MY CONNECTION WITH SAMOA IS DEEPLY PERSONAL, THOUGH ON LOOKS ALONE I BET YOU WOULDN’T BELIEVE THAT I’VE ONLY BEEN THERE THREE TIMES.
But, can she speak Samoan? No.
Despite my heritage, I’m what’s affectionately known in Samoa as a ‘palagi’ (pah-langi), meaning a person who is not from there (and possibly caucasian in appearance and demeanor). Our last trip in 2018 was most significant because we got to experience the place as a family with both our Mums present. Here were some highlights, as published originally on The Garb Wire (my other baby).
FLORENCE’S PLACE, FA’ALA, PALAULI
My Mum is originally from the village of Fa’ala on the island of Savai’i. Village law rules supreme throughout Samoa and Mum has the high chief title of ‘Papali’i Tele’ from her Grandmother’s family, the Malietoa from the village of Sapapali’i, which is also in Savai’i.
Florence’s Place is a cultural home stay experience started by my Aunty Ruth & her partner Kelvin. It’s open to travellers who want to experience life in a richly abundant Samoan village, with the comforts we are familiar with (ahem, demand). If you need to escape the modern world properly, I recommend heading here to nap in the afternoons, learn what it means to grow and prepare organic food, sip gin in the afternoon and sleep under mosquito nets. It’s surprisingly romantic, and the whole time our kids thought we were staying in a big treehouse. On our next visit, I will definitely opt for one of the many cycling adventures around Savai’i. Follow on Instagram. Contact Florence’s Place here.
AGANOA LODGE, SAVAI’I
Five minutes drive from Florence’s Place, Aganoa Lodge is a meeting point for some of the world’s most accomplished surfers. It’s known the world over as ‘one of the last untrodden surf wonderlands on the planet.’ There is something truly magical about the place – I’ve not stayed in the beach fales (yet), but it’s so hidden from view that you feel like the beach was put there just for you. The tranquility of it all is bewitching, and if you get to spend time here, even for only one sunset, the serenity will be burned into your emotional memory for good.
TO SUA TRENCH, LOTOFAGA
Some places take your breath away. It doesn’t matter what you think you’ve seen, or what you already know, to visit To Sua Trench is like stepping in to an epic adventure flick like Raiders of the Lost Ark. We visited as part of an excellent day trip run by local operator Samoa Scenic – it’s worth the tour just for the humour of the guide, there is nothing like Samoan humour. We did the Aleipata Districts Waterfalls & To Sua Ocean Trench tour which included a barbecue lunch and afternoon dip at Faofao Beach Fales. I wouldn’t recommend taking kids on this one, for the obvious safety risks, but my Mother-in-Law did fearlessly climb down the enormous ladder, which in itself taught me a lot about courage.
BEACH FALES EVERYWHERE
Beach fales (fa-lehs) are a structural staple in the lush Samoan landscape. You could be driving anywhere and suddenly feel the need to stop and take a dip in the ocean. Usually they’re owned by the surrounding villages, so expect to pay a small fee for making use of their beach structures and seaside. At Asaga Village there was surf on one side, and a freshwater pool on the other. Perfect relief from particularly humid days.
MANAIA SPA, SHERATON SAMOA RESORT
Located right on the edge of the Sheraton Samoa Resort grounds is an indoor/outdoor day spa called Manaia Polynesian Spa that provided one of the most exotic backgrounds I’ve experienced for a massage. My treatment took place in a little fale nestled in the trees and I listened to the sounds of the birds chirping while I busily did not a thing, except relax.