Birds and Culture of Easter Island
Iorana…the traditional Rapa Nui word for greeting. That the same word is used in Tahiti goes to show how this remote and mysterious island came to be populated. If you want to explore the Polynesian culture and combine it with some unusual and interesting birding then this is the right trip for you!
Easter Island is one of the more enigmatic and isolated places on the entire planet. It’s part of Polynesia and is located practically in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The island is culturally rich and an excellent area for seabirds. Declared a World Heritage site, most of the island is protected within the Rapa Nui National Park.
Given that it is more than 2000 miles from Chile, you might wonder how Chile was able to annex the Island in 1888 without conflict. Actually, Chile was simply lucky to be the closest mainland country!
One of the important ancestral rituals on the island, the Tangata Manu, is an extraordinary rite of passage in which the young men had to swim to offshore islets or “motus” to retrieve an egg from the seabird colony and return ashore to be crowned as the King for the following year.
This tour makes the most of the fantastic seabirds, as well as other attractions on this magical island. We’ll be accompanied by a native guide that will lead us through Rapa Nui’s history and also visit the main archaeological sites, where we the colossal Moai statues stand. We’ll also go to the megalithic ‘workshop’ on the slopes of Rano Raraku Volcano, where giant Moais (some of them 21 meters high) were left half-built or on their way to the final altar.
With regards to birding around the island, we will do short boat trips to watch the seabird colonies on three motus (Motu Kau Kau, Motu Iti and Motu Nui).The seabirds arrive at the motus late in the day and leave the colonies early in the morning. By choosing our time carefully we will have the chance to see amazing displays of Pterodromas! Five different species of Petrel breed here (Kermadec, Herald, Phoenix, Murphy’s and Henderson Petrels), among other species of seabirds! When not visiting archeological sites or seabirding, we’ll take the chance to search for the terrestrial birds that inhabit the island.
This trip offers magnificent photo opportunities of seabirds, fascinating Moais and a lot of culture. The Polynesian influence also produced a fabulous cuisine, rich in fruits and local fish.
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Birding
Day 1: Santiago to Easter Island
Day 2 & 3: Rano Raraku Volcano and Birding the Motus
Day 4: Motus birding and cultural farewell. Flight back to Santiago
- Moais and their mind-boggling history
- Specialties of the middle of the Pacific Ocean: Kermadec, Herald, Phoenix, Murphy’s and Henderson Petrels
- Relaxed pace; short and easy walks and boat trips
Ease of Birding
- Most species are easy to see.
- All meals
- Pick up/drop off in Santiago
- Flights Santiago – Easter Island – Santiago
- Park entrance fees
- eBird checklists for the day’s stops
Day 1 - SANTIAGO TO EASTER ISLAND
We’ll board an early flight from Santiago to Mataver, Easter Island, were we’ll be received with a traditional island welcome. During the afternoon we will do a short walk near to the small town Hanga Roa, where we will see some birds and our first Moais.
Day 2 & 3 - RANO RARAKU VOLCANO AND BIRDING THE MOTUS
During the morning we will do an archaeological tour to visit one of the more impressive places on the Island – the megalithic ‘workshop’ on the slopes of Rano Raraku Volcano. Here we’ll marvel at the spectacular Ahu Tongariki (an altar of 15 aligned moais). One of the bird highlight of the area are the Red-tailed Tropicbirds that breed among the Moais! During late afternoon we’ll do a boat trip to the Motus in search of Petrels (Kermadec, Herald, Phoenix, Murphy’s and Henderson Petrels).
On the morning of the second third day we’ll visit the ceremonial village of Orongo, located at the top of Rano Kau Volcano. This is one of the highest points of the Island where there are fantastic panoramic views.
The slopes of Rano Kau are also a breeding group for Kermadec Petrels. A multitude of petrels will be making aerial displays to entertain us.
Again, during late afternoon we’ll sail around the Motus to ensure no species of Petrel evade us.
Day 4 - MOTUS AND CULTURAL FAREWELL. FLIGHT BACK TO SANTIAGO
At sunrise we’ll do a boat trip to the Motus, where we’ll spend some hours sailing around it enjoying the seabirds making their daily commute from the breeding colonies to the open ocean to hunt for food.
As a final cultural experience we’ll visit the great museum in town. After lunch we’ll catch the afternoon flight back to Santiago.
If you are continuing on another trip with us, we’ll take you to your hotel in preparation for the next day’s adventure.