Samoa - First country to see the sun

My last unvisited country in Oceania and one more time I was astonished how wonderful the South-Pacific can be. With its always changing weather, the green lush landscape right next to the blue ocean looks fantastic, almost like an artificial theme park. Great!

May 25 - Arriving in Samoa

Came here almost directly from Tuvalu but as there are no direct flights from Tuvalu to Samoa, I had to switch plane and airport in Fiji to get to Samoa. Departed Tuvalu yesterday morning towards Fiji (Suva) where I stayed overnight, in the area Nausori, which is close to the Airport. Then today from Fiji's Suva Airport to Fiji's Nadi Airport and then to Samoa.

Finally in Samoa now.

Samoa is divided into two big islands. Island on the right is called "Upolu" with all Airports and the capital Apia. The island on the left "Savaii" is less developed.

As Samoa is on the very east of the planet, they are the first country on the planet which says 'hello' to every new day.

The main international airport is Faleolo on the west of Upolu. It's a nice airport and a sign that tourism brought already a lot of money here. Yes, the tourism industry is well developed here. Plenty of transport options for well-paying tourists outside the airport.

To avoid overpaying I went to the bus station outside of the airport area. The local bus passes there every 15 minutes and brought me with a 35 minutes ride right to the city center of Apia.

Apia town is small with about two main roads and where most restaurants and shops are located. There is even a small McDonalds and its the only restaurant that is open on Sunday. Even shops are closed on Sunday as Samoa is highly religious.

Should I go diving or should I visit Savaii?

This afternoon I went about to plan my stay for the next four days in Samoa.

Of course, I wanted to see the whole main island but except that, I had the option of

a)  going to the other island "Savaii" or the option
b) Scuba diving

Higher priority was the scuba diving for me. After calling the only one scuba operator I had a hard time to decide what I should do. He told me they are going out diving tomorrow, BUT, he told me:

We are going tomorrow and we would be happy to have you on board. There will be some less experienced divers and we will go to some easy dive spot.

Bham!!! After many years of diving, I meanwhile know the codes. When an operator says it will be an easy dive not too far away, then that means it will be a beginner dive spot with not too much to see and one that doesn't represent the real diving in the area. I fell for it too many times already. Nope, not this time!
So yes, as it will be an "easy" dive spot it made my decision a bit easier. I didn't want to go diving at a more or less beginner dive spot where I would only be able to see some dying corals.

My decision was made. I will go to Savaii and tomorrow morning and I had to be at the bus station at 5am and hop the bus that brings me to the ferry. Well, at least that was my plan in today's mid of the afternoon.

Continue to stroll through the town along the friendly and laughing Samoans.

Another option opens up: American-Samoa

After roaming through the streets of Apia I passed the Samoan Airways office. During my months of research about this trip, I also considered going to American-Samoa, but due to lack of time and uncertainty of the whole trip, I ditched that.

But I was still curious and so out of curiosity, I went inside to ask. It was Friday 30 minutes before closing.

A few minutes later it was clear. There will be a flight early tomorrow morning to American-Samoa and a flight back in the late tomorrow afternoon. The flight times are totally confusing! It is only a 30 minutes flight, but as American-Samoa is 24 hours behind Samoa it means, I will depart Samoa on Saturday morning and arrive in American-Samoa on Friday morning. Will depart American-Samoa on Friday afternoon and arrive in Samoa on Saturday afternoon. To be sure, I asked another lady in the office if the times on the tickets are really correct and it seems to be correct.

I still was confused, but I didn't have much time to think and decide as it was 10 minutes before closing and so I quickly bought these tickets.

No scuba diving, no visit to Savaii-Island.... BUT... a trip to American-Samoa. Hopefully, it was a good decision and the time travel will work.

The weather turned bad this late afternoon, I hope this won't last until tomorrow for my flight.

May 26 - A day in American-Samoa

Samoa and American-Samoa are different countries. Samoa is an own country whereas American-Samoa belongs to the US.

Was excited today morning, if this trip is really going to work as intended. The flights from Samoa to American-Samoa are departing from the airport right next to Apia, which is called the Fagali Airport. The staff showed up 30 minutes before departure for doing the check-in and I was sure there will be a delay of some hours, but fortunately, there was no delay. The plane was tiny, and in total only about 10 people were in the plane, whereas at the check-in have been waiting several dozen people. Strange.

Its a 30 minutes flight but totally confusing: Departure was this early Saturday morning. As American-Samoa is 24 behind in time, I arrived in American-Samoa on Friday morning but came back to Samoa on Saturday afternoon.

I covered the trip to American-Samoa in a separate trip-report.


May 27 - Driving around Samoa

Arrived yesterday in late afternoon back from American-Samoa and immediately back in the hotel, I started to organize the trip for today. Wanted to drive around the island on my own with a rental car.

Organizing car and license

The staff at the hotel was very helpful yesterday. Especially as it was Saturday evening already and today is Sunday where everything is shut down, it was difficult to find a rental car for a fair price. It was not only the rental car that needs to be organized but also the driver's license. The lady explained it clearly:
Your international driver's license is worth nothing in Samoa. You need a real Samoan drivers license and its mandatory, you hear me? Its mandatory, oK?

Well OK. Thankfully the friendly lady from "Talofa Inn" sorted out everything, including the mandatory Samoan driver's license.

A Sunday road trip around Samoa

Having a car and drivers license and started early this Sunday morning. Didn't expect to get a car with aircon but the more I was surprised to get almost a brand new car with good aircon.

Sunday is church-day

After a few kilometers, I realized how important Sunday and Church is in Samoa.

There are churches everywhere and people stream there happily dressed in white to participate. Stopped at one of these nice churches and saw all the people are dressed in white, I wondered what is happening here.

But it is normal in Samoa to be highly religious and go to church every Sunday, dressed in white. The reason why "white": The first missionaries who came here to Samoa have been dressed in white and it became a custom over all these years.

Driving here is like driving in Disneyland

It's relaxed to drive in Samoa as top speed is everywhere between 30-50kmph. Streets are well maintained and allow easily more than this speed, but as the scenery is so dramatically changing around every corner, like with a snap of a finger, it's stupid to drive faster and miss the wonderful constantly evolving landscapes.

The Papapapaitai Falls here in the first photo.

Driving around Samoa feels unreal.

It's like being in a theme park with an artificial landscape made of plastic. The scenery is wonderful with bright light through towards green mountains under rainy clouds and it all over changes again and again within minutes. So making one photo of something now, it looks completely different after a changed weather and sunlight the next 5 minutes. Great!

Along the south-west coast, there are unique views.

As well are on the south-east coast.

So many Samoan style houses (well of course when being in Samoa). They are meant to be living rooms where sometimes whole neighborhoods can rest and eat together. The open houses are perfect for having a cool breeze, shade from the sun and in the night its possible to hang up mosquito nets.

There are not many restaurants or shops outside of Apia and especially on Sunday it is even more difficult to find a food booth or store to buy something. But it is still easy for tourists to get around and find a tiny small shop after a while of driving.

Not everything is for free

Thankfully tho, not every little sight requires to pay entrance fees. Of course, there are sights that require to pay, but these are worth it. So to pay some two dollars to see huge 100-meter waterfalls in the middle of the jungle, visible from a cliff and which are among the best I've seen, doesn't hurt me at all.

At this particular waterfall, the Sopo'aga Falls, I even felt a little pity for the lady in the small ticket booth. She is the landowner and probably sits in there all day long to get the 2 dollar entrance fee from a dozen tourists per day. Well, maybe she is not sitting in there all day, but glimpses from her house with a binocular and rushes to the small ticket booth when she sees a car arriving from far :).


Samoans also have the "friendly-gene"

With the people here, it's the same as in many other Pacific island nations. These people are totally relaxed and friendly. Friendly Samoans everywhere, they greet everywhere, smile and waving from far and sometimes even come to ask things and shake hands to say hello and with a "God bless" while saying goodbye.

I'm sure it must have something to do with genetics that these people are so relaxed. Surely tradition and culture as well. But it's not just the friendliness that probably comes with genetics, also the obesity comes with genetics. Samoans are officially the most obese people on the planet and it can't be just the food which is the reason.

There are countries which eat much more unhealthy stuff than these people here, but it seems that genetics in the South-Pacific island nations are much more sensitive to unhealthy food.

The To Sua ocean trench. This is a natural pool down in a hole which can be accessed with the 20-meter ladder. Down there is strong current as waves from the coast push and soak water in and out of the cave. A bit scary tho, as the current can be very strong when the water gets discharged.

I should have been here earlier than 2pm, cause the sun didn't bring enough light anymore that time to make proper photos.

Running out of time while driving around Samoa is annoying. I easily could have spent another half day driving slow paced through the country, but it was already in the mid of afternoon and now had to make it back to not get stuck on the winding curvy roads in the dark. There are no lights that warn from steep abysses.

It was still afternoon and the far east coast is even more wonderful than many other parts on Upolu. The green lush mountains, yellow palms, and the changing weather. Whoaw!!

Glad I have a car

Did I mention that it's wonderful to drive around in Samoa? Probably yes. I even saw some tourists with scooters and bicycles and I'm happy having a car. The humidity is maximum and the sun is hot. And when clouds want to dump water, then it rains heavily and make the streets soaked with water. That can become very difficult to drive with a scooter.

May 28 - Back to Fiji, then to Africa

Spend this morning to roam around Apia again to have a last impression of the town and to pass by the Fiji Airways office for making a seat reservation for the afternoon flight. With peace in mind of having an aisle seat in the front, I went to buy some takeaway lunch. It was the delicious BBQ chicken with rice and couldn't wait to eat.

To get back to the Faleolo Airport, its an easy ride with a local bus. These buses in Samoa are truly unique and worth a ride. From outside they look American school buses, but inside their interior is completely made of wood. Everything is made of wood. The seats, the floor, the window, the roof, the cockpit - everything is made of wood and it looks nice!

Last photo on the ride with the bus back to the airport.

Now I'm sitting in the big modern airport and wait for my plane to depart me back to Fiji.

There they end, the wonderful weeks in the south pacific and I'm happy having that everything went so well, without severe plane delays or cancelations. 5 weeks ago I didn't think that I will now sit in the Samoan Airport for real, as I thought something would have interrupted my plans.

Samoa was the last country in Oceania. Now I have visited all independent countries in Australia / Oceania / South-Pacific area. Time to focus on Africa now...

No comments