Chilean territory is not limited to the South American continent. Two
vastly different Pacific islands, Easter Island and Robinson Crusoe Island,
lend an entirely different aspect to the Chile experience.
Easter Island is a destination that seems to inhabit our subconscious.
The image of those great stone "moai" with their backs to the
vast Pacific strikes some chord within us, recalls some ancient, creative
This is the world's most isolated bit of land, a tiny pinprick in the
great pacific, a mound of consolidated lava and ash from three submarine
volcanoes. The natives call their island Rapa Nui or Te Pito o Te Henua,
'the navel of the earth.'
Linguistic and cultural comparisons indicate that the first humans on
Easter Island arrived from the west, most likely from the Marquesas islands
or Mangareva, as part of a greater migratory process which spread Polynesian
culture throughout the south Pacific. However, the twelve centuries which
elapsed between the arrival of the first intrepid 'settlers' near 500
the 'discovery' of the island in 1722 by the Dutch admiral Jacob Roggeveen
are among the world's great mysteries.
European sailors visiting the island found that the natives could not
explain the construction and transport of the great moai megaliths, the
largest of which exceeds sixty feet in height. Nor could they decipher
rongo rongo tablets whose hieroglyphic script appears to be a forgotten
of written language. Somewhere in the past - a past which seems to have
seesawed from ancestor worship, monument building and population growth,
deforestation and food shortages, feuding and in some cases even cannibalism
- the old knowledge had been lost. It is the mystery of these disappeared
artisans, and the awesome presence of their works, which continues to
scientists and seekers from across the globe.
Today, Rapa Nui National Park protects most of the island's archaeological
sites, and the native todomiro forests that once graced the island are
replanted. Opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, birding and horseback
riding abound on the island, while a rich marine ecosystem of corals and
colorful tropical fish makes Easter Island a prime destination for scuba
diving and snorkeling.
Archipelago Juan Fernandez
(Robinson Crusoe Island)
This tiny group of islands, located some four hundred miles off the Chilean
coast, includes what is probably literature's most famous 'deserted' island.
Isla Robinson Crusoe is the very island on which the Scottish mariner
Alexander Selkirk was marooned for over four years: his recollections
ordeal gave rise to Daniel Defoe's famous novel and the island dreams
so many share.
Rising dramatically from the Pacific to jagged peaks exceeding 5000 feet,
the islands of the Juan Fernández archipelago are home to one of
highly endemic ecosystems in the world. Over 60% of native plant species
the island are found nowhere else of earth, while notable endemic fauna
include 6 species or sub-species of birding and the Juan Fernandez fur
back from near extinction around the turn of the century. Today, the entire
archipelago is protected as a national park and UNESCO World Biosphere
Reserve, boding well for the preservation of biodiversity on Juan Fernández.Isla Robinson Crusoe has the archipelago's only permanent
centered in and around the town of San Juan Bautista, with a local economy
based largely on the harvest of delicious spiny lobsters. Tourism in the
islands is decidedly low-key, with a number of comfortable pensions and
restaurants available in San Juan Bautista. Hiking trails, fishing,
birdwatching and diving are all excellent options for active travelers.