Ranu Raraku volcano is home to Easter Island’s most celebrated ruins, the mighty moi, and lies 18 kilometres (11 miles) outside of Hanga Roa, the island’s main town, dedicated capital and harbour port. It is situated in the southern part of the west coast, nestled in the lowlands among the extinct volcanoes of Terevaka and Rano Kau. Ranu Raraku is simply known as the ‘Nursery’ and was the chief quarry for the massive moai sculptures, which were whittled out of the soft rock that developed from solidified volcanic ash. These magnificent human figures were etched on the southern face of Ranu Raraku, during early Polynesian times, by the Rapa Nui people. They stood as symbols of the living faces of ancestors, looking inland across their ancestral lands.
The viewpoint at the peak of the Ranu Raraku presents uninterrupted views of an azure lake below, flanked by 20 imposing moai, weighing in at over 12 tons,and with an average height of around four metres (13 feet).
The most iconic moai on Ranu Raraku is the kneeling form of Moai Tukuturi, boasting a full body squatting on its heels, with its forearms and hands resting gracefully on its exposed thighs. Another renowned moai, El Gigante, is easily the largest of the carvings, standing at 21 metres (69 feet) high and weighing a mammoth 270 tons. It is estimated that over 95 percent of the moai were carved at Ranu Raraku before being distributed across the island.
The long-abandoned quarry is awash with 396 unfinished moai, in different degrees of completion. These living deities symbolised power and authority. They encompass both the religious and political aspects of the local tribes, and represent the sacred spirit looking out for tribesmen, and guiding lost travellers home.