Easter Island: Ahu Nau Nau

Anakena beach Easter Island

Ahu Nau Nau situated near the only sand beach on the island at Anakena. The Moai statues here are in a beautiful location with palm trees.

Ahu Nau Nau was restored in 1978 by the islander archaeologist Sergio Rapu. All of the Moai here had elaborate topknots (pukao).

An important finding here was that of an almost complete eye made of coral, with a red volcanic scoria disc to represent the iris, inlaid in a circular cavity in the coral. The eye sockets of the Moai quarried at Rano Raraku were not carved until they were upright on the ahus (in order to bring them to life). It is therefore possible to tell which Moai had been erected, and which were still in transit when the society collapsed.

Here is also the ‘Navel of the World’, a ceremonial site which contains an egg shaped stone.

Easter Island: Ahu Tongariki


Ahu Tongariki (substantially restored in the 1990s), one of the most impressive locations on the island.

Tongariki contains fifteen of the largest Moai statues including an 86 tonne Moai that is the heaviest ever erected on the island.

The Moais are lined up facing inland from the Pacific towards Rano Raraku.

The statues have quite distinctive faces that require the use of telephoto lenses, but the entire landscape surrounding this location is great for further exploration.

Easter Island: Hanga Roa

fishing boats easter island

There are several Rapa Nui sites of interest here to photograph including Ahu Vai Uri, and Ahu Akivi.

Akivi in particular is of interest because it is the only site on the island where the Moai statues face out towards the sea, as well as being situated inland. They are a dramatic feature of the landscape.

Kao Kao volcano and the ceremonial village of Orongo contain superb views over the three islets Motu Iti, Motu Kao Kao and Motu Nui. There is an abundance of petroglyphs to be found at this ceremonial site.

Volcano Kao Kao is a spectacular cauldron that demands the use of ultra wide-angle lenses.

All three islets have sea birds but Motu Nui was also an essential location for the Tangata manu (Bird Man) cult which was the island religion between the Moai era and Christina times.

Motu Nui is the summit of a large volcanic mountain which rises over 2,000m from the sea bed. The ritual was a competition to collect the first egg of the manutara (the Sooty tern). This took place starting from Motu Nui where the Hopu (representatives from each clan) waited for the Sooty terns to lay their first eggs of the season. The Hopu who seized the first egg raced to swim back to the main land, climbed the cliffs to Orongo and presented the egg to their sponsor in front of the judges at Orongo. This gave their sponsor the title of Tangata manu, and great power on the Island for a year. Many Hopu were killed by sharks or by falling. The winning clan gained certain rights including the collecting of eggs and young birds from the islets.

Easter Island: Poike

big crater easter-island

Poike, one of the three main volcanoes of Easter Island.

Poike forms the eastern headland and there is an abrupt cliff “the Poike ditch” across the island marking the boundary between flows from Terevaka and Poike.

Poike last erupted between 230,000 to 705,000 years ago, and as the oldest of the island’s three volcanoes is the most weathered with relatively stoneless soil.

At 370 metres it is the island’s second highest peak after Terevaka.

For those who are keen, you can also visit the top of Terevaka, the central volcano on the island.

Terevaka is less than 400,000 years old. Its lava field at Roiho has been dated at between 110,000 and 150,000 years old.

Easter Island: Rano Raraku

Ranu Raraku Easter Island

Rano Raraku volcano is of particular note as the birth place for the majority of the Moai statues.

For almost 500 years this was a quarry supplying the stone for the statues. Rano Raraku is a visual record of Moai design and technological innovation.

The edges of the volcano are littered with nearly 400 statues, some still in-situ with others erect on the slopes.

The incomplete statues in the quarry are remarkable for their number, for the inaccessibility of some that were high on the outside crater wall and for the size of the largest;

At 21 metres in height almost twice that of any Moai ever completed, and weighing an estimated 270 tonnes, many times the weight of any transported.

Some of the incomplete Moai seem to have been abandoned after the carvers encountered inclusions of very hard rock in the material.

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