Visitors Guide S
Samoa is one of the safest places I have been to. There seems to be little violent crime and a great sense of ‘community’. However, theft can happen – not through malice but simply because the concept of individual ownership of material goods is not totally accepted. So, don’t leave valuables unattended, including clothing and shoes. If your towel ‘goes missing’ overnight, it’s simply because someone had need of a towel!
If, for some reason, you find yourself in a position of having to defend yourself (e.g. approached by a drunk wanting an argument) it is best to quietly walk away from the situation, even if it means apologising for something you didn’t do. Keep in mind that if an argument did come to blows you would come off second best. This is not only because most Samoan lads are strong but also family and friends will join in attacking you, even if they know you are in the right. It’s a family loyalty thing and part of fa’a Samoa (the Samoan Way).
Samoa is truly in the heart of the Pacific and is made up of two main large inhabited islands, two small islands with villages and five uninhabited motu (islands). The country was named after the sacred (sa) moa (chickens) of Lu, son of Tagaloa, the god of creation. Of course a lot more can be said about this wonderful tropical destination and I’ll leave that to the other 26,000 words on this site.
Savai’i is the larger of the two main islands in Samoa and visitors should take time to jump on the ferry (60 or 90 minutes, depending on which vessel) or hop a flight (10 minutes) to discover an extremely beautiful part of the planet that has a pace that is even more laid-back than on Upolu.
Sa’moana Beach Resort
While open to any guests looking for relaxation, snorkelling or diving, this resort is a Mecca for surfers. The bungalows are comfortable, the restaurant excellent (Friday night for fia fia) and the swimming pool is an inviting infinity ‘rock pool. It is located near the village of Salamumu on Upolo’s south coast
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 fun dives (tank dives). They provide free transfers for divers staying in Manase – Phone (685)596-022 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com 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.
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, an abundance of marine life.
Wendy at Seabreeze will give you a warm welcome at this intimate and exclusive Samoan resort. Sensational location, terrific facilities, wonderful staff. All villas have ocean, lagoon and reef views and romantic ambience is the order of the day. Weddings are a specialty.
Just five minutes from the airport is Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Resort. The resort has everything you need for a relaxing or productive stay. There’s complimentary High Speed Internet Access as well as a comfortable setting to catch up on emails, enjoy a board game, watch TV, relax with a good book, or make new friends. You can enjoy some fabulous pampering at the Manaia Polynesian Spa and relax and soak up the sun beside either swimming pool. There is a 24-hour Sheraton Fitness centre and the Dolphin Kids Club, complimentary for ages 12 and under. For drinking and dining options include casual drinks and snacks at The Solent Bar and The Pool Bar, Japanese fusion at the La Penina Clubhouse, local and international cuisine at the South Pacific Restaurant and buffet breakfasts and Friday cultural show and dinner in the Apolima Fale. Here is a link to the official website for Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Resort.
Aggie Grey’s Hotel has been Apia’s most famous address for decades. Sitting opposite the harbour, the property is still Apia’s leading tourist hotel and it first became famous as a hamburger outlet for US soldiers during World War II. These days it is Sheraton Apia Aggie Grey’s Hotel and Bungalows. At the resort historical colonial façade meets modern design with a new lobby and complimentary wireless High Speed Internet Access. There are two swimming pools, a state-of-the-art fitness centre (24 hours) and pampering at the Shine Spa for Sheraton. Club guests have special access to the Sheraton Club Lounge for relaxing, complimentary breakfast, afternoon hors d’oeuvres, and a variety of beverage options plus business facilities. Here is a link to the resort website for more info.
If having a wander perhaps start at the colourful Marketi Fou (vegetable markets) and head towards the harbour to the Flea Market and then along Beach Road. Aggie’s Gift Shop (next to the hotel) has tapa, baskets, war clubs and other handicrafts.
Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa
This is a fabulous resort for couples seeking romance and relaxation. Elegant and casual with a range of accommodation options from garden to beachfront there are two restaurants, pool and diving, surfing and fishing. The resort is located on the south coast about 35 minutes from Apia. For more information or bookings, email here.
Siufaga Beach Resort
Siufaga (pronounced Siufanga) is now called Amoa Resort on the northern island of Savaii and is the most up-market accommodation property there. Located at stunning Faga Beach it has a range of accommodation with the ‘superior’ fales ideal for couples – comfortable and tastefully furnished. For more information or bookings, email here.
The siva is a graceful, poetic dance where the dancer expresses himself/herself. The story telling is in the fingers and the face.
Unlike some Pacific destinations where smoking seems almost compulsory, Samoa is taking a healthy approach to smoking with billboards advertising its shortcomings. Having said that, bars have ashtrays on the tables for patrons. If your room has an ashtray in it, please do the next guests a favour and use it on your balcony.
Sport & Recreation
It’s all there for those who want it – surfing, diving, snorkelling, tennis, hiking, kayaking, game fishing, cycling and golf (see under individual listings). It’s quite amazing how active a place Samoa can be when sometimes you wonder if it has a pulse.
If you feel like getting even sweatier in the tropics the Apia Squash Courts are near Apia Wharf (ph 20554) and Heem’s Courts are on the outskirts of town (ph 20 183). Tournaments are often held including during the Teuila Festival in September.
The famous Scottish author and wife Fanny are very much part of Samoa – more info under Robert Louis Stevenson. So you’re not totally unrewarded here, a bit of Stevenson trivia – as well as Treasure Island he wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde following a dream and the period of time between writing the opening sentence and printing the book was just ten weeks. That first sentence, by the way, is:
Mr. Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary and yet somehow lovable.
You are near the equator and the sun is close, hot and powerful so do apply good sun protection. Even if wearing a hat/cap – the reflecting waters can also burn. Apart from skin damage, there’s not much worse than a dose of severe sunburn to take the fun out of holiday. Wear a hat, sunglasses and slap on the sunscreen and keep hydrated with plenty of water. Even after doing this, most visitors will still go home with a tan if the weather is fine. In case of sunburn, women will find moisteriser soothing and men might like to try Viagra – at least it can keep the sheets off them.
Sundays for Samoans are for religion and relaxation and many restaurants and attractions will be closed (see Religion)
There are several supermarkets in and around Apia – some open early and close late and some will be open on Sundays (not for beer though).
Surfing in Samoa is excellent and attracts keen board riders from around the world. In summer the best waves are off the north coast and, in winter, off the south. The reef breaks are powerful (left and right breaks) and are not for the novice rider. Most villages on Savai’i charge a day fee. Sa’moana Resort on Upolu caters well for the surfing crowd.
There are great beaches for swimming around both main islands as well as some great freshwater pools. In some parts there can be deceptive currents (the water looks calm because of the protective reef). Remember there are no lifeguards so keep an eye on children and if a current does draw you away, go with the flow until you can safely get to the shore.
- sa: sacred, taboo, evening prayers
- sau: come
- savali: walk
- sene: a cent
- siapo: tapa cloth
- sili: best
- soifua: good luck (or ‘cheers’, ‘best wishes’ when signing off an email)