Samoa has entrenched itself firmly in our hearts, not surprising given author Robert Louis Stevenson had huge love for this beautiful nation. We were captivated from the moment we stepped off the plane and are itching to get back there again. Here are our highlights from the trip.
1. To Sua Ocean Trench, Lotofaga (southern end of Upolu, Samoa)
I don’t care how many instagram or National Geographic pics you’ve seen of this magical swimming hole, you can't fully grasp how enchanting it is until you’re actually there. One of two sinkholes in this spot (this is the one you can actually swim in) the leafy garden it’s set in backs onto the coast of the mighty Pacific Ocean, from which the water flows into the trench through a number of channels that feed into it. This means the current of the water inside the sinkhole is dictated by the whims of the ocean and it can get strong enough to move you around inside.
We alternated between swimming and floating on our backs. Gazing upward, we were spellbound by the vista of the rich blue sky was framed by the lush greenery of the hanging vines, ferns and trees around the edges of the sink hole. The gentle sway of the foliage and the changing colours of the water from a stunning turquoise to a deep emerald green kept us hypnotised for hours in this ethereal
Most people tend to stick to Upolu when they visit Samoa, but we suggest that you also head over to Savai'i for a couple of days. A 90 minute ferry ride away from Upolu, it maintains an even quieter pace to the mainland, and it’s here that you will experience relaxation at its maximum.
We spent three days in Savai'i, and from the first day we were comparing it with Upolu noting how much quieter it was with less people on the roads and beaches. There are blowholes and other attractions there worth visiting, or simply spend your days floating in the deep blue waters as we did.
3. The Locals
It doesn’t matter how great a holiday spot is, if the locals aren’t friendly then you’re not going to enjoy it so much. We found that the locals here were very warm, friendly people. Everywhere we went, the locals would wave and smile. The kids were even friendlier, running over to us whenever we stopped the car to take a photo or take in the gorgeous views. They chatted easily, asking our names and other things. It was lovely to meet such lively, genuinely happy and polite kids, so different to what we were used to. Obviously island life, in its simplicity raises kids to appreciate life without ipads and phones.
There’s always something very mystical about a waterfall for me, there is an abundance of waterfalls on both of the islands. We took in the majestic falls, with a deluge of water billowing over the rapids and these we enjoyed from afar. At the smaller waterfalls we were able to swim in the pools that formed at the bottom of the falls. We definitely recommend trying to visit as many as you can whilst on these gorgeous shores.
Samoa is steeped in culture. The people are fiercely proud of whom they are and where they come from. As with Rarotonga, there are churches everywhere, and we’re told that this is a very important part of island life. In Samoa, everything centres around the churches, the priests/reverends and their aigas (families). They have a very high standing in the community, and the congregations are very respectful towards them.
Conversely, the elders of an aiga are revered, they are always served first and children eat last. It’s a strange custom to non Samoans but one that teaches children to be respectful and patient. The simplicity of Samoan living means they are people of the land and water. Outside of Apia, they farm, clean and fish. The open fales (houses) without walls are very communal and there is a strong sense of aiga (family) and community here. It’s not just island life, it’s village life.
6. Lalomanu Beach
Lalomanu beach is exquisite, there are no rocky areas here as with the other beaches we’d seen. Gazing out at the striking azure blue of the ocean, it was to hard to imagine that a few years before over 180 people died when the tsunami hit American and Western Samoa in 2009. It shattered the lives of the locals and shell shocked the surviving tourists who were on the island at the time. Samoans all around the world who maintain very strong ties with their family back home grieved for their loved ones and tried to make sense of the catastrophe that completely wiped out whole villages. Lalomanu beach was the worst hit on the south coast. For a very long time afterwards, family members from all corners across the seas flew in to help with the clean up along with the shell-shocked locals. It was a while before Lalomanu’s stretch of pristine white sand regained the beauty it was always known for.
It would seem insensitive that we enjoyed ourselves swimming and sunbathing throughout the day, but that is exactly what the locals want tourists to still be able to do. This is their utopian paradise and yes they are no doubt still hurting from that destructive event but it’s important to them that visitors see the island for it’s beauty and splendour that they are so fiercely proud of. We’d paid a small fee to sit on the beach, but opted not to hire a beach fale (house) for the day for a small extra cost, preferring instead to let the sun wash it’s rays over our bodies.
Well done Samoa, fa’afetai lava (thank you very much) for your hospitality. Keep a spot for us on those gorgeous beaches of yours, because we’re coming back to visit you again and again.