Located right across the coast of the Arauco Province, in the Biobío region, Mocha Island stands out due to its particular ecosystem and the importance it boasts for the environment. A 45% of the total surface of the island is part of the Isla Mocha National Reserve, which seeks to protect the flora and fauna of the place.
During the last couple of years, the island has increase its popularity, having been recently chosen as a rising destination in a poll conducted by Enfoque magazine. The island owes this award to the different activities that can be carried out on its territory, such as whale watching, mountain biking, horse-riding, diving, fly fishing, and agrotourism.
But, without a doubt, one of the activities that attracts tourists the most is trekking. Visitors to the island can access two routes: Camino Nuevo pathway and Laguna pathway. The first one takes about an hour and a half and is surrounded by wilderness. Where visitors can appreciate nalcas, olivillos, notros and canelo trees, in terms of flora. In addition to this, visitors to the island can see birds such as the choroy parrot, cachaña, and the spectacular chucao. The second route is for those who are a little more experienced in trekking, as it takes about 3 hours to complete; due to this, this pathway receives a smaller amount of visitors, but that doesn’t make it less impressive. In this path, visitors can observe migratory birds like the fardella castella.
Over the years, Mocha Island has also become important in archaeological terms due to the diverse findings of hens remains and Polynesian skulls. The latter have become key in supporting the theory that Polynesian people lived together with the Mapuche people centuries ago.
Mocha Island also plays a fundamental role within Mapuche mythology and cosmology. The trempulcahue were 4 machis (medical and religious figures within Mapuche culture) that turned into whales and were in charge of taking the souls of dead Mapuche warriors into the “Ngill chenmaywe” (place for people’s reunion). From this point, the souls began their journey westwards. It is believed that Mocha Island is the Ngill chenmaywe due to its proximity to the Arauco province.
But if we’re talking about whales, we can’t ignore the role that this island played as inspiration for Heman Melville’s famous novel “Moby Dick”. In the beginning of the 19th century, a whale known as Mocha Dick inhabited the island; the whale stood out from others due to its white colour. It was believed that it was big and strong and it is considered responsible for many of the shipwrecks that took place in the area. One of the explorers that was victim to a shipwrecks was Jeremiah N. Reynolds, who wrote several observations on the species. His notes found their way to Melville, who was impressed by the story and decided to write his famous novel.
There is no doubt that Mocha Island’s geography, as well as its legends and mysteries, have made the island a place worth discovering.
This post is also available in Spanish