The mysterious nature of Easter Island (Rapa Nui) has made visiting the remote spot a dream trip for many avid travellers. But in order to preserve the environment and culture of one of the most isolated places on Earth, the island is introducing a limit to the number of tourists and how long they can stay.
Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island. Image by ©Eric Lafforgue/Lonely Planet
Tourism to the island – famous for the roughly 900 Moai statues that frame its shores – has been increasing despite being more than 3700 kilometres from Chile. Travellers can reach the island on a five-hour flight from Santiago. To combat the impact that the increase is having on the less-than 8000 residents of the island, tourists will now only be allowed to stay on the island for 30 days, down from 90.
Aerial view of Ranu Kao Vulcano, Easter Island. Image by ©Walter Weinberg/500px
The island’s mayor, Petro Edmunds, told AFP that “foreigners are already taking over the island”, which is impacting its long-standing culture. There is also concerns about the local environment as more people leads to more waste.
The time limit for travellers – which applies to international travellers and Chileans who are not a part of the indigenous Rapa Nui people – come into effect as of 1 August. A limit to the number of overall tourists who can visit it is likely on its way, though a number has yet to be established.
While this effort is designed to protect the island and its inhabitants, Chile has also been working to protect the local waters. Last year, a conservation area the size of France was created around the island to help preserve marine life. The region was created after the residents of Easter Island voted for it in a referendum.