The South Pacific
One item on the to-do list for our time in Australia was a holiday on one of the South Pacific Islands. From Europe, the South Pacific region is literally on the other side of the world. A flight from Frankfurt to Samoa takes at least 33 hours with a travel distance of more than 22,000 km. From the Australian perspective the South Pacific is a common holiday destination. With a flight time of less than five hours from Sydney or Brisbane, a trip to Samoa is comparable to having holidays on one of the Canary Islands for people from Germany. In our imagination of a South Pacific Island, we see sandy beaches with palm trees almost touching the warm and clear water of a silent sea. Yeah, that’s “Beautiful Samoa”. Apart from that the island has much more to offer, definitely beautiful like in the advertising slogan, but sometimes also extraordinary and overwhelming.
But let’s start with the beaches. First of all, there are not that many large beaches on Samoa as one might suppose. In fact, there is only one large beach on Upolu, the South Island of Samoa, where we spent our holidays. Our first beach experience was at a beach named after the 1953 movie Return to Paradise, which we had never heard of.
The beach is nice though, the water calm and warm, some palms around the little bay – beautiful. However, we make our first experience with Samoan weather. It changes so quickly from sunny to rainy and back to sunny that you can get wet and sunburned within a few hours, and yeah, we did both.
Our resort had a small beach as well (larger during low tide) and others in reach with a kayak.
As the Southern part of Upolu is surrounded by a reef, the sea is calm most of the time, and one can easily kayak between the little off-shore islands to the next bay.
We spent one day on the small off-shore island Namua which has a nice and sandy coastline with the typical coconut tree reaching out towards the sea.
We were told that another nice beach is at Matareva. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get there because the TV show Australian Survivor was produced at this beach at the time we wanted to go there. The largest but also a bit more crowded beach on Upolu is Lalomanu Beach (also the locals like to take a bath there). It is already a very nice beach by itself but outstanding on every photo because of a little offshore island. On many other beaches like this there would be a hotel complex right next to the sea. Good on Samoa, that this is not the case and the traditional Samoan homes, called Fales, are bordering Lalomanu Beach.
Fales and Samoan architecture
You will find them everywhere on the island, circular-shaped open buildings consisting of wooden posts holding up a domed roof. As the temperature is between 25 and 30 degree day and night in Samoa and there are no dangerous animals (like in Australia), this architecture actually makes sense. It also reflects the culture and life of Samoan people, who are very open and friendly and seem to have nothing to hide from others.
The arrival of European missionaries in Samoa affected the architecture as stone houses were built, particularly churches. Samoan people are very religious nowadays, even more than the people of the countries which brought Christian religion to Samoa. On a Sunday everybody is well-dressed and on the way to one of the many churches. Most of the tourist attractions are closed on Sundays, and swimming or sunbathing at public beaches are frowned upon.
Our accommodation was made of stone, but still had a touch of traditional, wooden Samoan architecture. We very much appreciated the large hammock on the deck in front of our Ocean View Villa and the pool with sea view and a cocktail surf board.
However, we didn’t spent much time in the pool, as the sea has much more to offer. There are many colourful fish and corals in the water. Though the marine life in the Southern part of Upolu is still suffering from a Tsunami in 2009. Particularly many corals died in the region. A good spot for snorkelling is at the Palolo Deep Marine Reserve close to Apia, the capital of Samoa. A few hundred meters off-shore is an ocean trench with bright green and blue corals, blue sea stars and heaps of fish.
At the Giant Clam Sanctuary, we went swimming with a turtle and of course saw the impressive giant clams, which are that big, that you may swallow water through your snorkel while saying out loud: ‘Holy shit’.
With more than 35.000 inhabitants, Apia is the largest town on Samoa. We visited the Fish Market and the Flea Market, which are close to the Central Bus Station. The typical Samoan buses are very colourful but also practical with big wheels as there are many pot holes on the sealed and unsealed roads of Samoa. After that we went to the Fruit Market, tasting some fruits we had never seen before.
Of course we also bought a coconut with a straw. Apart from the fact that one shouldn’t park under a coconut tree, these trees are a wonderful invention of nature. Which fruit can you get a tasteful and healthy drink of just by cutting the top and putting a straw into it? Coconuts are sold everywhere along the roads in Samoa, and in a restaurant a coconut is usually the second-cheapest item on the list of beverages (after water). We also learned how the coconut milk is traditionally produced by the locals.
At the hilly edge of Apia is a place called Papaseea Sliding Rocks. But not the rocks are sliding, human beings can, if they have the courage to do so. After watching other people sliding down the rocks, we gave it a try and slid down the cascades into a water basin. When you’ve done it once, you definitely want to do it again, just as in an adventure pool, but wait, this is real nature!
To be continued…