Last month, the world’s attention turned to the Pacific Island nation of Samoa when it hosted the third UN International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Apia on the main island of Upolu.
The Conference addressed the sustainable development challenges that small island countries face and this year the theme was focussed around developing enduring partnerships between small island states – something Samoa have been championing for some time.
First time visitors to Samoa’s capital, Apia, may not have known about the natural and cultural wonders of the island nation. Indeed, the Samoan people take pride in themselves and their living culture. Their capital is a true reflection of that - a vibrant, sophisticated, modern Pacific city with a great dining, arts and shopping scene - and clean to boot. In the years to come, it would be wonderful to see Apia and Samoa internationally recognised as an arts and culture hub for the Pacific.
For travellers thinking about flying to Samoa, we’ve put together an insider travel guide to some of the ‘must see’ activities and attractions in Apia and the island of Upolu.
To Sua Trench
Pictures alone do not do the To Sua Trench at Lotofaga Village justice. You’ve got to see it in person to get a sense of the beauty and scale of this unusual natural attraction. Essentially the Trench is a ginormous, garden- set waterhole that’s accessible only by a long ladder.
The more adventurous and advanced swimmers cum divers can access the sea through an underwater lava tube. Lush gardens, dramatic cliffs, striking panoramic views and a number of open-air fale (beach hut) means you can easily spend the whole day here.
DIRECTIONS: Take the Cross Island Rd and turn left at Siumu and head over to Lotofaga. Alternatively, take the Main East Coast Rd and continue cross island on the Le Mafa Pass to Lotofaga. Look out for signage.
Savaia Marine Reserve
One of Samoa’s premier snorkelling and diving regions, the Savaia Marine Reserve is a testament to what good conservation can do to protect a fragile ecosystem. The reserve was set up after a severe cyclone battered the coast in the early 1990s and is structured to improve the health of the coastal and marine environment as well as protect the region from future cyclone storms, land-based pollution and unsustainable fishing practices.
Visitors are welcome to swim and check out giant clams and other colourful marine life in a beautiful village setting at the Savaia Marine Biodiversity Conservation Reserve on the picturesque south coast of Upolu.
DIRECTIONS: Take the main South Coast Rd and turn off at Savaia toward the south western region of Upolu, along Lefaga Bay. The region has a number of reasonably priced village homestays.
A Touch of Samoa Spa
As a self-confessed spa junkie who’s docked his fair share of massages over the years, the two- hour treatment (a foot massage followed by a full body massage) was one of the best I’ve received to date. I found the Samoan <i>fofo</i> differed a great deal from Fijian <i>bobo</i> and the ubiquitous Swedish massage techniques that I was more familiar with. Expect deep tissue type work with flowing, gliding movements and a fair bit of full body stretching. Fofo has roots in traditional Samoan healing.
The Spa is located on Main Beach Road, Matautu-Tai and is open Mon to Sat - 09:00 to 19:00 and Sunday 11:00 to 19:00.
Experience traditional island life on peaceful Manono, located 3.5 km off the western end of Upolu. A steady paced walk along the coastal track that connects the island’s four main villages lasts two hours unless you stop for a dip in warm turquoise ocean waters or chat with the friendly locals along the way. Manono Island also has a number of archaeological sites such as the Grave of 99 Stones, which marks the resting place of the high chief Vaovasa. Each stone represents one of his wives. A trek to the top of Mount Tulimanuiva in the middle of the island will reveal another site, the Ancient Star Mound.
DIRECTIONS: Head west past the Faleolo International Airport to Le Vasa Resort at Cape Fatuosofia. Look out for the Manono uta wharf past the resort. Catch a ride on any of the small boats heading to the island. There are a few homestays on the isle.
Piula Cave Pools
Located under a historic Methodist Church built during the German colonial time, the Piula Cave Pools are fed by pristine underground waters running from a deep inland source. Splashing into to cool waters is a must do for any visitor. The site is run by the Methodist Theological College and you can stay at a traditional fale and soak up the sun.
DIRECTIONS: Take the Main East Coast Road to Lufilufi. Entry to the Piula Cave Pools cost SAT5 for adults and SAT3 for children under 13 years of age.
Getting there and away
Fiji Airways flies direct to Apia from Fiji regularly.
Organise your Samoa holiday
Flights to Samoa - Fiji Airways operates flights to Samoa regularly from many international ports including flights from Nadi to Samoa, flights from Suva to Samoa, flights from Los Angeles to Samoa, flights from Honolulu to Samoa and flights from Hong Kong to Samoa.