Located in the south-eastern Pacific, Easter Island is best known for their stone Moai statues that are up to 1,000 years old. Besides this, the island’s quality as a dive destination is largely unknown.
For many travellers, the colossal stone statues on Easter Island provide them with a reason to visit the island. These statues are up to eleven metres high, and weigh up to 90 tonnes each. They had been transported from a side crater of the Rano Raraku volcano onto ceremonial platforms on the coast of Easter Island. To this day, we do not know how these heavy statues were moved.
Despite its remoteness, Easter Island (also known as Isla de Pascua; Rapa Nui or Te Pito te Henua [meaning “the Navel of the World”]) is visited by almost 70,000 tourists annually. It is about 3,500 off the coast of the mainland coast of Chile and the French Polynesia, and is home to only 6,000 people. On average, tourists spend about three days there, exploring the island.
Jacques Cousteau's legacy
The real treasures of Easter Island can be found beneath the ocean surface. In 1976, Henry Garcia from France had accompanied the legendary Jacques Cousteau in his expedition to explore and film the underwater world, a task that led them to the island. Then, after seven months of research and filming, the production crew sailed away on the research vessel Calypso. Henry, however, stayed behind for a nine-month break on the island.
After a brief visit to his home in France and a further mission with Cousteau, Garcia’s longing for his adopted country was so great that he returned to Easter Island two years later. Together with his brother, he then opened the island’s first dive centre in Hanga Roa, the capital.
If you dive into the waters of Easter Island looking for colourful fish and sea slugs, or big fish, you will be disappointed. The ocean surrounding the island is actually cold and nutrient-poor, despite the fact that the nutrient-rich Humboldt-Current passes through this area.
Along the coast, the surf stirs up much sediment. However, since no major rivers or untreated sewage enter the waters out at sea, the seawater here is incredibly clear. No other destination—except the Silfra in Iceland—has such clear water.
Tourists who are serious divers hardly visit Easter Island. Instead, the clientele of the island’s dive centres are mainly casual divers who do just one or two dives during their entire visit. They typically visit the Moai dive site, which is suitable for beginners. This is where a replica of a Moai statue was sunk in about 20 metres of water, and is surrounded by well-preserved hard coral reefs.
As for the other two dive sites in the vicinity, they can only be accessed under favourable conditions. One of them is the Motu dive site, where the walls fall steeply well above the waterline into the depths. At 20 metres, you can see catch sight of the ground. Then, at 40 or 50 metres, the steep walls appear to move in, and are littered with small coral and sandy ground. However, the incredible visibility of the waters can deceive even experienced divers; at this point, the depth would have been nearly 80 metres.
Although largely overlooked by the diving community, Easter Island offers unforgettable dives. Hardly anyone would spend a dive holiday alone here. With the famous dive destinations of Rangiroa and Fakarava nearby, as well as the French Polynesia islands, what you get is a dream holiday combined with culture, great beaches and some exciting and varied dives.