Thousands of visitors are set to fly to Chile’s Easter Island to view the longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century scheduled for July 11, 2010. But Easter Island inhabitants warn the tiny isle cannot accommodate so many people.
The eclipse will last only four minutes and 45 seconds. It takes a five-hour flight to get to Easter Island from Santiago, the nearest international airport. Still, people from around the world have booked plane tickets and hotels for the last six years. All 1.500 rooms available in the island have been booked for months.
The Dreamvibe production company is organizing a major event called “Honu Eclipse,” which is expected to bring in over 2.000 people. The event is planned in the Terevaka sector of the island, approximately seven kilometres from Hanga Roa, the main town.
A music festival is conjointly planned for July 7-13, 2010.
The 5.000 people living on the island are not pleased with the forecasted sudden influx of visitors, fearing the island will be negatively affected. Every year the Polynesian island welcomes 50.000 travellers who want to see the mystical and famous Moai statues.
The director of Rapa Nui’s National Forestry Service (CONAF), Niskosa Kuadros, said the island is an archaeological site and it should not have so many visitors at once. He fears islanders will lose control of the event and that people will not respect the protected areas.
But the event’s organizer, Rocío Zapata, insists the event will be an ecological in nature and will benefit the island. She says this festival will prove that the infrastructure of the island can handle a large amount of visitors and will ultimately stimulate the tourism industry for years to come, thus benefiting the island’s industry.
Prices for everything, from lodging to commodities for tourists, have sharply risen for the eclipse and festival dates between five to 10 times the usual prices. Many people will pay 500 US dollars per person for a 12-day trip excluding airfare to secure camping rights on the island from July 1-15. A flight, from the only air carrier travelling to the island will cost over 1.000, compared to 360 USD for a flight during the summer season. Some rooms are being sold at over 3.000 USD for a four-night package.
Still, it appears that thousands will go to any lengths to see this extraordinary astronomical event in remote locations. For example, Asia has also been flooded with tourists for the first sightings of this eclipse one week ago.
The six-minute total eclipse was seen on July 22, 2009 in southwest China across the cities of Chengdu and Chongqing to Shanghai and Hangzhou in eastern Zhejiang province. The eclipse will then only be seen next year in the South Pacific, Easter Island and French Polynesian.
By Melanie Meloche-Holubowski - Santiago Times