OUR thoughts on SAMOA

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There is a strong cultural component that goes with a visit to Samoa and you experience that culture not only in the wonderful Teuila Cultural Festival held annually in the first week in September and the very regular (at least weekly) Samoan Fiafia with its feasting, slap-dancing and fire dance displays, but in everyday life everywhere in the country.  Like most Kiwis, we have something of a soft spot for Samoa with its rich Polynesian history and proud culture, its wonderful scenery and natural environment and its perfectly romantic rainforests, waterfalls, blowholes and beaches.  Samoa comprises two big main islands – Upolu, where 75% of Samoans live and Savaii which is the bigger island of the two.  There are 8 other small islands in the group. Direct flights between Auckland and Apia operate some 13 times each week, with a flight time of just under 4 hours.  You will arrive at Faleolo International Airport on Upolu.  Apia, the Capital is 35 km from Faleolo and the trip into Apia can take from 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic although during daylight there is so much of interest to see that the transfer time seems to fly by. Visitors are somewhat spoiled for choice between staying in Apia or at one of several excellent resort properties elsewhere on Upolu or Savaii.

OUR UPOLU
OUR SAVAII

OUR UPOLU
What an interesting place to visit.  You can have a very relaxing time staying at any one of several beachside resorts or maybe at a resort, hotel, motel or apartment complex in or around the Capital, Apia. Samoa has legendary beaches – the sort of beaches you usually only see in promotional photos   but never really expect to find.  There is the odd beach around Apia, which is on the northern side of Upolu, but, in a band from the north-west of Upolu in the vicinity of Aggie Grey’s Lagoon Resort & Spa, right around the western tip and along the entire length of the southern coast you will find fabulous beach after fabulous beach. Most are deserted but there is usually a village nearby.  Don’t expect miles and miles of sand, but do expect romantic bays and inlets of varying sizes with sheltering rock outcrops and perfect beaches.  There is often a waterfall cascading down a little distance inland. In Samoa beaches are not public property, so you need to seek permission at the nearby village or resort and maybe pay a small fee before venturing on to the sand. There is a wide range of beach resorts of every standard scattered throughout this region. Our Specialists know them all and can give you personal advice on the perfect one for you.

One of the hardest things about planning a trip to Samoa is working out whether to stay at the beach and just make day trips into Apia and perhaps to Savaii, or basing yourself in Apia and taking day trips out to the beaches etc.    Wherever you finally choose to stay will depend on the type of holiday you are looking for.  Don’t overlook the option of having a 2 or 3 centre holiday, for example, a week at a beach in Upolu following a 2-3 night stay in Savaii and then 1-2 nights in Apia; it’s easy for us to arrange that sort of itinerary for a holiday in Samoa.  Even if you decide to stay-put in one place, it is a very good option to hire a vehicle for at least 3 days and this gives you freedom to explore the rest of the island.  The distances aren’t huge but moving around Upolu does take time.  For example; on a half circle island trip it takes 30-45 minutes to cross the island from Apia to the closest southern beaches over the Cross-Island Road; from there it takes 40 minutes via the south coast beaches to the departure wharf for the ferry to Savaii and the International Airport, and from there around 60 minutes back to Apia and that’s only half the island!  Of course you wouldn’t do all that non-stop as there are many interesting places to visit en route.

As well as beaches, Upolu is an island of National Parks, bush-walks and waterfalls; most of which are found in the interior and on the southern side of the island.  For a first-time visitor to Samoa a good way to find your way to the waterfalls is on a guided tour and we have excellent Tour Companies we deal with. Having done the guided tour we found it easy to go back for a more leisurely visit to the falls and beaches by rental vehicle.  Probably the most spectacular waterfall is the Papapapai-Tai waterfall which is reached by turning off the Cross-Island Rd.  The view of the 100 metre falls from the lookout point is spectacular.  There are others where you are welcome to picnic and swim and directions are easy to get locally. Don’t miss the Sliding Rock waterfall – it’s great fun.

Upolu caters for all sorts of sports. There are excellent squash, tennis courts and gyms, good kayaking and world-class snorkelling and scuba.  Fishing is superb. Surfing has become a major attraction around Upolu, specially on the south coast.  Exceptional surf is normally accessed on the high tide via boats due to the reef making shore-based surfing hazardous.  We deal with 2 very professional surf companies and offer special surf packeges, one based at a high quality resort and the other at a dormitory-style surf complex with accommodation for up to 8 surfers at a time. Golfers are very well catered for.  Located just outside Apia you will find two 18 hole courses, The Royal Samoan Country Club which is near the Fagalii domestic airstrip and the new Faleata Country Club at Tuanaimatu. On the southern side of Upolu there is a 9 hole course at Sinalei Reef Resort and the beautiful Penina o Samoa International 18 Hole Golf Course and Country Club adjoins Aggies Grey’s Lagoon, Beach Resort & Spa.

The National Sport of Samoa is Kilikiti.  Locals of all ages play this Polynesian form of cricket and it is not unusual to see a game as you pass near a village. If there happens to be a top rugby team visiting while you’re there, you will quickly discover that the Samoan passion for rugby also runs deep!

Pre-book your car rental with Our Specialists before you arrive in Samoa. To drive in Samoa you need to validate you driver’s licence at the Land Transport Association in Vaitele near the Samoa Breweries/Vailima factory. Cost for validation is WST$12, and some rental car companies will also assist in getting your license endorsed. In September 2009, Samoa switched from driving on the right hand side of the road, to the left. Most vehicles are left hand drive, and drivers should be cautious if you are not familiar with driving on the left side of the road.

Samoa's Capital - Apia is a very interesting and enjoyable place to visit.  Once again, there is a wide range of accommodation types and Our Specialists know them well.  The architecture is a mix of Colonial, modern and Samoan-traditional and it all makes Apia special.  There are very good restaurants and cafes, the shops are fun and of course, the main market is a hive of activity and well worth a visit.  Don’t miss visiting Vailima, the historic former home of the author and adventurer Robert Louis Stevenson. Getting around is easy – taxis are inexpensive, but if you’re into a bit of adventure try the local buses which not only service Apia but travel all over the Island – just give yourself plenty of time!  The buses are very cheap, colourful, loud and crowded and have a somewhat ‘fluid’ timetable!

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OUR SAVAII
Savaii is an hour by ferry from the western tip of Upolu across the Apolima Strait to Saleloga, the main town of Savaii.  The passenger and vehicle ferry runs daily 6.00am to 4.00pm.  Most days the ferry runs every two hours.  This ferry is not a “Tourist Service” as such, so don’t expect anything flash, it’s the primary way freight and people move between Samoa’s two main islands. There are 2 boats operating – The “Little Ferry” and the “Big Ferry”. The Big Ferry is the one to aim for as it has an air-conditioned lounge and an airy upper deck and takes 75 minutes to make the crossing; this is 30 minutes faster than the Little Ferry. Savaii is volcanic in origin and there are extensive lava fields, lava tubes and blowholes where the lava meets the sea. The main road circles the island and keeps pretty much to the coast but generally moves inland to avoid the lava fields.  On Savaii the pace of life is more sedate. Try not to miss Savaii as it rounds off the Samoa Experience perfectly. Indeed, we have known people to make a return trip to Samoa and spend the main part of their holiday on Savaii.  Why?  Well, once you have been there, you will understand.  The locations of the little beach resorts are exceptionally beautiful and the resorts themselves provide an absolutely perfect environment to unwind.  Ask Our Specialists; they can help you find perhaps an intimate resort run by a Samoan family who want to share their little piece of paradise, or maybe you will find the intimate spot where the Italian partner runs the resort restaurant along Italian lines.  We reckon that apart from the many natural features that Savaii has in abundance, the people running the little resorts that dot the island’s shores all have a special love of the place and it shows.

As you travel around Savaii you will come across huge churches wherever you go, in fact at one point you will see three enormous churches all next door to each other!  There is a chance to swim with the Green Sea Turtles near Satoalepai, walk under the road in places through old lava tubes and don’t overlook the Pulemelei Ancient Mound, a 12 metre high pyramid which is only accessible by four wheel drive – get to see it if you can.  Savaii is rich in caves, natural arches and ancient monuments, but don’t forget, as in all parts of Samoa, you need to get permission to visit the attractions and there will probably be a small fee.  Of course, if you take an organised tour, all this is taken care of.

Savaii has all this plus virgin rainforests, beautiful waterfalls and awe-inspiring blowholes, but most of all it is the perfect place to unwind, to while-away the days at the beach and, on the western side, to enjoy the spectacular sunsets.

How do we sum up our thoughts on a holiday in Samoa?  Two words spring to mind and they are “Comfortably different”.  “Comfortable” because we all understand a little about Samoa, its people and its historic ties to New Zealand, and  “different” because it is delightfully different when compared to everywhere else in the South Pacific. This familiarity coupled with the unique environment and lifestyle of Samoa makes a holiday in this beautiful country relaxing, interesting and enjoyable.

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Currency: 
Western Samoan Tala (WST)
Most major credit cards are accepted.
Banks are open 9.30am to 3.00pm Monday to Thursday and 9.30am to 4.00pm on Fridays.

Electricity: 240V / 50Hz

Flying time: approx. 4 hours from Auckland, New Zealand.

Local Time: 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
Daylight Saving occurs September to April.

Weather:
Dry season runs from May to October and wet from November to April. Daily temperature averages 29 degrees celcius.

Entry requirements:
* Valid passport for at least 6 months beyond the intended period of stay (NZ passport holders).
* A valid return or onward air ticket and sufficient funds for visits less than 60 days.

Click here for your Samoa Toolkit

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