If you are planning trip to Easter Island, (also known as Rapa Nui), located about 2,200 miles from mainland Chile, you may want to plan it for the beginning of February when the Tapati Rapa Nui Festival is held each year. The first of the festivals was held in 1969 and it has been evolving ever since. Now, it lasts for the first two weeks in February.
The festival presents an unusual opportunity for foreigners to experience the customs of the local inhabitants. The inhabitants take it very seriously and it is a great chance to observe traditional song and dance, and taste some traditional foods.
Many of the events that are held are quite physical in nature and some appear downright death-defying. One of these is called the Haka Pei. In this event, men clad in a breechcloth, paint, and nothing else, careen down the side of a volcano feet first on banana trunks. Speeds can reach an impressive and somewhat frightening 43 mph. The horseback riding event is no less impressive, as the contestants ride bareback, racing around with no apparent thought to personal safety.
There’s also a triathlon Easter Island style called the Taua Rapa Nui. First contestants must paddle across the lake within the Rano Raraku crater on a reed boat. Next, they run around the lake laden down by bunches of bananas. The final stage is swimming from one side of the lake to another using a reed raft like a board.
Although less adrenalin filled, the artistic contests are interesting as well. There are contests involving carving, singing, dancing and body painting. Traditional costumes and the sharing of traditional myths and legends that have been passed down orally over the centuries take you back to an earlier time.
If all of this isn’t enough, there are the normal tourist activities that you can engage in. For a relaxing time out, head to Anakena Beach which features gorgeous white sands and crystal clear water. If you are in the mood for something more physical, you can snorkel, scuba dive, bike, horseback ride, and surf.
In terms of booking a tour, the most important consideration is the airfare. Flights fill up fairly quickly, so you may want to start planning months in advance.