Story by Mel Gee Henderson

Select Images by Weston Hall

Isla de Pascua I had been forewarned by many who have been fortunate enough to visit the world’s most remote island of RAPA NUI that I should  “be prepared to be mystified,” even adding, “there’s something inexplicable about the island that will touch your soul.”

RAPA NUI aka ISLA DE PASCUA aka EASTER ISLAND (Photo by Explora Rapa Nui)

With such an intriguing introduction, I could barely contain myself when our LAN Airlines flight landed on this far-flung island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean—the exact location: Lattitude 27:05 South; Longitude 109:20 West.  In simpler terms, the island is 2,236 miles (3,700 kilometers) from the South American continent, at its nearest point—the Chilean coast.   In other words, we flew approximately 4.5 hours flight across the ocean from Chile’s capital of Santiago—just enough time for a nice pleasant flight, or for two full length feature films!

For those of you who are not well-versed on Rapa Nui, please allow me to provide a quick overview of how this island came to be.


Three million years ago, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean at a depth of almost 9,843 feet (3,000 meters), a huge volcano began to rise up—giving birth to Poike, the first of the big volcanoes, which now forms the eastern edge of the island.  Five hundred thousand years later, a second eruption southeast of the first gave rise to Rano Kau.  And, finally, 300,000 years ago Maunga Terevaka rose up, creating the far northern tip of Rapa Nui, which has a surface area of 64 square miles (166 square kilometers) and a maximum width of 7.5 miles (12 kilometers)—now, that’s one impressive volcano!

It was 1,400 years ago that Rapa Nui’s first human inhabitants arrived from French Polynesia.  These inhabitants developed their own system of hieroglyphic script (the rongo rongo) which experts have yet to decipher, as well as the building of massive statues called “moai” carved out of volcanic rock, to honor and pay tribute to their ancestral kings, village chiefs, according to my conversations with renowned, UCLA archeologist, Dr. Jo Anne Van Tilburg, (pictured below) who was right in the thick of unearthing this newfound moai. This project is the first controlled, scientific archaeological excavations ever undertaken in the interior of Rano Raraku Quarry. It is also the first stone conservation and preservation pilot program in Rano Raraku.

All but one of the 22 standing statues (moai) in Rano Raraku Quarry interior have been previously exposed through unscientific and undocumented digging. According to Dr. Van Tilburg, there are 1,025 moai found throughout the island!

Hundreds of years passed before any new explorers reached the island.  The first to arrive—Dutch mariner Jacob Rogeveen, who gave the island the name of Isla de Pascua or Easter Island because it was on Easter in 1722 that he set foot on this mystical island—yes, even then, writings reveal that it was already providing guests with plenty of mystic!

The ancient culture of Rapa Nui still thrives today, even though at one point, the population had dwindled down to 111 inhabitants.  Today, the island’s approx. 5,000 inhabitants are very proud of their culture, which they have preserved and passed down (oral history) from generation to generation.


No one exemplifies the innate survival instincts of the Rapa Nui people like MIKE RAPU, the co-partner of the EXPLORA lodge on the island that bears his name:  Posada de Mike Rapu.

It's such a privilege to get to know Mike Rapu and learn first hand how this once upon a time, impoverished boy, became the self-made respected leader of Rapa Nui.

Mike (pronounced Meeke) Rapu, co-partner of Explora’s lodge– Posada de Mike Rapu, our ESCAPESEEKER base during our entire Easter Island exploration. Mike was born and raised on Rapa Nui by his grandfather who considered him more like his own child–the youngest of 12 children that is! Although Mike grew up poor, he felt privileged to live on his beautiful island surrounded by the sea.  His uncle often took him fishing, where he learned to swim after him with a bag of speared fish, which in turn lured the sharks!  It was during this time that he really began to embrace the world that lies beneath the sea.

It is in these crystal clear waters where Mike honed his skills as a diver. In 1989, he set up his own diving center at the Hanga Roa Otai fishing cove, one of the most important on the island. I can’t wait to capture on film what lies beneath as I dive with Mike in Rapa Nui’s deep blue waters.

In 2000, he beat the South American record for free diving (apnea), managing to dive to a depth of 71 meters (233 feet) and staying underwater for 3 minutes, 48 seconds. A year later, he broke his own record, descending to 79 meters (259 feet) while training. It’s nice to know, ESCAPESEEKER is in great hands!

He is also a great cook. In fact, in his book “La receta de Mike” (Mike’s Recipe) he presents his own gastronomic ideas for rescuing the culinary tradition of Rapa Nui. Mike promises to cook for our entire film crew when we return. We’re going to hold you to that Mike!

Posada de Mike Rapu, our ESCAPESEEKER suite during our Rapa Nui exploration was exactly that--SWEET!

It did not surprise me to learn that EXPLORA had chosen to partner with Mike Rapu to build its EXPLORA RAPA NUI destination.  EXPLORA firmly believes in working with the local community, and promoting the well-being of its inhabitants.

EXPLORA believes in providing tools for community development as well as providing work opportunities to the local people.  For example, in Rapa Nui, almost all their guides and 60% of the hotel team are of Rapa Nui ethnicity!

Our outstanding EXPLORA guide, Christian, took the time to introduce us to this young Rapa Nui native who is living off the land. It was as if, we'd gone back in time. He generously shared his own "Catch of the day" that he had been grilling in an open fire. Christian articulately translated for us, and it is these kinds of unplanned moments that make exploring the island even more special.

EXPLORA firmly believes that the community is the caretaker of traditions, artistic forms, myths, languages—and believes these cultural manifestations are treasures to be cherished.

And, this was clearly evident in the way they partnered with Mike who directed the entire construction of the structure that now bears his name.

A great deal of thought went into the design and construction of Posada de Mike Rapu to ensure that no matter where you are at the hotel, you're getting the best vantage point of the island's pristine landscape.

It rests on a base of stones extracted from the site where the lodge is built.  These stones were gathered, transported and worked by local hands.  The lodge is designed like an alter, on which the living areas have been built using wood brought from Chile and worked with a carpenter’s precision.  On my first night at the lodge, I actually found myself lying in bed staring at the ceiling, and the entire suite, pondering how it was built so beautifully!

Explora Rapa Nui pool, is exceptionally inviting at sunrise! What an outstanding way to get the day started.

Posade de Mike Rapu has all the amenities you would not normally expect to find in such a remote place.  EXPLORA has turned traveling into an art form—by giving guests tailor-made explorations—experiences that expand the mind and enrich the soul—while also providing a luxuriously designed, purposeful home to return to at the end of each daily adventure.

We cannot wait to return to capture on film the RAPA NUI “mystique” that our entire team admits we openly embraced.  You must stay tuned to ESCAPESEEKER if you want to learn more.  On the other hand, if you can’t wait that long, why not plan out your own EXPLORA “art of travel” journey now.  You know I firmly believe there’s no time like the present to joyfully embrace all that our beautiful world has to offer!  With one click below, you’ll be set to go in no time:

Standing on the edge, with a volcanic crater on one side and the sheer cliff below, my view of the horizon seemed endless! It gave me a real sense of just how remote RAPA NUI is.

The EXPLORA Rapa Nui exceptional experience is worth whatever distance you have to travel…especially if you’re a true ESCAPESEEKER!


Ten Cuidado,


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