of lush vegetation contains a large fresh water lake covered with totora. Afterwards, expedition to the Cultural Centre of Orongo, situated at the top of the crater at over 300 m above sea level and where every year the Bird Man or Tangata Manu ceremony takes place. There are more than 100 petroglyphs that represent the Make-Make god and the Manutara seabird among others. Visit to Ana Kai Tangata, a cavern where the island people took refuge during times of war and where many pre-historic paintings can be seen. Finally, visit Ahu Vinapu, where the interesting architectural style reminds us of the Inca's legacy, due to the perfection of the cuts and location of the stones. Return to the hotel. Overnight.

Day 4 
Half-day excursion, visiting Ahu Akivi, a big platform, which is composed of 7 Moai's, all of them facing the sea; the Ana Tepahu Caverns and the quarry of Puna Pau, where the top part of the Moai's were sculpted (named Pukao, which means "typical hairstyle"). Finally, visit to Ahu Tahai. Return to the hotel. Overnight.

Day 5 Hanga Roa
Transfer to Mataveri Airport at the agreed time for the departure flight. Farewell with shell necklaces.



OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES
Easter Island City Tour
Rapa Nui Dinner Show
Tahai Sunset
Tongariki Sunrise
Diving at Los Motus
Snorkelling at Los Motus 
Terevaka Trekking
Boat Ride
Photography Session
Surffing Lessons













Antarctica & South Georgia