The Faces and Places of Easter Island

Mar 28, 2019 - National Geographic Orion

Plenty of us were out on the spiritual altar of Ahu Tongariki, the largest on the island, to witness today’s stunning sunrise. This site includes a complex of 15 moai that were restored and erected in the 1990s. The beautiful experience was enriched by a customary musical performance.

After breakfast, we all went to the most important and most impressive archeological site on Rapa Nui, the Rano Raraku quarry. One side of the Rano Raraku volcano consists of a geological formation of tuff stone that is the best material on the island for producing the huge moai sculptures. Here, we could see statues in all stages of development, from unfinished carvings within the rock face, to the finished products standing on the slope ready for transport. This is the place where most of the famous photos of the Rapa Nui statues have been taken.

From Rano Raraku, we could see Ahu Tongariki a few miles away over by the coast. Now, we had a chance to visit it again, this time with our knowledgeable guides. The moai were toppled on purpose, during the periods of unrest throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. The site was later completely decimated by a tsunami in the 1960s, and it took several years to restore the complex to its original setup.

A barbeque lunch was prepared for us at Anakena Beach, complete with an elegant setup of tents, chairs, and tables with white linen tablecloths. The food consisted of various delicious Polynesian specialties, which were interspersed with other buffet goods. In the later afternoon, some guests went directly back to their hotels, some went to the main town center, some stayed longer at the beautiful white sand beach and coconut plantation for swimming, and several continued on farther up the coast to hike to Ahu Te Pito Kura. Pito Kura is significant, because here was the largest moai ever erected, but unfortunately it is now broken and in ruin. A large spherical stone located nearby is a bit of an enigma, as the archeologists don’t know what it was used for. Everyone returned to their respective hotels for dinner, where after some came back out to make the most of a nice, starry sky above.

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About the Author

Tom Ritchie


Tom is a professional naturalist and expedition leader who has worked in the field of expedition cruising almost since its inception by Lars Lindblad. Growing up near the Everglades allowed him to spend his youth exploring the swamps, marshes, forests, and reef systems of South Florida, a perfect training ground for his life with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic.

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