Samoa – a treasure in the Pacific
02 Dec 13:57
While cruising in the Pacific Ocean in 1722, Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen saw the rough shores of the Samoa Islands. This event marks the start of European settlement in the archipelago. Many navigators were commissioned after Roggeveen to sail to the Islands and discover what wonders were in those hitherto undiscovered areas.
Even the United States got interested in the islands and signed a contract that permitted them to create a naval station in what is now American Samoa’s capital, Pago Pago. The eastern islands of Samoa’s archipelago became a US colony in 1899.
Our voyage to American Samoa begins with these historical oddities. In this post, we will learn about the greatest places to visit on the islands, how to get there, and much more.
The geography and climate of American Samoa
The geography and climate of American Samoa
The Samoan Islands are an archipelago located in the South Pacific Ocean. The easternmost area of the islands is about 2,600 kilometres off the coast of New Zealand and 3,500 kilometres from Hawaii. American Samoa is one of the United States’ furthest southern unorganised territories.
American Samoa consists of two coral atolls, Rose Atoll and Swains Islands, as well as five volcanic islands, Tutuila, Aunu’u, Ta’u, Olosega, and Ofu.
Tutuila is the largest of the five islands and may be considered the heart of American Samoa. Indeed, the capital and seat of government, Pago Pago, is located on this island. Furthermore, you can access the other islands in the archipelago from here; Aunu’u is 1km distant, while Ta’u, Olosega, and Ofu are around 100km to the east.
The two small coral atolls are among the most intriguing places on Earth. Rose Atoll is completely uninhabited. It has a unique square shape that encloses two small islets, Rose and Sand, which are separated by a lagoon that connects to the ocean. Swain Island, on the other hand, had 37 residents in 2000 and is larger than Rose Atoll. It has a circular shape with a freshwater lagoon in the centre but no outlet to the ocean.
When to visit Samoa?
The months with the greatest temperatures are those from December to April, when 31°C is readily attained with humidity. Furthermore, there is a surge in rainfall between December and March. This is also when the majority of tropical cyclones strike the islands.
The scenario is different between June and September, when temperatures are more acceptable, approximately 29°C, and there is less rain. This is unquestionably the best time to schedule your holiday to American Samoa.
Necessary documents and how to get to Samoa
Because American Samoa is a territory under US jurisdiction, you will need to secure the following documentation to plan your vacation there:
- ESTA: It will be essential to get an ESTA for Italian residents who desire to spend a short amount of time (maximum of 90 days) in the United States or in areas such as the Samoa Islands, which are part of American territory.
- ePassport: Travelers visiting US territory must have a valid individual ePassport. When filling out the ESTA form, you must also input information on your passport.
- Plane ticket: In order to go around, one must buy an outbound ticket. To receive an ESTA, you must also have a return ticket to establish that your stay is within the time constraints.
There are currently no direct flights between American Samoa and Italy. To reach the islands, stopovers in other cities are required, as direct flights are not available. Making a layover in the United States is undoubtedly the easiest approach to visit American Samoa without needing to get additional paperwork. Direct flights from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Pago Pago Airport are available.
The remaining archipelago islands may then be visited from Tutuila, primarily by ferry. There are several ways to visit the interior of the islands, the most popular of which being buses or automobile rental.
Tutuila Island and Pago Pago: Exploring the Capital of Samoa
In recent years, American Samoa has experienced a significant growth in the number of visitors interested in visiting the islands. The crystal blue seas and white sand beaches are undoubtedly what draw the majority of visitors, but the islands also offer a variety of other activities and locations to explore.
Surely, our little tour can only begin in Pago Pago, the capital. Visitors seeking for a vacation in American Samoa will arrive here. The city’s harbour has a particularly important location, which prompted the United States to take an interest in these islands.
Pago Pago Bay is naturally protected by Rainmaker Mountain, also known as Mount Pioa. Because of a peculiar phenomena, the clouds are unable to surmount the height and remain “stuck” in the harbour, making Pago Pago the rainiest port in the world.
Although Pago Pago is one of the islands’ few urbanised cities, and arguably the largest, everyday living is still heavily affected by the traditional Samoan way of life, the fa’a Samoa.
For more than 3000 years, the people of Pago Pago have kept alive the traditions that make their way of life so distinct. The islands’ civilization revolves around the fa’a Samoa. Each community on the islands is viewed as a huge family, known as an aiga. Thus, all types of things are shared, and the community is a valuable asset for the indigenous, with a matai at the head of each town.
Tourists may fully immerse themselves in the culture and history of this location. Many of the island’s resorts and restaurants host a weekly “Fiafia night.” These evenings are dedicated to customs, with residents including tourists in traditional cuisine and dances.
During these evenings, you may sample delicacies cooked in the ‘umu, a semi-underground lava stone oven. Palusami, a traditional meal prepared with coconut milk and taro leaves, is a must-try in American Samoa’s marketplaces.
More places to see in American Samoa
The structure is located in the neighbouring community of Fagatoto, close to the hill that surrounds the harbour of Pago Pago, allowing it to be seen from above. It was erected in 1903 as the seat of the administration of American Samoa and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
Blunts Point Battery
Because of its location, it is also known as the Matautu Ridge Gun Site. It is one of the few remaining Second World War coastal batteries erected in the Pacific.
National Park of American Samoa
This national park is unique in that it encompasses three archipelago islands. In reality, in addition to Tutuila, Ta’u, and Ofu, almost 1500 hectares of the park are submerged. In American Samoa’s National Park, you’ll feel like the first explorers to set foot on the island. It is a treasure to be discovered amid the little settlements, coral beaches, plants, and animals that inhabit the islands’ rainforest.
National Marine Sanctuary and Fagatele Bay
A true haven for the aquatic beauties that surround the archipelago. A one-of-a-kind experience that allows travellers to truly immerse themselves in a piece of our planet’s past. Along with tropical fish and hydrothermal vents, some of the world’s oldest corals may be found here. Some areas of the sanctuary are easily accessible, while others need a boat ride.
It is an ancient village discovered in 1963 that rises not far from the current Vatia. It is thought to have been built around 1300 AD before the arrival of the settlers.
Tulauta Village and Lau’agae Ridge Quarry
Both archaeological sites were constructed long before the advent of people. Two tia’ave, massive stone constructions found solely in the Samoan Islands, were discovered near the town of Lau’agae.
Aunu’u: little paradise
Aunu’u Island is easily accessible from Tutuila by ferry, which runs practically every day except Sunday, which is a national holiday in American Samoa. On the island, you may go trekking or take an organised trip on a boat.
The Faimulivai Marsh, the biggest freshwater marsh in American Samoa, developed in the crater of the island’s volcano, is the island’s principal feature. This is home to a variety of animal species, including the purple gallinule, and is the only spot in American Samoa where we may discover the Chinese water chestnut.
Manu’a Islands: discovering Ta’u
These islands are lightly inhabited, with only a few hundred people living in each settlement. You will feel as if you are on a secluded island, far from the turmoil of the cities, where man has lived in harmony with nature for generations, respecting and nearly integrating with it.
Furthermore, the island of Ta’u is revered as a holy site not only in American Samoa, but throughout Polynesia. According to folklore, Tagaloa, the creator god of ancient mythology, formed the first mankind on this island and then spread them throughout Polynesia. The archaeological site of Saua on the island can be visited by individuals interested in the history of this location. Mount Lata, which has the highest peak in American Samoa at roughly 930 metres, is also on the island of Ta’u.
The islands of Olosega and Ofu
The little islands of Olosega and Ofu are the most isolated and difficult to access in the archipelago, making them a haven for relaxation and connection with the archipelago’s most wild and unspoiled environment. To get there from the capital Pago Pago, you must first go to the island of Ta’u and then get a ferry or fishing boat that will transport you to the island of Olosega. The two islands are linked by a bridge, making it simple to go from one to the other.
When you get on the islands, your efforts will be rewarded by some of the most stunning beaches in the world. They are great for couples who wish to spend a few hours away from the world, alone with one other, because there are never too many people.
Ta’u Island and Ofu Beach
Not only is Ofu Beach ideal for couples, but it is also a must-see for diving and snorkelling fans. Every traveller who has had the good fortune to plunge into the crystal blue seas that wash this beach has characterised the experience as one-of-a-kind and unrepeatable. There are around 150 coral species and 300 tropical fish on the reef.
Ofu and Olosega, on the other hand, have much more in store for their visitors, especially the more curious.
As we have seen, American Samoa is rich in historical and archaeological sites, and we can even find some on Ofu and Olosega. We recall in particular the archaeological site of To’aga, where excavations revealed artefacts dating from prehistory to modern times.
Stories from the afterlife
According to local legend, the To’aga location and the road leading to it are haunted by aitu, which are malevolent spirits or ghosts that materialise at night.
The island of Ofu was chosen in the 1920s for the establishment of a medical dispensary to give treatment and services to both the island’s residents and those of Olosega. The To’aga was plagued with aitu, which the indigenous warned the builders and medics about. The legends did not deter the building of the dispensary in To’aga, and one of the physicians who worked there had a close contact with one of the aitu in 1924, according to the narrative.
The doctor had been assigned to work the night shift, which was frequently interrupted by someone hammering on the door. He couldn’t locate anyone when he went to check. When he opened the door again, he was confronted by the ghost of a headless man. These ghosts plagued the doctor’s wife for days, moving belongings and furniture around the house.
The couple and one of the nurses at the dispensary chose to relocate to Ofu village, but they had to continue working in To’aga. The village matai agreed to return the couple to the site first, and the nurse the next day.
During the trek, however, they witnessed something that would eternally stun them. On the beach, ghosts and headless figures performed the siva, a traditional Samoan dance. Among them was the nurse, who had to have been in the hamlet of Ofu rather than To’aga.
Although the claim has never been proven, the dispensary was just recently relocated to the middle of Ofu village. Even today, locals in American Samoa warn visitors not to visit To’aga at sunset or at night.
Precautions to observe in the Samoa Islands
We conclude our article with some minor measures to take in American Samoa:
- Do not walk during the ” s “; this only applies in some areas, therefore it is best to check first; it is a half-hour afternoon prayer;
- Sunday is a holiday, and practically all businesses are closed. If visitors intend to attend church, they should dress accordingly.
- It is preferable to wear a t-shirt and pants that cover the knees in the villages, and this applies to both men and women.
- Before taking photographs or accessing beaches that are not labelled as public, you should get permission; they may be part of someone’s property.
- It is not unusual for locals to welcome tourists into their homes; nevertheless, if this occurs, remember to remove your shoes before entering, do not stand while the elderly are seated, and sit with your legs crossed to hide your feet.
The Samoan people are very open and eager to include tourists in a variety of activities; taking these measures will only demonstrate your respect for their culture, which will be warmly appreciated.
Samoa: a step back in time through culture
American Samoa is a must-see destination for everyone. As previously stated, several activities such as surfing, hiking, and snorkelling would be available on the islands. In the markets, you may eat traditional fish-based meals and buy traditional island clothing, such as lavalava.
But maybe the most unusual experience on the Samoan Islands is approaching and coming into contact with a culture that is as different from ours as it is interesting. Natives frequently narrate stories and legends that have been passed down from generation to generation since the first people arrived on the islands.
They are a must-see for everyone interested in anthropology and archaeology. Fa’a Samoa has changed almost little in the last 3,000 years, including conversion to Christianity. Visiting American Samoa is like stepping inside a time machine.
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