Samoa: The new ‘it’ location for food and wellbeing!
High on the hill at Fasito’o-uta at Ifiele’ele Plantation, I’m overlooking an expansive forest which blends into the sea. You could be forgiven for thinking you are the only person on earth here, it’s paradise, but I’m actually not alone,
I’m lounging on the deck, sipping a niu and chatting with Joan, whilst Paul, her very fun and talented husband whips us up a feast, something he’s playing with for the new menu that they’re featuring in one of the two holiday packages they’re offering from the plantation.
Ifiele’ele Plantation has been running as a boutique, self catering, Eco-Retreat, holiday accommodation for 2 ½ years. Paul and Joan have lived in Samoa since 2009, and what they have built here, is nothing short of amazing. The holiday packages we’re discussing were brought about by their respect for the environment, their love of food, a passion for health and well-being and wanting to help international visitors experience and discover the best things about Samoa.
Two holiday packages are offered: a ‘Yoga and Wellness Escape’ and a ‘Taste of Samoa - Cuisine and Culture’. Both include four nights accommodation at Ifiele’ele, all meals, airport transfers and guided activities to local attractions.
As the name suggests, the ‘Taste of Samoa’ holiday package is all about food. Food is at the heart of Samoan culture. Today some of Samoa’s best chefs are creating exciting new dishes using local organic ingredients.
The “Taste of Samoa” package gives you the opportunity to sample the best of both traditional and modern Samoan cuisine. You’ll begin by helping to gather foods from the plantation and prepare for an umu. The master chef will explain how the umu is made and you can help in the preparation of the feast.
Also in the package you’ll visit markets and taste local coffees and koko Samoa and choose fresh fish for your dinner. Modern Samoan cuisine is also showcased with a contemporary food tour through Apia with Nanise Tolovae. Nanise will take guests to visit some of her favourite restaurants and cafes. “We’re really happy to show people what is happening here in Samoa with food; places like Palusami, Legends and Scalinis have such delicious meals!”.
Ifiele’ele’s philosophy is to use fresh, locally grown, organic ingredients, which are sourced from the plantation or from farmers in and around the village. This is a four night retreat and will have you blown away by what Samoa has to offer up on your plate ... an epicurean’s dream!
I am lucky enough to be teaching yoga and meditation for the other holiday package, the “Yoga and Wellness Escape”– also, to be held once a month. Ifiele’ele plantation is the perfect location to unwind and immerse yourself in the tranquility of Samoa, vast landscaped gardens with a breathtakingly, dramatic backdrop make this place perfect for finding your inner Zen Monk.
The retreat is for four nights and three days, includes all food, local, organic and ‘ah-mayzing’. Yoga and meditation are practiced twice a day at various spots across the property. My favourite place is in the yoga glade, a cleared circle in the rainforest with a canopy of lush green above and surrounding.
We access this glade via a meandering path through the forest, it’s absolute heaven! All yoga classes are taught from a beginners’ level, right through to advanced. You’ll be learning yin yoga, kundalini and Hatha. Each Yoga and Wellness Escape can host up to eight people and the yoga can be tailored to your requirements. The Yoga and Wellness Escape includes optional spa treatments, massage and general body pampering.
Ifiele’ele is conveniently located close to the airport and offers transfers for international guests as well as tours to some of the wonderful local points of interest for activities such as swimming with the Giant Clams at Savaia and a walk around Manono Island.
Ifiele’ele also hosts one-night yoga retreats which are designed for people living locally. These short ‘Yoga Treats’ are a great way to unwind at the end of the working week. Starting on Friday afternoon, the mini retreat includes a 90 minute yoga class and two course vegetarian dinner, a discussion on yoga and an optional yoga film or documentary. Saturday morning starts with an early meditation session, followed by another 90 minute yoga set.
A noon checkout allows guests to have a leisurely breakfast and relax before heading off to enjoy the rest of the weekend. The next ‘Yoga Treat’ is scheduled for Friday 4th of March. This will be a very fun overnighter. Only 10 spots are available and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.
Sun, Surfing and Sasa....8 Reasons to go to Samoa
There are few places left in the world that can actually be considered exotic. The independent country of Samoa—formerly known as Western Samoa and not to be confused American Samoa—is one of them. The tiny archipelago is far from anywhere in the South Pacific, and is a place of sugar-soft beaches, people dressed in sarongs (called lava lavas here), intriguing traditional dances, and little evidence that this is the 21st century. Still, it’s safe, welcoming, and ultimately not all that hard to get to (a 5.5-hour flight from Honolulu or 3.5 hours from Auckland).
But the best part is that there’s no one else there—yet.
While Samoa has long been a beach-flop destination for a few New Zealanders and Australians, it doesn’t register that high on the international radar. However, word is getting out and American brands are starting to setting up shop. There are two new Sheraton Resorts in the capital and near the international airport, and a few new smaller establishments.
Even with the growth, it’s common to have one of those white beaches all to yourself. That’s especially true on Savai’i, the less populated of the two main islands, with just 42,000 people on about 650 square miles, and no big resorts.
Here are some of the highlights on Savai’i.
THE ALOFAAGA BLOWHOLES
When my Facebook status mentioned Samoa, friends started asking if I’d seen the blow holes yet. It’s rare that people get so uniformly excited about a geological feature, but this one is seriously crazy. The Alofaaga Blowholes are a series of gaps in the volcanic rocks along the coast of Savai’i that allow waves to come in, before forcing them violently 100 feet into the air. Buy some coconuts from the local vendors, toss them in at the right moment, and watch them fly!
Forget any hula shows you may have seen in Hawaii or cultural performances in Tahiti. If you see dancing here, it’s because it’s really time to dance — with or without tourists in the audience.
The most common dances are a lively male counterpart to the hula called the sasa, and the slightly violent fa’ataupati, or “slap dance,” in which men slap their bodies in ways said to have been derived from the motions of killing insects. And then there’s the taualuga, in which a group of men dance around a woman, then lie down in turns so she can step on their backs.
THE SURFING IS OUT OF THIS WORLD
Aside from the Kiwi beach-floppers, the main group of people who have typically visited Samoa have been serious surfers. They love the bragging rights associated with surfing gnarly waves—and the area is full of them. But it’s not just for super advanced surfers — even brand-new beginners can enjoy.
THERE IS A TERRIFIC NEW RESORT
Mainly marketed as a surf destination, the new Aganoa Lodge Samoa is much more than that. Sure, the spectacular point break is just a short swim from the main house, but it’s hardly the only reason to visit. Reopened after a major investment from a group of Americans in February, the lodge consists of eight dreamy open-air fales, whose beds are mere steps from the beach. Beyond surfing, Aganoa offers SUP, snorkeling, island sightseeing, and simply relaxing on the empty white beach.
AFU AFU FALLS Samoa is hot—the average temperature is 86F, and the water is 77F. The cold-water showers at many of the fale accommodations (including Aganoa) come as a relief. Looking for an even better way to cool off? Take a five-minute hike followed by a leap of a rock edge into the cool freshwater pool beneath the Afu Afu Falls. It’s a short swim across to the base of the falls, where you can pose for a terrific photo.
Regardless of your religious beliefs, it’s worth going to church on a Sunday to see Samoan culture at its most distinctive and vibrant. The 19th-century missionaries were effective, and the overlay of Christianity on the traditional culture is fascinating. You see it whenever you drive by a brightly colored church, whose over-the-top architectural style you can’t quite name. There’s a nightly evening prayer curfew around 6 p.m.—which can be annoying, as visitors aren’t supposed to drive during that time. But nothing but church happens on Sundays anyway, so you might as well go. Everyone in the villages turns out in their best clothes for an hour of exuberant singing and celebration.
THERE IS NO STARBUCKS
Or any other sign of Western culture. There’s little need for caffeine anyway, as life moves awfully slow here. A market sells skip-able souvenirs (lava lavas, wood carvings, shell jewelry), there’s a decent local beer (which tastes pretty much like any other tropical-island beer) and an ice cream shop with interesting tropical fruit flavors. But really, you don’t even need them. The best thing to eat is fish, especially the just-caught sashimi that’s served nightly as an appetizer at Aganoa.
Sheraton Launches Two Hotels in Samoa
Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Resort officially opened its doors last Friday, Jan. 16 with special guests Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and Starwood Hotels and Resorts Area Manager- Samoa and Fiji, Shane K. Cunning offering opening remarks.
Both, men, in their addresses noted the importance of economic development that takes into account shifting global trends, which call for quality developments that encompass prosperity for all.
Cunning pointed to the positive impact of a Samoan woman’s dream growing to have global impact, which Starwood Hotels and Resorts has embraced and believes is a positive partnership which represents its high standards. It was two years in the making, he said, and Starwood thanked the Grey family and the Samoa government for the opportunity to bring its high standards to the fore.
Tuilaepa noted that in the case of small island states, such as Samoa, tourism business opportunities are discerned for their high international standards that seek to give job opportunities for the population, which began with the development of a skilled work force.
He believes with this work force, these types of developments, such as Sheraton Aggie Grey’s Resorts, and the White Sands Casino are a success and the people “all are much happier” with the job opportunities and tourism developments.
The prime minister spoke of the courage, determination and vision that are needed to discern the right business opportunities for Small Island States, such as Samoa.
Lupesina Frederick Grey, grandson of the iconic Aggie Grey welcomed guests to the opening, which included many of the tourism businesses in Samoa, as well as family and friends.
Allen Grey, Aggie’s son and Lupesina’s father was on hand with his wife, Marina Grey (Lupesina’s mother).
Father Douglas offered prayer and blessings with closing remarks by General Manager Sheraton Samoa Properties, Chris Rabang.
Light refreshments and entertainment followed with a tour of one of the newly refurbished rooms.
In his remarks, the prime minister noted that he is looking forward to the second phase of development by the Starwood group — the Apia location of the Sheraton Hotel — Aggie’s Hotel & Bungalows — as well as the White Sands and pointed to their completion before the All Blacks Game to be held in Samoa this year — letting the ‘cat out of the bag’ — that it’s slated for July 8. He spoke of a June opening for both ventures.
Samoa News should point out that Starwood and White Sands are separate development groups, which have in common the properties owned by the Grey family. In this case, White Sands manages the development of casinos in Samoa and Starwood (Sheraton Hotels) the hotels and bungalows development.
Samoa Govt airlines files for exemption from US
The Samoa government owned Polynesian Airlines has filed for a temporary exemption with the U.S. Department of Transportation to operate commercial flights for American Samoa's domestic service.
There have been no flights between the territory's main island of Tutuila and the Manu'a island group since June because locally based Inter Island Airways has been down for mechanical program.
In its application filed Monday with the U.S. Transportation Department, Polynesian requests an emergency exemption from provisions of federal law, that will permit the airline to transport persons, property and mail between Tutuila and the Manu'a islands for a period of ninety dates beginning September 1, 2014.
It also says that the American Samoa government has requested that Polynesian provide emergency service to prevent American Samoan residents from being left without air service.
The airline will also provide medical evacuation, if needed.
If granted, the airline plans to use a 19-seater Twin Otter plane for the Manu'a flights.
Samoa: Blooming lovely at Teuila Flower festival is a chance to sample more than sun and sand in Samoa, writes Robyn Yousef.
Bouquets of red ginger flowers festoon street lights and other unexpected places, colourful streamers and bunting decorate buildings and homes, and all of Samoa is in celebratory mode for the annual Teuila Festival.
The festival, which runs from August 30 to September 6, is timed to celebrate the flowering of the national flower, Teuila - the sweet-scented, bold and beautiful red ginger - and each year features special festive and cultural events.
This year's 24th annual festival should be particularly well-attended: the beginning coincides with a major UN conference held in Apia on SIDS (Small Island Developing States), and the event is expected to attract about 3000 international visitors.
Fasitau Ula, Vice Consul (Tourism) with the Samoa Consulate General Office in Auckland, believes this year's festival will be particularly memorable.
"We want to put on the best display while the whole world is represented in Samoa with the big UN conference."
Since its launch in 1991, Samoa's Teuila Festival has grown to become one of the Pacific's largest cultural festivals.
This year includes a choral concert, traditional Siva Samoa and contemporary dance competitions, Chief's Fiafia Polynesian Spectacular and Ailao Afi/Fire Knife dancing.
Also scheduled are tattooing and carving demonstrations, as well as how to prepare an umu (a Samoan ground oven). A celebration concert and the Miss Samoa Pageant are among the many other events.
My first visit to Samoa was in 2012 to celebrate a special birthday and, happily, it coincided with the Teuila Festival. This is a great time for New Zealanders to visit because of the variety of activities on show.
It's also the perfect opportunity to discover that there is much more to Samoa than arguably the best sunrises and sunsets in the world, friendly and welcoming locals, beautiful beaches and swaying palm trees.
During Teuila Festival, the heart of Apia buzzes with vitality, with many of the events centred around Government Plaza, where the special moveable stage is used for the main acts. There are craft and local food stalls and as always in Samoa, an ongoing soundtrack of music and laughter.
Special performances guaranteed to generate side-splitting laughs are appearances by The Laughing Samoans. Wellington-based Eteuati Ete and Tofiga Fepulea'i have been a very successful comedy duo since 2003, and the pair has entertained crowds throughout Australasia, the Pacific and the US with its hilarious take on Samoan lifestyle.
Throughout the week, other festival activities will include traditional weaving lessons, a cocktail-making competition, a fashion show and a physical fitness challenge. There'll be parades plus a range of musical entertainment and dance styles on display.
The festival will close with the final of the Miss Samoa Pageant. The beauty pageant attracts keen competition and huge local interest, with extensive television coverage that culminates in the crowning ceremony.
Ula says a growing number of New Zealand-based Samoans are returning to their homeland every year for the festival.
"Some have opted to do family reunions or similar group gatherings to coincide with the event.
"There a few elements of surprise in every year's programme, which makes it interesting and fresh. New Zealanders are invited to come along and celebrate our ways of living through entertainment and expressive arts during this week."
Samoa: Bewitched by beauty
By Nina Karnikowski
Samoa is a laid-back paradise, writes Nina Karnikowski.
When I was 10 years old, I had a teacher who was completely enamoured with Samoa. I recall her getting misty-eyed as she talked about its natural beauty and I wondered, as I cut the silhouette of what I imagined Samoa might look like (a lump with a palm tree sticking out of it) from black cardboard, what could be so special about this small glob of land.
Two decades later, as my husband and I arrive on the wooden deck of our villa at Samoa's Seabreeze Resort, I begin to understand.
The deck, shaped like the bow of a ship, juts out from a rocky outcrop and is surrounded by 270-degree views of azure ocean. To our right is the private lagoon that the 11-villa resort hugs. Behind us is lush, vine-choked rainforest. And directly in front of us - a black rock islet with a palm tree sticking out of it.
It's utterly bewitching.
As I learnt those two decades ago, Samoa's two main islands are Upolu and Savai'i (Seabreeze is on the former, about an hour's drive from the capital, Apia). The country has almost no crime, thanks to an indigenous form of governance called fa'amatai, and, as I discover the next morning while preparing to head to a traditional Samoan church service, almost no ownership.
I'm keen to attend church because I've heard wonderful things about the devoutly religious Samoans' gospel singing. The only problem is, I don't have the appropriate white lavalava sarong to wear.
"One of our staff has one," the owner of Seabreeze assures me, "and in Samoa there's no ownership, so if she has one, you have one."
Sure enough, within 10 minutes I'm wrapped in a fresh white lavalava and am being driven to church, past the traditional open-walled houses, or fales, that highlight how loosely the Samoans grasp their possessions.
The service is magic. The locals are clad head to toe in white, the women with elegant hats perched on their heads, and almost everyone is waving palm-leaf fans to combat the morning heat. Listening to the deep, resonant voices singing gospel hymns, as ceiling fans lazily shift the smoke-infused air emanating from the Sunday umus (earth ovens), is just about as close to a religious experience as I'm likely to get.
From this point on, my husband and I effortlessly slip into the lackadaisical rhythm of Samoan life.
By day, we swim and snorkel in the warm waters of Seabreeze's lagoon, watching tropical fish of the most startling colours dart around the rocks and midnight-blue starfish spread themselves across the seabed. We take the resort's glass-bottomed kayaks out for a paddle to the neighbouring deserted beaches, where we climb about in hollowed-out trees and watch dozens of hermit crabs, some just a couple of millimetres long, scuttle over sea-buffed chunks of silvery driftwood. We indulge in a massage on our deck and a glass of bubbles in our very own plunge pool, and are served a dinner of local tuna carpaccio on our deck. Samoa is the first place in the world to see the sunset, a fact of which we remind ourselves as we watch the sky become a technicolour dream of tangerines and starburst yellows.
By night, we laze on our deck's outdoor circular lounge, gazing up at the thick blanket of stars and talking in a way we haven't had a chance to in months. We leave the doors and the slatted glass windows surrounding our spacious suite open, and fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing all around us.
It's all our island holiday dreams come true, and the perfect pause in the forward thrust of our lives.
Eventually, at about the day three mark, we manage to peel ourselves away from Seabreeze and begin exploring the island. A fellow guest got us excited about nearby Vavau Beach: "It's just like the one in the movie The Beach, only better!" he enthused. And, after traipsing rainforest paths by the sea, past a couple of seemingly deserted fales and two young local boys who ask us for 5 tala (about $2.60) each for entry, we discover he was absolutely right. Another palm-fringed crystalline lagoon surrounded by that vine-choked rainforest, Vavau Beach is the kind of place that makes you want to get a bit wild.
We paddle out to the mouth of the ocean and when we spot a hole in the rock face that protects the beach we scramble through and find ourselves facing a string of even more idyllic lagoons. It feels as though we're the first travellers ever to have discovered them.
Just 10 minutes' walk away is the famous To Sua trench, which costs 15 tala ($7) to enter and that immediately transports us to a surreal dream world. Sunken 30 metres into the earth and surrounded by lush green grasses, it's actually a giant tidal hole that formed when the roof of a lava tube collapsed. We manage to stop photographing it for just long enough to descend the steep ladder for a dip, and watch a couple of mad Danish tourists dive in from the lip.
As time slowly inches forward, we discover more of these breathtaking and deeply affecting natural wonders, all of which are virtually devoid of tourists and totally devoid of touts. There's the Piula cave pool, a freshwater swimming hole that reaches into a series of caves with an underwater cavity leading to a secret exit; Papapapaitai Falls, which tumble 100 metres into a vast green gorge; Lalomanu Beach on the south coast, a palm-fringed white slash of sand dividing blue water and green craggy volcanic peaks, ringed by candy-coloured beach huts; the Pupu Pu'e national park's coastal walk, which weaves through a pandanus forest and emerges at an expansive field of wrinkly lava, created when a nearby volcano erupted 3000 years ago, and now pockmarked with blowholes fed by the ocean.
All visits are accompanied by a symphony of cicadas and gently falling waves, and legends whispered by gentle, friendly locals.
Our favourite is the tale of Sina and the Eel, which tells of a beautiful girl, Sina, who, when her pet eel fell in love with her, got scared and asked the village chiefs to kill him. As the eel was dying, he asked Sina to plant his head in the ground, from which a coconut tree grew.
That's why, say the Samoans, when the husk is removed from a coconut there are three circular marks that appear like the face of the eel - one of these is pierced for drinking the coconut, so whenever Sina took a drink she was kissing the eel, forever more.
My husband and I can't look at our coconuts the same way for the rest of our trip - and we see a lot of them. We drink at least one each day, and they're used every which way in the fresh local cuisine - palusami, a spinach and coconut-infused dip, is a favourite.
On our final night, as we sit half-submerged in Seabreeze's ocean-front infinity pool sipping our last local Vailima beer, I find myself getting misty-eyed and spare a thought for my teacher. This beautiful place has certainly cast its spell on me, too.
The writer travelled courtesy of Seabreeze Resort Samoa.
Samoa For Real group defends its actions amid claims of 'sabotage'
A tourism industry group in Samoa says it's disappointing that the Hotels Association has called it rebels.
The President of the Samoa Hotels Association, Tuala Oli Ah Him, says the Samoa For Real group is "sabotaging the industry" and it's only a small minority of people who don't own hotels.
But the general manager of Sinalei Reef Resort and Spa, Sose Annandale, says nothing could be further from the truth.
Sixty-seven industry personnel attended workshops with international experts, organised by Samoa For Real.
She says the group has asked the Hotels Association twice to get involved in the industry-wide initiative, but it's not interested.
She says Samoa For Real has a wide range of members accross the industry.
"We're trying to unite our industry and bring our industry together so you know it is kind of disappointing when you hear comments like that because it's the furthest thing from the truth. It's just one of those unfortunate situations where we have been challenged, we've risen to the occasion and then we're condemned for doing just that."
Samoa Tourism Exchange to showcase Samoa’s customs and entertainment
On 1 April 2014, the two-day Samoa Tourism Exchange (STE) will bring tourism stakeholders and buyers together to discuss important topics and tools relating to tourism development, sales and marketing. The exhibition will provide a networking opportunity for buyers, to access multiple suppliers, whilst expanding their industry and market knowledge. The exchange will be opened by the Honourable Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and a showcase of Samoa’s customs and entertainment to experience the true Fa’a Samoa.
The key national tourism event captures a global market as influential travel trade and media representatives from New Zealand, Australia, USA, UK, Europe, China, South Korea and American Samoa, with an interest in Samoa tourism products will attend. Key features of the event include the buyer/seller exhibition, product inspections and tours and activities around two of Samoa’s largest islands: Upolu and Savaii.
An addition to the event for 2014, is the introduction of themed product inspections which will cater to the needs of travel trade representatives and suppliers. ‘Romance’ will explore properties and venues for the weddings and honeymoon market, ‘The Great Samoan Road Trip’ will cater for the adventure market, featuring beach fales and backpacker/dorm-style accommodation, while the ‘Mainstream’ theme will identify a broader range of products and activities suitable for couples and families.
Not only will the event be a fantastic opportunity for members of the travel trade and media to come together and expand their knowledge of the destination, home and resting place of Robert Louis Stevenson, but it will also allow participants to discover the islands’ paradise beaches, volcanic mountains, rainforests and blow holes and witness first-hand what makes Samoa such an idyllic and popular destination.
Romance and relaxation in Samoa
A sea breeze is most welcome in the tropics. It dries pesky beads of sweat and cools and recharges. During a searingly hot day in Samoa, a sea breeze is a godsend.
On the south-east coast of Upolu sits the aptly named Seabreeze Resort. It's far removed from the hustle of Apia - the nation's capital - and focuses on everything the name stands for - relaxation, recharging and some romance in the mix. It's the ideal escape which prides itself on Samoan hospitality.
The small four-star resort sits boastfully on the edge of a stunning lagoon littered with mini islands and lush native fauna. It feels incredibly isolated, yet is in close proximity to numerous island attractions making it a great base for day trips.
PHOTO GALLERY: The attractions of Upolu
Owners Chris and Wendy Booth couldn't ask for a better spot to create a resort, however the gorgeous geography and physical attributes aren't what they feel makes the place special.
"Our staff make it special," Wendy says. "Samoan culture is based on hospitality. It's entrenched in their upbringing, so there's no fake smiles here. Everything is completely genuine."
It didn't take me long to work this out. I had been at the resort a matter of hours and already staff members were referring to me by name. It was like I'd been there for days, so the transition from tired traveller to completely relaxed guest was far faster than I'd experienced on other holidays.
The resort's maximum capacity of 36 people also lends itself nicely to the unwinding process. There's no traffic at the bar or restaurant, and guests have complete access to whatever they might need whenever they might need it. A strict rule of no children means there's no young ones bombing in the pool, which is a distinct difference from other accommodation on the island.
"Not taking children was a major decision," says Wendy. "Our topography doesn't really suit them, for one, and our focus here is on romance. Many of our guests leave the children at home so they can regenerate a romantic spark."
The romantic focus has worked wonders for Seabreeze, so much so that popular travel advice website TripAdvisor recently named the resort one of the top 25 small hotels for romance in the South Pacific - the only Samoa hotel on the list.
It might not sound like a massive achievement, but romance isn’t easily created and too often falls into the realms of cliché and cheesy. Seabreeze manages to tread that line successfully by putting the guest first and not forcing the issue. It's a product of many years perfecting the craft and analysing what guests want. As a result the Booths have hosted weddings, seen numerous proposals and created genuine friendships that encourage guests to return.
"We know what it's like to go on holiday," Wendy says. "We don’t want to fail people's trips. Guests may have been saving for a while to get away, so it's something they look forward to."
After a short stay it's easy to see why the business works. It's classy, but somehow familiar and low-key. The elegance is mixed with Samoan charm which focuses on the basics.
For example, if you order a beer by the pool it arrives in a stubbie cooler like you might have at a Sunday barbecue. Order a drop of red with dinner and it's served in a beautiful over-sized wine glass. Showers can be had inside or outside, depending on your villa's setup. Clothing other than shorts, sarongs and t-shirts appears too formal.
Basically, it’s an upmarket resort for people that don't like the pretentiousness of other upmarket resorts.
Pretentious and Samoa simply don't mix, and there's good reason for it. The country isn't rich and locals still do most things the same way they have for generations. Tourism is essential to Samoa's economy and while the country isn't a tough sell to foreigners, it's still had its challenges.
The 2009 tsunami ravaged much of the coastline, so areas that were once snorkelling hot-spots covered with coral sit destroyed. It's certainly not all grim, however, as Vavau and Lalomanu beaches remain beautiful and the picks if don't have time to discover them all.
Consider the beaches polar opposites. Head to Vavau for complete privacy and perhaps a picnic alone, while Lalomanu features lines wooden huts overlooking the water – popular with tourists looking for a distinctively Samoan experience.
The middle of the island has numerous waterfalls that are worth a look, although you’ll need a car if you’re to visit the lot. The island, while not massive, is big enough to take at least a long day to explore, and speeding on local roads isn't advisable unless you’re prepared for a flat tyre, so take it easy.
Whatever your time restraints, To Sua Ocean Trench is a remarkable stop that shouldn't be missed. What looks like the result of a meteoroid collision, the trench is a deep, clear water swimming hole accessed by a large wooden ladder. Strong swimmers and the adventurous can try and navigate the cave which leads out to sea, but most visitors will be satisfied to lie in awe and enjoy a well-deserved dip.
Hotel options lining the coastline are in abundance. Many of them have seen a tough rebuild after the tsunami and Seabreeze is one which sits as a beacon of dedication and resolve.
"Total destruction from one end to the other," says Chris, reflecting on the tsunami and waving his arm about 180 degrees. "The place looked like a bomb site filled with rubbish, glass and other debris. The tsunami wiped us out and shut us down for two years."
The Booths talk about many dark nights during the rebuilding phase, but take pride in how it forged a strong bond amongst the local staff that helped build the new Seabreeze from scratch. The tragic circumstances also made them reflect and improve the business.
"We're much happier with Seabreeze now," says Wendy. "We took our problems from the first resort and changed it. The tsunami was a big change for us and it forced us to look at things differently. We became more upmarket and exclusive."
They also became unique. Sure, a sea breeze can be experienced anywhere in the world if you're close enough to the coastline, but if one wants the hospitality, incredible views, romance and relaxation, well, they’ll have to go to Samoa for that.
How to get there: Apia is a 5 1/2 hour flight from Sydney and 4 hours from Auckland.
The writer was a guest of Seabreeze Resort Samoa (www.seabreezesamoa.com) and Samoa Tourism Authority (www.samoa.travel/).
Splashing out in Samoa. (Enjoy the Samoan Islands in Safety.)
The Sydney Morning Herald
With plenty of activities, families are made to feel welcome in this Pacific paradise, writes Craig Tansley.
There's no safer place in the Pacific for a family holiday than Samoa. The most traditional of all the islands of Polynesia, locals mostly still live as they have done for 2000 years in simple villages with their extended families, ruled by chiefs and other elders.
Rainforest-covered volcanic mountain peaks jut out from untouched hinterlands and Samoa's coastline is made up of endless, deserted white sandy beaches, bar the occasional fisherman. Samoan culture has a strong focus on welcoming visitors - especially families. There's everything here for families - from kayaking across blue lagoons to surfing world-class waves along barrier reefs to swimming with endangered turtles or bike rides circumnavigating the islands.
Whole families can go to surf camp.
A DAY TOUR BACK IN TIME
Take a 20-minute boat ride to an island with no roads, no cars and, until just a decade ago, that had no electricity. Located off the western coast of Upolu, a day tour to the tiny island of Manono gives an insight into how all Samoans once lived. A dirt walking track circumnavigates the three-square-kilometre island, past traditional villages, schools and farming plots. There's also some of Samoa's best lagoons to snorkel in and a barbecue lunch.
Tour costs about 198 tala ($96), children five to 11 are half price, children under four are free. See samoascenictours.com
VISIT A LOCAL TREASURE
Hike through rainforest to the final resting place of history's most famous family-adventure writer.
Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, lived his final years on a huge estate in Vailima near Samoa's capital, Apia. When he died, the Samoan people carried him behind his estate to Mount Vaea, creating the Road of the Loving Hearts. Visit Stevenson's elegant restored estate and museum and hike the half-hour Loving Hearts track past cascades to his resting place, which offers the best views over Upolu's north coast.
A museum visit costs about 15 tala for adults and about 5 tala for children. See rlsmuseum.ws.
SAIL AWAY WITH THE FAMILY
Choose from a list of adventure sailing options on-board Samoa's only locally based catamaran - the 10-metre Shilo II. Sail around Upolu's lagoons and stop to snorkel and go ashore on a deserted sandy beach, or go further afield across the Apolima Strait to the islands of Savai'i, Manono and Apolima.
You can also sail at sunset or book a turtle-watching cruise.
There's also full-day and half-day fishing options for families that include non-fishing activities.
Lagoon sail tours cost 110 tala, sunset tours cost 120 tala, Manono tours cost 280 tala, children are half price. See samoa-adventure.com.
SURF RESORTS FOR FAMILIES
Samoa caters for entire families on a surfing holiday. It doesn't matter how many in your family surf - Samoa's "surf camps" offer luxurious lagoon-side accommodation with an extensive activities program for non-surfers, as well. In other surfing hot-spots, such as Indonesia and Fiji, surf camps are for experienced surfers only, but Samoa offers a range of non-surf attractions, as well as some of the Pacific's best - and most uncrowded - surf spots.
Family units cost 300 tala a night, see samoanaresort.com.
SWIM WITH TURTLES
For just a few dollars you can swim with an endangered marine species, the green turtle. At the Satoalepai Turtle Sanctuary on Savai'i, juvenile turtles are raised from infancy by villagers, before they're released into the wild - where they reach 180 kilograms.
Savai'i is one of the only places on the planet where you can swim with green turtles in captivity before they're tagged and released by the Fisheries Department.
Entry costs 5 tala, see samoa.travel.
PACIFIC'S BEST WATERFALLS
Visit some of the South Pacific's most powerful waterfalls on a waterfall crawl tour incorporating a visit to Samoa's most famous natural attraction, the Sua Ocean Trench.
Drive through Upolu's lush forests and stop at Falefa Falls before visiting the Sua Ocean Trench. Climb 30 metres down a ladder into a massive waterhole fed by water flowing through lava tubes from the ocean.
You can swim under the tubes into caves, and out to the lagoon. Then stop at Samoa's largest waterfall, the Papapapaitai Falls, which drop 100 metres into a volcanic crater.
The East Upolu and Aleipata tour costs 109 tala, children five to 11 are half price, children under four are free. See samoascenictours.com.
Savai'i, Samoa's least populated island, is the ideal island for family cycling adventures because there are virtually no cars on the road and the speed limit is a leisurely 40km/h. Much of the road hugs the coastline, offering stunning views and countless opportunities to stop and swim.
Complete a family circumnavigation of the island, with a support vehicle to carry non-riders or younger children when they tire.
Baby-sitting is also available. Accommodation is pre-booked, and there's plenty of time off your bike.
A family cycling adventure includes bike hire, accommodation, support van and most meals and costs about $1050 a person for nine days, see outdoor.co.nz.
TEACH THE FAMILY TO DIVE
Savai'i is one of the best places in the world to learn to dive because of the range of its beginner dive sites, the great visibility and a year-round water temperature of between 26 and 29C.
Either take the family out for an introductory dive, where you'll learn to dive in shallow water before doing one dive up to 12 metres, or complete an open-water dive certificate.
The dive sites are located either inside the safety of the lagoons, or just outside the reef where you can access shipwrecks, coral gardens and sea canyons and see green turtles, eagle rays and reef fish.
An introductory dive costs 300 tala, a four-day open-water dive course costs 1200 tala, see divesavaii.com.
PADDLE IN CLEAR LAGOONS
Take the family on a day-long kayaking adventure that caters for every level of paddler.
The most popular family tour takes paddlers to the marine- protected zone of Namua Island. The lagoons here are ideal for beginner kayakers.
You'll also have the chance to paddle outside the reef to watch sea turtles and to snorkel at nearby Fanuatapu Island - one of Samoa's best snorkelling locations.
There's a variety of day tours to choose from, including tours to deserted atolls and to mangrove forests.
Day tours cost 180 tala. See kayakingsamoa.com.
DANCE YOUR NIGHTS AWAY
Capture all the energy and excitement of Samoa's traditional Polynesian culture without leaving Apia, when you head to one of the South Pacific's most celebrated annual events.
Every September, Apia is the host of a week-long celebration of Samoan culture, the Teuila Festival, which brings thousands of locals out each day and night for Polynesian dance competitions, fire knife dancing and Samoa's best live music ... and it's all free.
This year's festival will be held in September.
It's your best way to mix with the local people at the year's biggest event and sample local food cooked in an umu.
The writer travelled courtesy of Samoa Tourism.
Virgin Samoa flies direct to Apia three times a week from Sydney. See virginaustralia.com or phone 136 789.
Stay at a family unit at Samoana Resort, see samoanaresort.com.
Stay in one of 140 deluxe ocean view rooms at Aggie Grey's Lagoon, Beach Resort and Spa.
See samoanaresort.com; aggiegreys.com.
Video on Samoa's Travel Industry
CNN praises Samoa as a tourist destination
By David Johnston, for CNN
(CNN)Beaches, rainforests, waterfalls, vibrant coral reefs, inactive volcanoes (the last eruption was an underwater one in 1973).
When it comes to the ideal South Pacific island, the Independent State of Samoa pretty much has what we're all looking for.
Samoa is also one of the larger island nations in the South Pacific -- you can fit all of the Cook Islands onto either Upolu or Savai'i, the two largest Samoa islands.
A trip to Samoa remains uncrowded even when hotel properties are full.
The state was formerly known as Western Samoa, to differentiate it from American Samoa, the U.S. territory 40 miles to the east.
Now the 195,000 or so people who live here -- about 93% are ethnic Samoans -- just call the place Samoa.
Sounds good and always looks spectacular.
But apart from the scenery, this country offers more than just the sum of its beautiful parts.
Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey's Resort
Savai'i is one of Samoa's two main islands.Traveling between Upolu and Savai'i
The Samoa Shipping Corporation runs ferries between the main islands of Upolu and Savai'i several times a day, including a business-class ferry that provides light refreshments and air-conditioning.
The trip takes about an hour.
As one of the oldest civilizations in the South Pacific -- perhaps going back nearly 3,000 years -- Samoa's culture is a mix of its ancient tribal roots and the introduction of Christianity by missionaries in 1830.
Fa'a Samoa, or The Samoan Way, describes the importance of the connection between matai (tribal chiefs), aga (extended families) and the church.
On Sundays, families gather around large village fales, traditional open-air housing that includes a floor, columns and a thatched roof.
"Sundays, things tend to shut down completely, unless you're at a resort," says Amanda Ladd, a representative from the Samoa Tourism Board.
Ladd also adds that while it's OK to wear a swim suit around a resort, you should put on shorts or a dress before venturing out to villages.
While air and water temperatures are consistent throughout the year (the range is 75/95F or 24/34C), peak season for Samoa is May to October, when the weather is drier and less humid.
Scalinis: Italian with a Samoan twist.Samoa-born chef Joe Lam and his New Zealander wife and business partner Amanda first openedScalinis in Auckland in 1999.
Ten years later, they moved their family and the restaurant back to his home country.
Scalinis serves Italian dishes with a seasonal Samoan take, like breadfruit gnocchi and clam carpaccio.
Lam puts a premium on local ingredients -- some harvested from his own farm.
For the last four years running, Scalinis has won the award for Best Modern Samoan Dish in the New Zealand High Commission Food Challenge.
One of Scalinis' winning entries is New Zealand lamb with palusami (taro leaves with coconut cream) and feta, along with falai maukegi (pumpkin) with taro, braised in minted jus.
Scalinis Restaurant | Cross Island Road (between Samoa Outrigger Hotel & Insel Fehmarn Hotel) Moto'otua, Apia, Upolu Samoa | Mon.-Fri., noon-2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.-late; Sat., 5:30 p.m.-late; +685 36720
Amanaki is known for fresh seafood, especially sashimi, as well as poke (seasoned raw fish) served with crunchy coconut wedges.
It's located in the hotel of the same name on Apia Bay.
The hotel owns its own fishing boats, so you can be sure that the catch-of-the-day is always fresh.
While you're here, it's fun to try a Vailima beer, which is brewed in Samoa.
amanaki resturant | Amanaki Hotel, Sogi Peninsula, APIA, Apia, Upolu Samoa | Mon.-Thurs., 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat., 7:30 a.m.-midnight, Sun., 7:30-11 a.m., 4:30-10 p.m. Sunday; +685 27889
Paddles Restaurant is owned by the Rossi family.
With a father from Italy and a mother from Samoa, it's truly a marriage of cuisines.
While the menu's filled with Italian classics such as seafood risotto and spaghetti Bolognese, many customers' favorite dish is oka -- a Samoan delicacy made with tuna marinated in citrus, onion, chili and coconut milk.
Located along Beach Road across from the harbor, the restaurant offers beautiful sunset views at dinner -- booking ahead is recommended.
Paddles Restaurant | Main Beach Rd Matautu-Tai, Apia, Upolu 1790 Samoa | Mon.-Sat., 5-11 p.m.; +685 21819
Horace Evans, a former chef at Aggie Grey's, runs the eclectic Home Cafe on the outskirts of Apia.
The cafe overlooks Apia and the coast, and features all-day breakfasts and, on selected nights, DJ music.
Don't see what you want on the menu?
It's said that Evans will try to create something to your liking.
Home Cafe | Arterial, Apia, Upolu Samoa | Mon.-Fri., 6:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Sat., 8 a.m.-1 p.m.; +685 845 2449
Siva afi is a fire knife dance thaat originated in Samoa.Fiafia (meaning "happy" or "celebration" in Samoan) night offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy a night of Samoan cultural entertainment and food.
It offers a way to see how Samoan culture differs from that of its South Pacific neighbors.
For example, the siva, a Samoan dance performed by women, features more wrist and ankle movement than it does hip shaking.
"It's very slow, very precise, very fluid," Ladd says.
Samoa is also home to the siva afi, or fire knife dance, in which male dancers perform acrobatic feats while deftly twirling a burning blade.
Many hotels on Samoa offer a fiafia night during the week.
Along with nearby Sheeshas Boutique Bar and Y Not?, Club X forms "the" bar district in Samoa.
Located in and around Apia's marina, the area allows travelers to pick a bar or watering hole that fits their tastes.
Club X is popular with younger Samoan club goers and is known for its Fiesta Fridays.
Club X | Beach Road, Apia, Upolu Samoa | Wed.-Sat., 7 p.m.-midnight; +685 777 8227
Ace of Clubs
The Ace of Clubs is Apia's relatively new nightspot (despite having opened nearly two years ago).
The club comprises a restaurant downstairs and a soundproof nightclub on the second floor complete with DJs, a pumping sound system and light show.
Ace of Clubs | Tauese, Apia, Upolu Samoa | Open daily at 6:30 p.m.; +685 20430
If you want to sit back with a Taula (another Samoa-brewed beer) and live music, the RSA Club is the place.
Attracting a slightly older crowd than the dance clubs, the RSA Club has ample seating and pool tables.
RSA Club, Mulinu'u Road, Apia, Samoa; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-12 a.m. Friday, Saturday; +685 20171
To Sua Ocean Trench
Climbing the ladder down to To Sua Ocean Trench can be as scary as taking a leap down.While the name might bring deep-sea submersibles and lantern-jawed fish to mind, To Sua Ocean Trench is actually a beautiful swimming hole on the southern coast of Upolu.
Accessible by a slightly daunting wooden ladder that leads down to a pool, the bright blue waters of To Sua are fed by a lava tube that connects it to the Pacific.
To Sua Ocean Trench, Lalomanu, Upolu, Samoa
Busiest beach in Samoa.Lalomanu Beach is a quintessential South Pacific beach with its leaning palms, beautiful white sand and views of Samoa's smaller outer islands.
It also provides perspective on just how much space Samoa provides visitors.
"It's the most popular public beach in the country," says Ladd. "And I've never found more than 20 people at that beach at any given time."
Lalomanu Beach, Lalomanu, Upolu, Samoa
Afu Aau Waterfall
Short walk to an incredible view.After your entrance fee is collected at a fale just off the road, a 10-minute walk leads to a stunning waterfall and pool on the southeastern coast of Savai'i.
The water may be colder than what visitors here experience in the ocean, but on a hot Samoa day, it can provide relief.
Afu Aau Waterfall, South Coast Road, Vailoa, Savai'i
With abundant rainfall and an average annual temperature just shy of 80F (26C), Samoa provides the ideal growing conditions for numerous tropical fruits and vegetables.
Fugalei Market is where to find the best of them.
Local specialties include breadfruit, taro, yams, bananas and Otaheite apples.
Fugalei Market, Fugalei Road, Apia, Samoa
Samoa Cultural Village
Traditional tattooing is on display at the Samoa Cultural Village.Three days a week, Samoan traditions are on display at the Samoa Cultural Village on the grounds of the Samoa Tourism Authority.
One of the performances visitors can experience is umu cooking.
Foods such as taro, palsami and fish are placed on hot rocks on the ground, then covered with leaves to be cooked.
Visitors can watch locals singing and dancing, weaving and even traditional Samoan tattooing.
Samoa Cultural Village, Beach Road, Apia, Samoa; +685 63521
Robert Louis Stevenson Museum
The museum recreates Steveson's home during his stay at Vailima.Robert Louis Stevenson, author of "Treasure Island," "Kidnapped" and "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," spent his final years in Samoa.
After several years traveling throughout the South Pacific to combat ill health, Stevenson moved his family to Samoa in 1889.
While the move might not have been good for his piano (it needed to be kept in a glass case to combat humidity), Stevenson was happy on Samoa and enjoyed his local name Tusitala (or Teller of Tales).
On the author's death, his body was buried on the top of nearby Mount Vaea.
Visitors who undertake the somewhat steep hike to his grave will also find a nearly 360-degree view.
Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, Cross Island Road, Upolu, Samoa; Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon; +685 20798
Water from the Alofaaga Blowholes can fly hundreds of feet in the air.On the island of Savai'i, the powerful blowholes outside the village of Taga are worth a side trip.
Lava tubes lead from the ocean to a flat cliff top. Under the right conditions, ocean water is forced through these tubes, exploding into geysers that shoot hundreds of feet into the air.
If you're lucky, the locals might demonstrate how to hurl coconuts using the power of that water.
Alofaaga Blowholes, South Coast Road, Taga, Savai'i
Aggie Grey was a local legend and a Samoan hotelier who was friends with celebrities such as Marlon Brando, Dorothy Lamour and Gary Cooper.
Also a friend of writer James Michener, she's said to have been the model for Bloody Mary in his book "Tales of the South Pacific," which was later adapted into the stage play and movie "South Pacific."
In fact, Sheraton resorts on Samoa and Tahiti still bear her name.
The Grey family remains in the hospitality industry with a tour company called Samoa Scenic.
One tour that the company offers is to Manono Island -- located between Upolu and Savai'i -- where you can meet the local chief and enjoy an 'ava (kava) ceremony.
Another tour to Nu'ulopa Island -- a tiny uninhabited island between Upolu and Savai'i -- has fantastic snorkeling surrounded by reefs.
"You can be the only one on the beach. You can be the only one on the island," says Ladd.
Samoa Scenic, Apia, Upolu, Samoa
Apia's Savalalo flea market was a major center of Samoan life and a place where tourists could buy everything from mats woven with pandanus leaves and wood carvings to traditional colorful sarongs known as lavalavas.
Unfortunately, the market burned down in January 2016.
Currently the Samoa government is looking at a number of options, including relocation to other area markets or setting up a temporary location for the market.
Frustrated! American Samoa Governor on Travel and Tourism
Lolo M. Moliga, Governor of American Samoa gave his State of the Territory address on January 12. Here is what he said in regards to travel and tourism:
While our financial situation was far from healthy, evident by the accumulated deficit and long term liabilities, we adopted a positive attitude, determined to work harder and smarter to find and implement solutions that would produce long term benefits.
The number of visitors to American has declined nominally in 2014 compared to 2013 although cruise ship visitors increased due to the increased number of cruise ships calling in American Samoa. In 2014, 5,099 visitors came to American Samoa compared to 5,130 in 2013. In 2012, 5,427 visitors were recorded to have visited the territory. Clearly, the number of visitors continued to decline.
To reverse the prevailing visitor trend the American Samoa Government is aggressively inviting conferences to be held in American Samoa to increase tourism generated revenues. Moreover, travel packages have been offered by local hotels and motels advertised in travel magazines. The observed declining visitor statistics is compelling the government to employ new strategies which include the discussion of the option to attract a new airline or form a locally based airline since repeated pleas to the federal government for a cabotage waiver has not met with much success.
Estimated revenue generation attributed to visitors entering American Samoa averaged $2.3 million annually for the last three years. (2013 - $2,294,550; 2012 - $2,308,500; and 2011 - $2,361,150)
Concurrent efforts are ongoing to refine our tourism visitor plant through the establishment of local activities to entertain visitors. The annual “Tisa’s Tattoo Festival” has gained international notoriety attracting visitors each year to American Samoa. We are exploring the resurrection of the Mount Alava Tramway given its great appeal in the past. Collaboration is ongoing with businesses and local individuals to setup tourist related activities.
The old Rainmaker Hotel remaining wing will be demolished soon to make way for the invitation of development proposals. This project has been delayed because of federal regulatory review requirements.
The Harbor Area Board Walk Project starting from the end of the Su’igaula ole Atuvasa Beach to the east all the way down to the Malaloa Pier will be implemented this year which will provide an added dimension with respect to enjoyment and appreciation of the Bay Area.
The Port and Airport Director convinced FAA management that American Samoa will devotedly utilize the $15 million ARFF Hot Fire Training Center which had been abandoned after it was constructed. The fundamental goal of the ARFF Hot Fire Training Center was to attract Pacific Islands Airport Fire Fighters to come to American Samoa for training as this is a one of its kind in the Pacific with the
intention of generating additional income for the Airport.
The Department of Port Administration has been very proactive in its attempt to improve convenience for the traveling public by investing in
the construction of the enplaning and deplaning ramp along with the construction of the covered walkway to and from the airplane to shelter the passengers from rain. Further engineering is being conducted on the ramp to meet Hawaiian Airlines specifications.
FAA has also re-certified the Ofu Airport which was decertified for some time in anticipation of the resurrection of flights to Ofu. Funding is being sought to facilitate the expansion of the Ofu Airport.
It is unfortunate that Inter Island Airways has not been able to fulfill the contents of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in July of 2013 which created the release of the government owned plane to begin air services to the Manu’a Islands. Nevertheless, a new airline is working to accomplish the vision inherent in the decision to lease the government owned plane to Inter Island Airways.
Fortunately, the next best solution is currently being deployed allowing Polynesian Airlines to service the Manu’a Islands until a locally owned airline is functioning to accommodate this air service need to the Manu’a Islands.
The present relationship with Hawaiian Airlines negates our attempts to develop and expand our tourism industry necessary for our economic development diversification program. It is becoming imperative that we must control our own destiny. Thus, steps are being taken to explore the establishment of a second airline that is more sensitive to the development needs of American Samoa.
The Cabotage impediment has been articulated to the Assistant Secretary of Insular Affairs and it is encouraging that there is genuine concern shown by the Office of Insular Affairs. This issue has been raised continuously because our air transportation options are confined to one airline that is more concerned with the bottom line instead of becoming a true community partner willing to achieve a ‘win win’ scenario which will generate mutual benefits for both parties.
Samos based Polynesian Airlines started air service to Ta’u Island on a daily basis. This service will continue until a local airline is operational. It is with great regret that Inter Island Airways was unable to start air services to the Manu’a Islands. However, there is hope that a newly constituted airline will implement this vision.
Through the efforts of the Department of Port Administration, the Ofu Airport has been recertified which can now accommodate the resumption of flights to Ofu when a new airline inaugurates its flights, hopefully in the near future.
Ofu Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting Facility (ARFF) is being constructed with completion expected before the end of 2015. This facility will cost $4.2 million and is funded by FAA on the grant submitted by the Department of Port Administration.
The Ta’u Airport security fence costing $3 million funded by the Federal Aviation Administration resulting from the grant application
prepare and submitted by the Department of Port Administration is completed.
The American Samoa Visitors Board (ASVB) will continue to pursue collaborative work with the motels on Ta’u, Ofu, and Olosega to establish travel packages to entice visitors to Manu’a. The resurrection of flights to Ofu and Olosega with the advent of the new airline and current service by Polynesian airline should improve the opportunity for travel to the Manu’a Islands.
Harvesting benefits inherent in the development of our tourism industry continued to be thwarted by the long existing monopoly and exacerbated by the non-responsive attitude of the air carrier to our overtures to develop ‘win win” strategies ensuring the continued profitability of the airline with the territory benefiting from the expansion of its tourism industry. After over a century of facing the same challenge, it is clear that our destiny must not be left to the control of others.
One option is to explore and investigate the establishment of our own airline if Congress continues to hold American Samoa to comply with the Cabotage Policy. We will need to discuss the merits of this proposal which is the product of a century of bequeathing our destiny to the mercy of others. If it is determined that legislation will be required to address this need, we will collaborate on the development of these laws.
The real Samoa
BY DEAN MILLER
THE HALF-NAKED LOCALS grin hugely at me. Escaping the tropical sun under simple thatch shelters right on the beach, they seem genuinely happy to have me around. Suddenly I feel overdressed and over stressed.
Best sort this out right now. Off with the watch, phone into the deepest, darkest pocket of my backpack, forget the T-shirt, boardies on and straight into the crystal-clear waters that gently lap these stunning islands.
By the time I surface I have forgotten all the reasons I needed this trip to begin with and enter island time… a strange parallel universe where nothing really matters and no one really cares… perfect!
I am on the Pacific Ocean islands of Samoa, far east from Australia. Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish author of the famous adventure novel Treasure Island, called this place home before his untimely death in 1894. In his novel, Stevenson described an island with tropical waters, white sandy beaches and a dramatic coastline that fringed vast mountains.
Well, this place is just like that, so it is no wonder that when he arrived he stayed. He had found his very own Treasure Islands.
I am not the kind of traveller to sit on the beach in front of my resort, sip on a drink with an umbrella in it and read a book while working on my tan. If you are, then I am probably your worst travel buddy.
Granted, I can do that for about 13 minutes before my eyes start darting all over the coastline, wondering what is happening beneath the waves, can I climb that tree, should I see how far I can dig into the sand, where can I hire a scooter so I can jump something, and perhaps that mountain behind us needs someone to stand on top of it?
Getting around Upolu and Savai’I have six days to discover the real Samoa for myself and at this point I have no ideawhat that means. Imagine an idyllic Pacific island and this place will tick every box.
But what sets Samoa apart from other tropical island destinations and why should you choose it as a base for your next adventure? It is very simple. Samoa is one of those very few places that is yet to be discovered by the masses, so once you read this, quietly apply for that holiday leave, book a flight and don’t tell a soul.
Let me give you a few simple stats that should get you going. Beers are $2, absolute beachfront accommodation is $30 with an amazing breakfast and dinner, the locals are among the friendliest I have met in the Pacific and the adventure starts as soon as you jump off the plane, with 28 degrees of goodness to greet you all year round.
There are two main islands in Samoa: Upolu and Savai’i. Upolu is home to the capital city of Apia in the north and after I spend a few hours meandering through its markets it’s time to hit the road and explore the south coast.
You can rent a car or climb aboard a bus with the locals, which is what I recommend. “Buses” here are not the standard form of public transport back home, and thank goodness for that.
Nope, these buses are really just old trucks with cabins built on the back, have no windows, a whole lot of character, a thumping sound system and conductors who will keep you amused for hours. Enough said.
Once I reach the south coast, I make my way to a beach “fale”, which just means “small structure”. This is without a doubt my favourite part of island life – sleeping in a tiny little hut right on the beach, on a simple mattress, with a mossie net and a view that would cost thousands per night anywhere else.
After a night in a fale, listening to the water lap the shore as you drift off into a peaceful slumber, you will wonder why you can’t just buy one and eat coconuts for the rest of your life.
However, in Samoa, foreigners are not allowed to buy land, and that is what makes this place so great. Everything is run and owned by the villagers, and they are only too happy to share their land with wandering travellers.
Most days during my stay in Samoa start the same. I yawn and stretch the whole 10m to the water’s edge and slide into the warm turquoise ocean to plan my day’s activities. And there is plenty to do, depending only on your energy levels.
Local culture of SamoaOver the next few days, I pick off hidden gems that the locals and guidebooks tell me about, but what really amazes me is often I have them all to myself.
Just about anything you can think of doing can be done here with a little planning: snorkelling or diving, surfing, fishing, cycling, hiking, kite surfing, sea kayaking, waterskiing and swimming. You can also visit clear ocean trenches, explore cool forest waterfalls and dodge salty spray at coastal blowholes.
But, for me, the real Samoa begins when I catch the ferry to Savai’i.
As soon as I get off the boat the overall vibe is completely different. It is slower and more relaxed, the people seem to be having more fun and are genuinely friendlier, even though I didn’t think any of this was possible after meeting the locals on Upolu. Yep, this is the Samoa I have been looking for and it is all mine for the next few days.
Savai’i is much more traditional, with villages scattered along the stunning coastline. You won’t find anything that resembles a city here and there are no major resorts, just a few small villages that cater for tourists on the northern side.
Once again I catch a local bus and take in scenes of village life, including pigs and chickens scouring the grasses for food, families working their crops, fishermen in dugout canoes and hundreds of kids playing in the afternoon sun.
After chatting to a few of local lads on the bus, I am invited to visit their village and experience some of the traditions, as well as take a tour of the island. Now I am really excited!
Activities: SamoaOnce again I take up residence in a fale right on the beach and am served a meal fit for a village chief. Roast pork, rice, lots of veggies and taro root. After a few Samoan beers, which are very good, and some great conversations with locals and visitors alike, I’m off to let the sound of the waves send me to sleep.
Over the next few days I learn to climb coconut trees, weave baskets and create building materials out of palm fronds, kayak to nearby islands, ride in the back of utes, go fishing with villagers, climb gigantic strangler fig trees to look out across the rainforest, visit lava fields and peer into the crater of a volcano and – best of all – meet really good people and do lots and lots of laughing.
Samoa is a “choose your own adventure” destination and if you are more organised, which I will be next time, a much bigger expedition can be planned, such as kayaking the coastline, cycling the islands’ ring roads or trekking the vast mountain ridge lines, and all at a fraction of the price at similar destinations.
There is so much to be discovered here, and so few people doing the discovering, that Samoa will quickly become your treasure islands too.
Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey's Hotel & Bungalows - Opening May 1, 2015
Part of Polynesia and nestled in the South Pacific, Samoa comprises two main islands and eight small islets. Situated on Main Beach Road in one of Samoa’s most iconic buildings, the Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel & Bungalows is located in the centre of Apia, Samoa’s capital. Faleolo International Airport (APW) is just a 30-minute drive from the hotel.
There is plenty to see and do in Samoa. Just a few minutes by foot from the hotel, the Palolo Deep Marine Reserve is one of the most beautiful underwater spots in Samoa. The colour and abundance of its sea life is stunning. Charter a boat and spend the day fishing for black or blue marlin, yellow-fin tuna, wahoo, giant trevally, or mahi mahi. Swim with the turtles or partake in numerous water sports. Take a stroll in one of Samoa’s lush national parks to soak in the scenic views and numerous birds. Savaii and Upolu also have spectacular waterfalls, blowholes, caves, and lava fields. Play a round of golf, take a bicycle ride to view the Samoan landscapes, or watch a local cricket game known as kilikiti.
Embrace Samoa’s heritage by visiting a local village and attending a kava (root) ceremony. Be sure to see a cultural show of the graceful female siva dance, the fire knife dance, and the men’s slap dance called fa’ataupati. The Robert Louis Stevenson Museum (RLS) is also interesting.
Visit a local market to browse traditional handcrafted woodcarvings, baskets, jewellery, and colourful lava-lava (sarongs). Fiafia nights, with indigenous buffets and entertainment, are not to be missed. Savour delicious seafood, including crawfish, snapper, mahi mahi, octopus, and tuna. Taro, breadfruit, and green bananas are other ingredients often used in Samoan cuisine. Most Samoans cook their food in an earth hot stone oven known as an umu. Local delicacies include palusami (young taro leaves baked in coconut cream) and oka (raw fish in coconut cream).
Volcanoes and sacred fish