Easter Island Day 2: Moai Abound


Moai at Tahai

so many moai

ahh, the moai, the statues that made Easter Island famous and why most people (including me) were drawn there. this day was spent driving around the island going to the major ahus (the sacred platforms that the moai stand on; do not walk on them!). all the moai were toppled by the late 19th century as the Rapa Nui civilization fell. many, but by no means the majority, have been restored and placed back upright.

it should be noted that back in the day, if a moai fell while being transported from the quarry (Rano Raraku) to its final location, it was left where it landed, as either they physically couldn’t pick them back up to transport again, or it was considered “cursed” (or both?). as you make your way around Easter Island, you’ll see many statues just lying on the ground.

the private tour i took went basically in a clockwise direction, while most bus tours go counterclockwise. we did this to avoid the crowds and we were successful! (i suppose it also helps that it’s low season.) in most cases there were just a small handful of people at each site, if not absolutely nobody but us (and wildlife).


the beach at Anakena was our first stop. perhaps fitting, it was supposedly here where Hotu Matu’a, the founding chief of the original settlers, first landed on the island. there is currently construction going on: a big upgrade to the facilities including new craft stalls and eating areas. (Anakena, Rano Raraku, and Orongo have visitor facilities. other ahus are pretty much “in the wild”.)

unfortunately it was overcast in the morning so the sky was not very good for pictures.


Moai with pukao, the red hats or topknots. Only a handful of moai have pukao on them.


Ahu Nao-Nao, the main ahu at Anakena, through palm trees


A small shrine up the hill a bit, inside a small grove of trees


Anakena Beach, looking toward the ahus

ahu te pito kura

i’m not sure why exactly we stopped here since there was nothing special, but it’s one of the standard places, and there were cute horses, so why not. here you can find an ahu with still-toppled statues and the so-called “navel of the world” — a round rock, likely not important other than it looks pretty neat. i was told the whole setup around the rock was a modern-day contrivance and that its magnetic properties are in fact not special for rocks on the island.


These horses kept following us around!


Toppled moai and his hat


The Navel of the World

i told my guide that seeing toppled moai made me sad; he said that’s a common reaction. his, though, was anger that nothing has been done to re-erect them. ultimately there are many excuses (perhaps some valid), but he said (and i agree) that there are many ahus in wonderful locations with moai in decent condition that could be restored.

ahu tongariki

the largest ahu with the most statues on it on the island, it’s arguably one of the most scenic as well. it’s supposed to be especially wonderful during the summer solstice when the sun rises directly behind the center statue.




The ahu and a solitary horse eating lunch


A closer view of the moai

rano raraku

this crater was the main quarry for the vast majority of the moai. it’s also the home of some of the most famous, since there have always been upright statues here (remember, all the ones on the ahus had been toppled). many were abandoned on their way down to their final locations, only to be covered up to their necks over time. there are also many still unfinished, embedded in the rock, with the initial sculpting and freeing phase never completed.


A view of the crater lake of Rano Raraku. Some moai are still embedded on the inside of the crater (not visible, but they’re to the right).


Perhaps the most famous moai? Also, *duckface*.


Embedded moai


A view down to Tongariki


A mommy bird and a baby bird in a crevice in the rocks. I don’t think I would have seen them had the guide not pointed them out (he’s been following the baby’s growth each time he passes by).

tidal pools

on the way back to Hanga Roa, we passed by some tidal pools the guide had never explored, so we stopped. it was amazing walking along the jagged rocks while the waves crashed in, forming a waterfall that fed a secluded pool.


It seemed like the tide was slowly coming in — slowly but forcefully!


I was chasing waterfalls…


…which fed this serene pool.

sunset at tahai

for sunset, i walked from Hanga Roa to Tahai (not far, just start from the harbor with the coast to your left for 5-10 minutes until you come to the ahus). i was glad the sun and sky did not disappoint!


Panorama of the ahus


A lone moai and his hat


Goodbye, sun!


And thus ended my day with the moai

2 Comments on "Easter Island Day 2: Moai Abound"

  1. Amazing photos and trip report…keep ’em coming!

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