ISLAND HISTORY AND INFORMATION
Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as it is know as by the locals, lies in the far Eastern Pacific Ocean and was a late addtion to the worlds 4.5 billion year timeline, forming about 3 million years ago. It is volcanic and rocky, and has a much cooler climate than its tropical neighbours to the west. Wild horses wander its barren landscape and the wild ocean lashes the coast.
It was probably colonized between 800 and 1200 AD by Polynesian people from the West. Within about a thousand years these new settlers would carve their irreversible mark on the island and change its landscape forever. Overpopulation combined with the island’s limited space and resources made dramatic alteration all but inevitable. Upon the arrival of the first Europeans in 1722 the Dutch Captain Jakob Roggeveen reported that although the locals seemed to be in good health, there was not a single tree taller than a man. The original settlers felled the rain forest almost to a tree - and replaced it with some of the most awe inspiring statues the world has known. The famous Moai, megalith statues found in their hundreds around the island.
Following severe food shortages the Moai religion came to a crashing end in the late 17th century followed by an extended period of turmoil and warfare. During this time, the statues were toppled, replaced only by death and destruction with religion being performed in a non structural way only. This upheaval brought a new warrior class to the forefront, the Matato’a. These brave warriors turned from the tradition of their forefathers because it had not served to maintain peace and prosperity as it had promised. Instead, they formed a new religion based around a competition that matched physical prowess with leadership, the Tangata Manu or the Birdman Competition. Only very late in the 1800s did Catholicism came to the fore to replace the ancient religion of the Birdman Cult as the new pressures of slave raids and disease needed new answers.
The natives of Easter Island are stunning people of brown skin and an expressive nature. They have an incredible artistic talent which is notably seen in their world class music and carvings found on the island today. They are direct descendants of the first Polynesians who arrived to Rapa Nui more than a thousand years ago and they have enjoyed an unbroken presence on the island ever since. Blood kinship, a shared history and understanding of the world along with their identification with the island itself bind the people together as a strong community.
Today’s Rapanui share the same tenacity, physical prowess and survival instinct as their explorer forefathers who survived an epic journey to arrive here from more than 2000kms from the west. Consequently they look similar to other Polynesians from Hawaii, New Zealand and Tahiti. Although intermarriage with foreigners in recent times has brought a physical and cultural diversity, the Rapanui remain a generous and proud people with an unbreakable cultural core. Their cultural inspiration is drawn more from their Polynesian cousins to the west than their governing body of Chile to the East, although the South America- Polynesia mix found on the island is truly unique in the world.
GETTING THERE AND AWAY - ARRIVAL BY AIR
- Easter Island is fortunate to be served by Latin America's best and largest airline, and Oneworld partner, LATAM Airlines (www.latam.com). The island enjoys direct flights from Santiago de Chile and from Tahiti (French Polynesia), taking about 6 hours in either direction and is operated by a modern Boeing 767 aircraft.
INCLUDING EASTER ISLAND IN A ROUND THE WORLD TRIP
Ever since LATAM was incorporated into the Oneworld Alliance in 2001, many people started choosing to include this once-inaccessible island, and to visit Easter Island as an exciting stopover on their world tour. The numerous options for visiting the island as part of a South American airpass, Circle Pacific fare or Round The World (RTW) ticket are best explained by a travel agent with good and up-to-date information, but it is now possible to fly as part of a RTW ticket, in either direction:
- South America - Easter Island - Tahiti - New Zealand - Australia
Given LATAM's extensive coverage of South America, Easter Island can also be included in trips to Machu Picchu, Iguazu Falls and the Galapagos Islands.