Visitors Guide D
Dance is an important part of Samoan culture. The sasa is a synchronized group dance with the rhythm coming from clapping or beating a drum or woven mat. The siva is a lyrical, poetic and graceful dance that tells a story. Watch the delicate finger movements and you may follow the story without a need to follow the words – the dance is to the lyrics as well as the music. Body percussion (slapping) comes into play in the fa’ataupati, which can be quite mesmerizing – think of an extended well-choreographed haka. Then there are the amazing knife-fire dances, sometimes performed by ‘men’ as young as eleven (Tivoli from Tanu Beach will undoubtedly become a champion fire dancer). This dance looks dangerous and it is – tradition says that only men who are afraid of the dance get burned. The fire dance originated as part of tribal warfare and the words ‘run away!’ come to mind. Add food and drink to the above ingredients and you have a fia fia and a marvellous night of entertainment.
The Leavai Dental Surgery (Dr Peniamina Leavai) is at the end of Vaea Street – Phone 20 172 and the Soonalole Dental Surgery is at Alamagato – Phone 21 145.
As of January 1 2013, departure tax is no longer payable at the airport (included in the fare).
The scuba diving in Samoa is sensational – reefs, wrecks, colourful coral and fish, rays, turtles and great visibility (usually 30 metres). Dive Savaii is operated by a young couple, Fabien and Flavia, and they are based opposite Le Lagoto Beach Resort, Fagamalo, Savai’i Island. They offer PADI dive courses and guided fundives (tank dives). They provide free transfers for divers staying in Manase – Phone (685)596-022 or e-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Two favourite dive sites here (a few minutes out to the reef on the dive boat) are Coral Gardens and the wreck Juno. They also offer snorkeling trips and snorkeling gear rental – www.divesavaii.com
On Upolu, AquaSamoa is a professional operation based at the new Aggie Grey’s Lagoon Beach Resort & Spa – phone 45662. A couple of favourite dives from here: The Rock – 20 minutes by boat to a volcanic pinnacle where you usually dive into a school of barracuda – also manta rays, moray eels, clown trigger fish, tuna, trevally etc – you’ll feel like you are in an aquarium. Open water divers go 12 to 18 metres to a plateau – advanced divers can drop off the plateau to find reef sharks. At Apolima Gardens you can take a drift dive with many routes to choose from (so you may want multiple dives here). The coral gardens start at 8 metres and again, there’s an abundance of marine life.
If you pass the hospital in Apia or on Savai’i, chances are you will see a crowd of people reminiscent of a school playground at lunchtime with adults also in attendance. The English translation for this is a queue so if you do wish to be treated at either hospital take a thick book and a sense of humour. It may be better to make an appointment with a private doctor and pay a little more. The phone number for the Tupua Tamasese Memorial Hospital in Apia is 21 212 and one private practice is the Soifua Manuia Clinic on Faatoia Road. The literal translation of ‘soifua manuia’ is ‘good luck and cheers’ but my guess is that it also doubles as ‘good health’.
A lot of local dogs look as they don’t enjoy good health. Scrawny and suspicious they roam the villages and back streets of Apia. They can be a problem (especially in a pack) and there have been reports of tourists getting bitten. Usually they will leave you alone but if a dog approaches looking at all menacing, bend as if to pick up a stone and it will back away. Dogs have reasonable memories and stone throwing has obviously taught a lot of new dogs old tricks.
Dress cool and casual (cotton) – it’s summer temperatures all year round. Pack something a little smart for dining out and ladies should dress modestly, especially in villages or at church. A lavalava (sarong, pareo, sulu) is a handy item to pack or purchase – looks good, feels cool and travels well. No nudity on the beaches please!
Drinking should be a compulsory ritual when holidaying in Samoa – water that is. You are very close to the equator and the humidity can be high – keep the body fluids topped up. Some would say that drinking Vailima beer should be a compulsory ritual when holidaying in Samoa and I’m not going to argue. Of course, alcohol should not be combined with…
Driving is on the left hand side of the road. Up until September 2009 it was on the right, probably because of German colonisation early in the 20th century. The change to the other side surprisingly went pretty smoothly. It’s not difficult to get around but do keep the speed down and a watchful eye when driving through villages in case you hit a chicken, dog, pig or child. The Transport Control Board opposite the flea market at Vaitele in Apia will validate your driver’s licence for $10. Speed limits are 25mph (40kmph) in town and 35mph (55kmph) between villages.
This is mostly on hearsay, but there appears to be a drug problem in Apia. If you go looking (at nightclubs or in the streets at night) you will find marijuana and ‘ice’ (methamphetamine). This is basically a nasty chemical concoction that makes the user feel invincible – one that can make a person believe they can take six bullets in the chest and still keep running like a rugby winger. It’s a pity that some youths aren’t happy with the socially acceptable stimulants/relaxants of Vailima and kava.
You will need to complete a written declaration on arrival in Samoa stating you haven’t entered with more than the allowed duty free – 2.25 litres of alcohol and 200 cigarettes per person (have to be over 21). On departure there is South Pacific Duty Free shop airside at Faleolo Airport that sells alcohol and perfume (and Vailima beer in six packs). Prices displayed are in US dollars so do your maths. While it can be nice to support local people, most items will be more expensive than your duty free goods on arrival back home.