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.
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."
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.
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.