The Trip of a Lifetime
from GALAPAGOS TRAVEL
Easter Island • Isla de Pascua • Rapa Nui
No matter what one may call the island, it’s sure to bring mysterious and surreal images to mind. Images of moai, the enormous stone heads/torsos that dot the landscape, oft recalled from childhood explorations through back issues of National Geographic magazines...
Easter Island is a remote dot in the vast South Pacific - at just 7 by 15 miles, with the closest people over 1,000 miles distant, on even smaller Pitcairn Island - Chile and Tahiti are each over 2,200 miles distant, in opposite directions.
Early history of the island is likely to always remain a mystery. The first colonization occurred around 300-400ad, most likely from Polynesia (based on the physical characteristics of the people, their culture, religion, and language).
The population of the island thrived in the early years, reaching a peak of between 10,000-15,000 people. This was more than the small island could bear though. Eventually the ecosystem of the island was stretched to the point of complete deforestation, and a collapse of the society. Bloody civil war broke out between the different clans. The moai were toppled. Society was in ruins. The island’s population plummeted to near 3,000 in just a few years. The first European explorers to see the island (on Easter Sunday, 1722) report standing moai, and forests to be seen in the distant inland valleys. Captain Cook reported seeing neither just 52 years later when his ship called there.
At the society’s peak they accomplished truly amazing things. The moai, and there are nearly 1,000 of them, were carved from the tuff lava of one volcano, Rano Raraku. The red scoria top-knots for the moai were carved from a different volcano. Both parts were then transported tremendous distances to numerous locations scattered around the island, then erected. The Rapa Nui had the only written language, Rongorongo Script, in all of Oceania. Numerous elaborate petroglyphs were carved into the rocks around the island.
The island was ultimately “annexed” by Chile in 1888; Chile’s first, and only, attempt at colonization. This would prove to be another of the many trials the islanders have faced. Between slave raids and disease, the population on the island had dropped to 111 people by the start of the 20th century.
Today the island has both a governor and a mayor. There is also a council of elders who have a fairly strong field of influence. This council has one representative from each Rapa Nui family - 39 in all. There are close to 4,000 people living on the island, with about 2,000 of them being Rapa Nui. The remainder are mostly Chilean. It is estimated that another 1,500 Rapa Nui live in other parts of the world - mostly Tahiti, North America, Europe, and Chile (where many Rapa Nui teens attend school).
To this day one sees relatively few animals. Seasonally seabirds, including frigates, noddies, terns & petrels, nest on the surrounding motu (small islets). Some land birds, including chimango caracara, common Diuca-Finch & Chilean Partridge, are also in evidence. Snorkeling in the beautiful clear blue bays reveals few fish - the fishermen ply their trade several miles offshore where the currents produce a greater abundance.
But, one comes to Rapa Nui for the moai, the history, the culture and these will absolutely amaze!
Our expedition is planned to coincide in part with the annual Tapati Festival on the island. The festival was started in the 1970's as a way to keep the ancient traditions of the island alive. Today it has grown into a wonderful and quirky combination of uniquely Rapa Nui sporting events (everything from running and swimming, to sliding down a hill on banana tree trunks), fishing contests, traditional art competitions and exhibits (stone and wood carving, tapa cloth making, etc.), a beauty pageant, and a huge music and dance festival covering many days. Nightly open-air concerts will feature the best music and performances for nearly 2 weeks. The festival culminates with an extravagant parade down the main street of the village. Exact dates for the 2014 festival will not be set until mid-2013, although we anticipate overlapping with the festival most of our stay.
Our itinerary will include all of the main historical and archeological sites on the island, intermixed with daytime festival highlights.
While on this most remote inhabited island in the world, take the time to also enjoy the night sky, searching for the Southern Cross and other constellations not visible from the northern hemisphere. This is a one-of-a-kind expedition – I don't think you'll find an Easter Island/Rapa Nui/Isla de Pascua tour where you will learn more or get more photo opportunities!
Pair this exciting Easter Island expedition with our Patagonian pre-tour, including the Torres del Paine National Park, for a more complete picture of Chile's varied past and natural wonders.
February 5 • Santiago, Chile
February 6 • Valparaiso
February 7 • Santiago to Easter Island
Days 8, 9, 10, & 11 • Easter Island
February 12 & 13 • Free days on Easter Island
February 14 • Easter Island to Santiago – International Departure
February 15 • Arrival back in the U.S.
Included in Tour Cost:
Accommodations in Santiago are planned for the centrally located 4-star Hotel Plaza San Francisco. Modern in construction, the lovely hotel is furnished is the style of old Chile, including rich woods and plush fabrics throughout.
Accommodations on Rapa Nui are at the small Residencial(guest house) Aloha Nui. The ranch-style former residence of the Edmond family, the Aloha Nui is set in a lush walled garden compound on the main street of Hanga Roa, about a 10 minute stroll from the center of the village. Over the years it has been added on to a couple of times and the original house turned into the Residencial Aloha Nui with 6 guest rooms (all with private bath) plus a spacious sitting room overlooking the garden. Attached to the house by a breezeway is another building housing the palatial dining room, another sitting room, and the kitchen. Breakfasts are a leisurely and extravagant affair, with Maria Reina (Ramon's mother) producing numerous plates of sumptuous treats. Past guests at the Aloha Nui have included presidents and politicos from several countries, American rock stars, the Ecuadorian artist Guayasamin (two of whom’s pieces are personally inscribed to the hosts and hanging in the house), and the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. A bakery, restaurant, and small convenience store are all found just outside front gate.
PAYMENTS AND CANCELLATIONS:
Any cancellations shall be in writing. A comprehensive International Travel Protection Insurance package is available through GALAPAGOS TRAVEL to all U.S. and Canada residents – you will receive policy information along with your deposit receipt.
For Cancellations received:
If a cancellation occurs 75 days or less prior to departure, and full payment has not yet been received, the full penalty still applies and unpaid monies are due immediately. Refunds cannot be made to passengers who do not complete the tour for any reason whatsoever.
Patagonia & Torres del Paine pre-tour
The jewel of mainland Chile is the great Torres del Paine National Park. Located in Chilean Patagonia, the park is in the transition zone between the Magellanic sub-polar forests and the Patagonian Steppes. Among the amazing geological features of the national park (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) are glaciers, lakes, multiple rivers and valleys, granite spires, and the iconic Torres del Paine massif.
The park is comprised of 4 vegetation zones and home to numerous bird species, including as many as 15 breeding bird of prey species. Of mammals, the most likely to be seen are guanacos, with the occasional fox possible too.
This pre-tour is designed to dovetail seamlessly with the Easter Island expedition, finishing up in Santiago just as the main group arrives there...
January 30 • Santiago to Punta Arenas, Chile
January 31 • Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine
February 1, 2 & 3 • Hotel Las Torres Program / Torres del Paine National Park
February 4 • Torres del Paine – Punta Arenas – Santiago
February 5 • Santiago
Included in Pre-Tour Cost:
PAYMENTS AND CANCELLATIONS:
Private Touring Year-Around
You don’t have to wait for a group expedition to experience the wonders of Easter Island...
If you have a week, we will create an extraordinary expedition for you. Between the small size of the island, the expert local guides and private tours, and the ease of flights, this is the perfect holiday if you are pinched for time.
A sample schedule could look something like this... A Saturday evening departure from the U.S. (Los Angeles, Miami or New York) on LAN Airlines puts you into Santiago early Sunday morning. Spend the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying the city (including an afternoon city tour). A Monday morning flight whisks you 2,000 miles across the Pacific, and to another world - Easter Island. Upon your mid-day arrival transfer to the Bed and Breakfast, and then set out of your first guided explorations of the island. Continue exploring with your private guide on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday - seeing and fully experiencing the wonders of Easter Island, the folklore, and her nearly-lost history. Friday is a free day - maybe you want to return to a favorite site, or take a horseback or boat tour, or just enjoy the wonder of being on this remote and amazing island. A Saturday mid-day flight gets you back to Santiago in plenty of time to connect with your international return flight to the U.S., arriving on Sunday morning.
All the details will be taken care of for you, from airport transfers in Santiago and Easter Island to accommodations and expertly guided touring. We can also help with your flights, whether from the US or just between Santiago and Easter Island.
We offer these private tours year-round, whether traveling alone, as a couple, or in a small group. Prices start around $1,800 per person, plus airfare. All travel dates are based on flights, and the program may be shortened or lengthened, on the island or mainland, to suit individual preferences.
Frequently Asked Questions...
When should I go? Anytime! The climate on Rapa Nui is influenced by the ocean, so on the temperate side. Typical December-March daytime temperatures range from the upper 70’s to low 80’s; although humidity may be high, this is when the island sees the most visitors. Temperatures are cooler during the austral winter of June-September (average daytime temperatures are more typically in the 60's to low 70's). Rain showers are possible year-round.
How do I get there? The island is only serviced by one airline: LAN (formerly LAN Chile). Flights are several times a week from either Santiago, Chile, or Tahiti. Flight time is roughly 5 hours from Santiago.
What are Chile's arrival & departure logistics? Upon arrival in the Santiago airport all U.S. Passport holders are charged a reciprocity entrance fee of $160 (a one-time fee for the life of your passport). There are no visa requirements for U.S. Citizens. There is also no international departure tax.
Is this a wildlife tour? Definitely not. Our focus is on the history and the culture. That's not to say that the hard-core birder can't rack up a number of new species though either. Over 6 days on Easter Island in January '07 we saw: Chimango Caracara, Common Diuca-Finch, Rock Dove, Great Frigate, Brown Noddy, Gray Noddy, Sooty Tern, Sooty Shearwater, House Sparrow, Chilean Tinamou, Herald Petrel, White-tailed Tropicbird, Grey-headed Bull, & Chilean Partridge.
Is this a luxury or deluxe tour? No - that's not the direction we wanted to go. Again, we're here for the history and the culture. The Aloha Nui is a wonderful B&B, or Latin American style residencial. The family who run it are wonderful, and you will leave at the end of your trip feeling like you have been staying with family. You will come away with a true sense of the island and its people, and a bit of the magic of Rapa Nui. If it's luxury you're after, maybe the Explora Hotel is more to your liking - their new 5-day all-inclusive program stays well outside of town and starts at well over $3,000 per person!
Where should I eat when a meal is not included in the itinerary? There is a wide range of options, from kiosks selling empanadas and sodas and beer, to cafes "downtown," to the seaside French Restaurant that bills itself as the best French Restaurant in the Pacific. Your choices are many, and your guide will be happy to make recommendations to suit your tastes or mood.
What language is spoken on the island? The native language of the island is Rapanui, although Spanish is also very widely spoken. Most islanders working with tourists in some capacity will also speak at least some English. Whatever the language, everyone is universally friendly so you should have no problem communicating. All guiding is in English.
What is there to do on the island if I have a "free day" in my itinerary? Lots - and the best part is, the island is so small it would be hard to get lost! You could easily rent a car or jeep for the day to either revisit a favorite site (or beach), or explore new territory - maybe drive out to Tongariki to watch the sun rise behind the moai! Bikes are also rented in town if you're looking for some exercise with your adventure. Also, the only ways to visit the roughly one-third of the island's coastline without a road is either by hiking or renting horses (the horse trip, with a cowboy/guide is a great way to see it!). You can also stroll the streets of town, visit the artisan's market, go diving, take surf lessons, go to the museum, or just relax and take in being on Rapa Nui! A 25 minute stroll from the Aloha Nui brings you to the best show on the island - the lavish tropical sunsets as seen through the moai at Tahai.
What about money matters? There is no need to change currency before arriving in Chile - the U.S. Dollar is widely accepted - their local currency is the Chilean Peso. At present US$1 = 500+ Chilean Pesos. There are both exchange booths and ATM machines in the Santiago Airport. Major Credit Cards are commonly accepted in most parts of Chile. Traveler’s checks are easily exchanged in Santiago, but may be difficult to exchange outside the city. Rapa Nui now has three ATM machines as well, although it is best to plan on bringing enough cash, and/or traveler’s checks with you to the island.
Tipping is common practice in hotels and restaurants in Chile. A 10% tip is customary in restaurants and cafés, while a dollar or a few pesos is adequate to porters. Guidelines for tipping on Rapa Nui are roughly $10-15 per day, although, as always, all gratuities are discretionary.
What else to you offer in Chile? We're really focused on Easter Island, and all that it has to offer. However, Chile, with its hundreds of miles of coastline, soaring mountains, deserts, lakes and glaciers, has much to offer as well. Working with a local tour company we have multi-day options in either the Northern Deserts around San Pedro de Atacama, or in Chilean Patagonia and the Torres del Paine National Park in the far south.
Are there any good books about the island? Longitude Books (our favorite book store for travel books on any destination) has put together a wonderful reading list for the island - you can check it out at... www.longitudebooks