Samoa delivers in the adventure travel category, with its rugged beauty and remote location, but this South Pacific Island certainly has the means to enjoy your time without the trials and tribulations that come with high octane thrills.
Dense jungle on steep sided volcanoes, lava caves and black lava rock flows down to a rocky coastline with fringing coral reef. Add in a few towering waterfalls and deep blue sinkholes, linked to the ocean by underwater caves, and you definitely have rugged beauty and remoteness. But then there's the friendly people, reasonable roads and accommodation to suit every pocket. All you need is a hire car to turn that rugged beauty into an expansive adventure playground.
So whether you're seeking to surf the breaks, snorkel with turtles, scuba dive the coral reefs, or dive into a deep ocean pool, Samoa’s two islands, Upolu and Savai’i, provide plenty of opportunities to explore all this and more.
Before you set out on your Samoan adventure, it's wise to stock up with information: both logistical and cultural. The Visitor’s Bureau in the capital Apia on Upolu has a wealth of touring maps and brochures from everything like sites worth seeing to accommodation and hire car companies.
They also have a village cultural show where you can learn Fa’a Samoa – ‘The Samoan Way', which includes everything from village etiquette to how to weave your own plate from banana fronds. The locals will keep you entertained with cheeky commentary as you watch them carve bowls, create clothing and demonstrate exactly where to hit a coconut to get at the cool refreshing drink inside.
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When you’re ready, head south over the Cross Island Road, and shortly after you pass the tip of the ridge, the vista of the south coast opens up before you. Be sure to stop and check out the view of the Papapapaiuta waterfall cascading one hundred metres down shear vertical volcanic cliffs.
First stop on the south coast is the iconic To Sua Ocean Trench, which translates as ‘big hole’ and at 30 metres deep it lives up to its name. Enjoy the view down from the clifftop, maybe picnic in the lush gardens and definitely take a plunge from the almost vertical ladder into the deep blue swimming hole.
On the southeast corner of Upolu you'll find the picturesque white sands of Lalomanu Beach, voted one of the Top Ten Beaches in the world. A great place to cool off before taking the 10-minute boat ride out to Namua Island where you can swim with turtles in their natural habitat.
Regular ferry services run between Upolu and the larger island of Savai’i, and the trip takes just 90 minutes. There’s plenty of accommodation dotted around both islands from air-conditioned resorts to beachside fales – little more than an elevated platform with a roof of woven banana leaves.
It’s well worth the trip over to Savai’i, known as ‘the big island’, to continue your adventure. This is especially the case if you’re a keen surfer, as Aganoa is where you’ll find the best breaks. Depending on the swell, you can surf or SUP, snorkel with turtles, or simply enjoy a peaceful paddle in a kayak.
The best diving can be found north of Savai’i, and it’s easy diving on shallow reefs in waters so warm you don’t need a wetsuit.
Take the long way round the island along the southern ocean road and enjoy a superb scenic drive, which takes you through the A’opo Conservation Area. Stop off to admire the view from the rainforest canopy walkway and further along, check out the lava fields where the lava of the most recent eruptions has made its way slowly to the ocean before solidifying into fields of dense black rock.
Round out the trip with a Fiafia Night at nearby resort, Le Lagoto, which is also the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset with a Vailima, the local lager.
As the sky turns orange and red, torch lighting and frenetic drumming herald the evening. What follows, is an impressive display of fire dancing followed by a traditional Samoan feast … and more dancing.
All Images provided by Deborah Dickson-Smith