Rano Kau Volcano, "Birdman" Village, and Tahai's Moai Statues
Easter Island, Chile
- Rano Kau: Look out over the Pacific from the rim of this ancient volcano, nearly 1,000 feet up. The freshwater lake of the caldera, almost a mile across and ringed by steep green walls, is was where Birdman racers began their mysterious quest.
- Orongo village: See the ancient stone huts that were the center of the Birdman cult. Here, clan chiefs and priests waited to see which tribe would win the race and rule the island.
- Ahu Tahai: At this beachside site dating from 690 A.D., three ceremonial platforms hold seven large stone moais, one a 20-tonner complete with restored eyes and red headdress.
About this Easter Island tour
A trip up to Rano Kau's gigantic crater lake is a visit to someplace magnificent, remote, and primeval, created by explosive forces of nature millions of years ago and left in profound isolation ever since. Here, a thousand feet above the ocean on the tip of an island over 2,200 miles from any continent, a civilization already famous for its eccentric behavior – the obsessive carving of hundreds of massive stone heads to honor ancestors and ward off misfortune – got really strange.
Faced with civil disorder, raids by marauding slavers, and hunger resulting from resource collapse, the locals abandoned their old idols and invented the cult of the Birdman, centered around the rough-hewn stone huts of Orongo village on the volcano's rim. Once a year, representatives from every island clan gathered here and chose their contenders for an endurance race, way more intense than anything you've seen on Survivor.
The young Birdman racers would crawl down a treacherous, 1,000-foot sea cliff through a notch in Rano Kau's rim, swim through shark-infested waters to one of the three offshore islets (motus) below, then hunt for a fresh-laid Easter Island seagull egg.
But to actually win the hunt, they had to swim back and climb up the rocky wall to Orongo with the intact egg strapped safely to their head. The prize? Not individual glory – the winner's labors earned the leader of his clan the right to rule the island and control its dwindling resources until the next year's competition.
Compared with the systems modern societies use to choose their leaders, the Birdman ritual was certainly more hazardous – participants routinely fell to their death from the cliffs below Orongo. But then as now, they had to finish without egg on their face. And at least it was all over in one day.
The lost R-rated Birdman moai
At lofty Orongo village, you'll see some 50 restored basalt and mud huts. What you won't see is one very famous moai – known as Hoa Hakananai'a ("lost or stolen friend") – that was nabbed by the crew of an 1868 English expedition and presented to Queen Victoria. She quickly re-gifted it to the British Museum; the queen whose name became synonymous with an era of sexual prudery probably found the statue's racy fertility imagery too explicit.
Easter Island Pier. Please proceed pier side and look for our GoBe Representative. Your guide will be holding a sign with your name on it.
Air-conditioned transportation cannot be guaranteed in this destination. Please bring some cash for any purchases you might wish to make.
This tour has a moderate amount of walking over paved & sometimes uneven, slippery ground.
Cultural, Family Friendly, Walking Tour, Scenic, Bus Tour
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated moderate. Full participation may require extended periods of walking over even and uneven surfaces, steep terrain and/or water activity in a slight current. There may be steps, inclines, cobblestone surfaces, and extended periods of standing. Participants with physical limitations should take this into account.
Suitable for all ages.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
100 countries, 915 cities… limitless possibilities
All our tours are offered by expert local guides & operators
Head off the beaten path with our unique tours & activities
You can rely on our team of travel industry experts
Your order is subject to TourTrek's Booking Ticket Agreement, including all TourTrek and GoBe policies incorporated therein.
Have you been on this experience?
Write a Review
Fields marked are required.
Please enter your review.