Adventures on Samoa's biggest island
06.06.2012 - 16.06.2012 26 °C
Warning: very long blog ahead! I advise pouring yourself a cuppa and finding a comfy chair before reading (What can I say? The last two weeks in Samoa was action packed!)
After a week exploring Upolu, it was time to check out Savaii. The island is larger than Upolu (in fact it’s the third largest in Polynesia after New Zealand and Hawaii) but is home to only about 43,000 people. We all squished into the van before sunrise and made the 40 minute trip to the ferry terminal. Our little van was bursting at the seams with not only 12 bodies but about 20 pieces of luggage stuffed into it!
- The trip across to Savaii takes about 1.5 hours
- When we arrived, we were greeted by some helpful policemen
Savaii is known for its dramatic, unspoilt natural beauty. This was evident almost immediately after getting off the ferry – lush rainforest, lava fields, traditional villages and a wild mountainous interior. We were so uncomfortable in our squishy van, it was decided to make the 90 minute trip to our hotel on the north west coast without stopping (thus getting it over and done with!).
We were so impressed with our hotel, the Vaisala. Sure, it was desperately rundown but it was on a stunning stretch of coast, was dirt cheap and is only a five minute drive away from Alisa’s village. It is also close to the Falealupo peninsula, home to a number of attractions that we checked out the following day.
- Alisa takes a dip outside the Vaisala.
First stop on our tour of the Falealupo area was the Canopy Walkway. Here, we climbed a spiral staircase, wrapping around a monstrous banyan tree until we were above the rainforest canopy. The views were breathtaking but the real excitement came when we crossed a 30 metre suspension bridge leading to another huge banyan tree. It wasn’t for the faint hearted! I’m fine with heights, but one does wonder about building regulations in Samoa…
Next it was on to Moso's Footprint. According to the myth, the footprint was made when the giant Moso stepped over to Samoa from Fiji (the other footprint can be found in Fiji). Unfortunately the story is a lot more exciting than the site itself.
- Falealupo used to be the last village in the world to see the sunset, but that’s no longer the case. On December 29th 2011, the Samoan government cheekily skipped a day and moved the international date line to the east of the country, now Falealupo is one of the first.
Visiting Sataua - Alisa's village
This part of the trip was easily the most special and memorable. Satoa was Alisa's home for almost two decades and the place is obviously full of childhood memories for her. She told us all about what it was like to grow up in a house full of kids (she is the eldest of 15), how hard her parents worked and what it was to be part of a community where everyone is like family. Sadly, Sataua is no longer the bustling village it once was. In a situation repeated all over Samoa, scores of villagers have left to take up residence in New Zealand or Australia. Alisa bravely moved to Sydney in the 1960s when the Samoan community was non existent. Now there's something like 40,000 living in Australia (triple that in New Zealand!)
- The fale Alisa grew up in. It's hard to believe her parents raised 15 children in this house!
- The view Alisa woke up to everyday.
- Reece, Brayden, Darcy, Jay and Ryan with their Grandmother and the grave of their Great Grandparents
- Most of Samoa's land is owned by the people, with each family inheriting a big chunk in their village. Here we on a tour of the land belonging to Alisa's family which is being used to grow coconuts, bananas, taro, yams, coffee, cocoa and more!
- Lunch. EEK! ...and I thought chickens came from supermarkets.
The Vaisala was an awesome place to chill out. We went snorkelling, kayaking, fishing and I made friends some local kids.
- Richard catches a ripper!
After a terrific few days hanging out at the Vaisala, we had it to head back down to the Salelonga area so Bray's family could be close to the wharf to get back to Upolu (Brayden and I were remaining in Savaii). On the way we paid the equivalent of about 2 bucks to swim with some turtles!
- Turtle attack!
- This was taken a second after a turtle mistook my thumb for a bit of pawpaw! Their beak is powerful and it throbbed for hours!
Lusia’s Lagoon Chalets at Salelologa was our last hotel on the family trip. Brayden and I stayed in a traditional fale built over the aqua blue water surrounded by rainforest. I want to tell you it was the best sleep we ever had, but the truth is we spent both nights battling mosquitoes (the mozzies won). The food here was really good. Oka, a traditional dish of raw fish marinated in coconut cream, lemon juice and chilli was easily my favourite. The cocktails were pretty good too!
- Mmm pina colada
- Our fale
After 2 days in Salelologo we had to say 'tofa' to Brayden’s family and part ways. It was such a good 8 days, the two of us were devastated. Breakfast the following morning felt way too quiet. To sooth our loneliness we hopped a bus to Manase, a spectacular stretch of beach on the mid north coast.
- Told you it was spectacular!
- Me out the front of our beachfront fale at Tanu beach
We were more than two weeks into our trip to Samoa and I still hadn't ticked off one of my 'must dos' - watch a fiafia, which is basically a showcase of traditional singing, dancing and music. I was growing concerned, but then I had one of those serendipitous moments after dinner one night. Without warning, the lights went out, the drumming began...it was ...A FIAFIA!
- The men's slap dancing was incredible - a little like the clapping games I played in primary school only about million times the intensity!
Fiafia roughly translates to 'happy!'
All up we spent 4 days at Tanu Beach Fales and probably the most energetic we got was walking the 5 metres from our fale to the water! We were feeling so chilled out it was tough to leave but thankfully next on the itinerary was Lalomanu, yet another spectacular beach back on the island of Upolu.
- Brayden in our beachfront fale
We didn't think it was possible but Lalomanu was even more beautiful than Manase. We stayed here for 2 nights and you'll never guess what happened on our last night...
- Lalomanu was hit hard by the tsunami of 2009. This little girl (now 6) was rescued by a tourist after she was washed on to the roof of a fale.
Our last day of Samoa was spent at Aggie Grey's Beach Resort - a swanky hotel near the airport. We couldn't afford to stay there so we basically hatched a cunning plan to sneak in at lunchtime and pretend we were guests to the wee hours of the morning. Worked a treat! We even managed to get ourselves on the resort's free shuttle bus to the airport. What can I say? We must look like five star material!
And you'll never guess what was on the night we were there...
.... FIAFIA number three!
Overall Samoa was magical. I imagine it to be what Hawaii was before all the developers got in and the tourists took over. It is a place of unspoilt natural beauty. Best of all, you get the impression it will stay this way for generations to come.
Next stop New Zealand!