Arriving in Samoa is like finding heaven on Earth.
As we came off the plane, the humid air tingled at our skin. We were welcomed to the country with the sound of guitars, ukeles and the beautiful voices of the islanders singing their songs.
The sun rose during our ferry ride to the island of Savai’i, also raising the temperature to a perfect 28 degrees. The rolling seas, and the cloudy sky gave us a show of beautiful pink streaks dancing around the barge.
At the ferry terminal we watched a well-sized pig waddle across for its morning swim in one of the puddles created by the rain from the night before. Our van arrived to drive us to the surf camp.
The drive itself was stunning. The roads were surrounding by lush greenery. The houses were basic; most without walls. All had gardens overflowing with fruit trees and vegetables. We watched in awe as we drove by the simple life led by the local Samoan people.
It wasn’t long before we turned off the main road (there is only one road that goes around the whole island) towards our surf retreat. We eventually came through the thick jungle and saw the breaking waves that would play constantly in the background for our two-week stay.
The view was magnificent. The water turquoise and clear. The camp was everything we wanted it to be for this holiday. Individual beach fales were scattered along the small beach, overlooking the surf break that each guest admired constantly, if they weren’t already on it.
And so began two weeks where the daily routine involved:
Breakfast whilst admiring the waves
Nap/read/admire the waves
Lunch whilst admiring the waves
Nap/read/admire the waves
Nap/read/admire the waves
Drink beer whilst admiring the waves and the sunset
Bed whilst listening to the breaking waves, which sometimes we a little bit too loud.
The order changes according to surfing conditions and tide, but the activities remained pretty much the same.
Some days involved venturing around the island to explore some of the sites (more about that later). Other days brought downpours of rain. Luckily water sports don’t get affected by being out in the rain. Though it did add a few more naps to the routine on those days.
With only 13 Fales, housing approximately 30 people the place was quiet and relaxing. Actually, most of the time there weren’t any more than 10 people staying at the whole place. The majority of visitors only stayed for a few days before venturing on elsewhere. Ryan and I, and two of our friends we met on the plane over, were the only ones staying in the one place for an entire two weeks. We quickly learned that it was worth it.
We quickly adjusted to the Samoan way of life. Making a decision was all too much effort and walking over to the next Fale seemed like just too much. Lying down and being horizontal was best.
During the first week, I came to realize the reason for something very strange I had noticed during our drives on the island. For some reason the Samoan people would lay out their clothing and sheets along the ground. Grass or dirt it didn’t really matter. I was thinking it was so odd, when they could just string out some line.
Soon it became very clear that absolutely nothing dried, unless it is sprawled out in the sunniest spot you could find. During our first week a lot of rain came through, and it ended with three days of cloud cover with one day bringing a constant heavy downpour. I could not wait for the sun to come out so I could sprawl everything we owned out across the grass. This is even despite the grass having grown some sort of creepy slippery moss.
At that point I decided that nothing I saw was strange, and had its reason for being done.
Spearfishing started out to be quite disappointing. Given the amazing reef that stretched out in front of our fale, there was a noticeable lack of fish. We knew they had to be there somewhere. The surf guide, Mitch, our friend from back home (who we did not realize was in Samoa until the week before we left) had caught two dog-tooth tuna just at the drop off of the reef. This gave us hope, and so we persevered.
The first week only brought in one Rainbow Runner.
During the second week we decided to take the boat out to the FAD (fish attraction device). It really wasn’t far out from the land, but the boat was slow. Slow enough to do some trawling on our way out and back. Nothing was caught trawling.
We expected much more from the FAD. We spent about four hours out there. During the first ten minutes, a resident shark came up to let us know it was watching. Being in about 200 – 300 metres of water, we knew it wouldn’t be the only one.
After what felt like an eternity, one small school of Dolphin Fish showed up. Lee, who was fishing off the back of the boat caught one just as Mitch speared one. This caused a flurry of activity. Five of us were in the water, three with spearguns. Mitch was busy trying to take control of his fish, while Lee’s catch was going berserk trying to get rid of the hook that had implanted into its eye. Three sharks decided they wanted to get amongst it.
I had just shot my gun trying to catch some burley, so it was unloaded. Ryan’s gun was half loaded and he was trying to help Mitch, because his gun was about to rip out of the flesh of his nice catch. The other boys were torn between taking video and hiding behind one of us with a speargun. The sharks didn’t know if they should approach to take the fish or stay away. I spent my time watching two of them, not knowing there was even a third one.
The flurry of activity ended just as quickly as it started when Lee got his fish into the boat and Mitch’s fish got off the spear swimming away at the same time. I guess it was at that time that the sharks decided to go off after the wounded fish.
We proceeded to get some burley going in the water to attract more fish that we knew had to be out there. A school of blue-fin tuna came just within sight, but were extremely timid. We could not get anywhere near them. A big wahoo came through, but again, stayed out of shooting range. Perhaps having five people in the water was a sign to the fish to be weary. I don’t really blame them.
Lee’s dolphin fish was the catch of the day. The only catch of the day.
The second week of shore diving was a bit more promising. It brought in a Spanish Mackerel, Cod, job fish and a well sized parrot fish. We saw the biggest grouper ever. It tried to eat us and the fish Ryan was holding. This thing was seriously the size of us put together side by side and would have swallowed one of us whole. Quite amazing really.
The lack of fish became quite evident after seeing the locals go spearfishing. They would return with about 30 fish each, all about 10cm long. It gave me a whole new appreciation of the fisheries regulations we have in Australia.
Two days prior to leaving, twelve more people arrived at our beautiful little retreat. It was like an invasion and we realized how good it had been during the previous 12 days. Although there were still only about 20 people in the whole place!!!
This was a sign that we had to move on. Too big a crowd. By then we also realized that we could spend hours just sitting and looking at nothing. That’s when I learned to understand the ground staff who spent more time sitting on one of the porches than picking up leaves off the ground.
Aganoa Beach Retreat gave us everything we were looking for, but the time felt right to move on elsewhere.
Our next stop was Sa’Moana Resort on Upolu Island. More upmarket than the previous retreat, but not over the top. We still had a bungalow on the beach, but it was a bit more set back from the water and overlooking the lava rock infinity pool.
Again, this was paradise. I don’t think any Oceanside location in Samoa wouldn’t be. Unfortunately that part of the coast had been right in the middle of the path of the cyclone that hit in December 2012. The resort was still in the process of fixing the damage, so there were not many guests. We breathed a sigh of relief, given the crowd that had arrived at Aganoa.
We were overlooking a beautiful reef with surf out the front. However, there was no reef pass so the waves were breaking a little bit too straight on for Ryan to get much surfing in. He managed to surf a couple of times by going out on the boat to other reef breaks. The waves were much better there.
One other family was hanging around for a few days. When they left, the resort became exclusively ours. The routine was as follows:
For two days we escaped the confines of Salamumu Village to explore the Island. Other than that, it was relax relax relax.
The last few days gave us some glorious weather and magnificent sunsets. Because there are always clouds in the sky, the reflections of the sunset were always as good as the sunset itself.
Our Samoan holiday was amazing. I hesitated to write about it because I really want to keep this little paradise to myself, but at the same time I would also like to see it reap the benefits that tourism can being to a country. I just hope that when real tourism hits, it won’t ruin the feel of the place.
I will leave you with some things I didn’t know about Western Samoa:
- The people are not really that big a race. It seems the Asian influence has remained in the gene pool meaning some Samoans are rather petite.
- Some boys are raised as fa’afafine. That means they are raised as a girl and given female roles within the family structure. This generally occurs if the family has had only boys. It is considered a third gender.
- Every road has one speed limit: 56Km per hour.
- Only about 30,000 tourists visit the country each year. There is more than enough accommodation, trust me.
- The land is 90% village owned land. If you want to visit areas within a village you generally have to pay for entry. The going price is usually 5 tala.
- The population is still under 200,000 people.
- Germany ruled Western Samoa for 14 years from 1900.
- Since December 2011 it has been the first country in the world to see the sun rise. That is because on 29 December 2011 Samoa moves to the Australian side of the international date line. Before then it was the last country in the world to see the sun set each day. They skipped 30 December 2011 altogether!!!
- Lalomanu beach (on Upolu Island) was voted one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 beaches in the world.
- You don’t go to Samoa for the culinary experience. The food there was not what I expected from a country with so much fresh food growing everywhere.
I will reveal more photos soon. Well as some ideas of things to see on both islands.