Easter Island is one of the most remote islands in the world, and its isolation is also reflected in its underwater world. Scuba diving on Easter Island is definitely different than diving anywhere else in the world.
Diving on Easter Island
At the first glance, as soon as you hit the water, you realize how blue and clear the water is – visibility can reach up to 200 feet or 60 meters on a great day. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you will be able to spot or hear some whales on their migration routes. This crystal clear water here is mostly due Easter Island’s isolation – there is no major river to carry run-off, and little development means not much human destruction has affected the underwater world. The water temperature is roughly 65°F or 18°C all year long.
You won’t find many colorful fish and coral reefs in these waters, and there are around 160 species of animals, of which many are endemic to Easter Island. These are mostly small creatures. In fact, the largest common animal found here is the green sea turtle, which sometimes comes up into Hanga Roa Harbor to the delight of many excited tourist by the waterline.
All of the dive sites are very close to Hanga Roa Harbor, where your dive boat will depart. Any boat rides to the dive sites will be less than five minutes, so you don’t have to wait too long before hitting the water.
Scuba Diving Centers
There are only a handful of well-established dive centers on the island. In the capital of Hanga Roa, two shops – Mike Rapu and Orca Diving Center are both located next to the main dock. Not far from here – close to Ahu Tahai – Centro de Buceo Tahai and Tortuga Diver are some of other options.
Mike Rapu Dive Center provides great and professional service for any of your diving needs – and this is the shop I chose to go with.
I felt privileged to be able to spend four days scuba diving on Easter Island with them. What are the highlights of Easter Island dive sites? Here are some of my favorite places to scuba dive on Easter Island.
The typical underwater landscape of Easter Island mostly consists of bare volcanic limestone and colonies of young corals growing on it. This is a true description of the Cliff dive site. This is a great introduction to scuba diving on Easter Island.
The Moai Site
I must admit that, although most would consider this to be a scuba diving tourist trap, it’s a trap I’m glad that I fell into!
For months prior to my trip – to run the Easter Island Marathon – I had a picture of the mysterious submerged Moai as the background wallpaper on my work computer. I had been wanderlusting about my Easter Island journey based on this one National Geographic photograph. So, as you might guess, diving this site was one of the highlights of my Easter Island trip!
The statue is medium-size Moai – about 25 feet high. It’s slightly tilted upwards on a volcanic rock, and has started to be covered by blotches of native corals. If you’re open Water certified, this site is with reach. It’s less than 30 feet/9 meters deep. Believe me, it is worth the effort to dive here!
There are a few versions of how this Moai ended up here. My divemaster informed me that it was part of the Kevin Costner movie Rapa Nui, and was donated after the filming and subsequently submerged into Hanga Roa Harbor. People always ask whether it’s a real Moai. The answer is, of course, yes! Yeah, perhaps it wasn’t carved by the ancient Rapa Nui people, but it is still a Moai!
Motu Nui is one of the inhabited islets off the coast of the main island. The people of Rapa Nui view these small islands as sacred places and any underwater life is to remain undisturbed. The site looks different than the rest of the sites – Motu Nui has smooth, grey rocks throughout the site.
Jaques Costeau visited and dove on this spot when he visited in the 1970s.
One of the most famous lava tubes on the island, Matu Tuatara, is located on the cliff just above this diving site. Yes, lava tubes sometimes happen underwater. And if you’ve love to dive through one, you’re in luck. You can dive a series of overhead structures and caverns that seem to mimic a cathedral’s flying buttresses. Keep in mind though that current can be strong at times, and you have to be comfortable diving in small caverns and tubes with currents that sway you from side by side.
So, if you are a certified scuba diver, and if you’re planning on visiting Easter Island, make sure that you include diving in your itinerary. I highly recommend Mike Rapu Diving Center. They include rental gear for CLP35,000 (about $55) for your first 3 dives, then CLP30,000 for the rest. If you’re going in a group, ask for group discount.
Enjoy your dives!
Caleta Hanga Roa O’tai
Isla de Pascua, Chile
P: (56 32) 2551055