On a pleasant day, the ninety-minute ferry ride from Mulifanua Wharf to Savai’i is calm enough to lull the unsuspecting passenger to sleep but legend has it that a rough crossing is something no one wants to experience.
On Savai’i, tourists can stay at luxury hotels with spas and air conditioning, but it doesn’t take long for a visitor to be seduced by fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way of life). Pigs forage by the lush roadside, chickens peck at tasty scraps and people walk together going about their daily activities, chatting and laughing. Daily life is a little bit slower and a lot more beautiful.
Everyone lives in close proximity to the glorious, sparkling water’s edge. The villages cluster around the larger central fales, thatched halls without walls, meeting places in which the community’s men gather to ‘support’ their people. My cab driver explained: “Sometimes, if the men drink too much, they need help”. This is a marvellous example of how the village family takes responsibility for its members, a theme repeated in many conversations I had with Samoans during this weekend. The waiter at my hotel, Seti, was a knowledgeable and well-respected, retired schoolteacher who had always planned to move to New Zealand when his career ended. However, he’d stayed to ‘help out’ a relative who owned the hotel.
White sand beaches abound on Savai’i, but the stunning and dramatic landscape changes every few kilometres, from the lava fields to villages, beaches to markets and as are everywhere in Samoa, beautiful churches.
Here, in this island paradise, it really does seem that the proverb is true; ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Also true for Samoans is that each person has a future responsibility to the village which raised them. A man enjoying a beer in the hotel bar shared that he was working on the set of Survivor. He had been raised in a fairly basic village, and had felt compelled to come home after 10 years away in Auckland, to help his mother care for a father suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. His five siblings sent money to the family but this talented and celebrated graphic designer was back living a modest life and contributing his strength and wisdom to the village of his childhood.
For the tourist, no such obligations exist. Savai’i is a paradise which ranges from the ‘authentic Pacific Island’ experience to the luxury hotel and spa. The former is a beachside fale, sleeping on a mattress, covered with a mosquito net at night and waking to the sight of the endless Pacific Ocean every morning, the latter, excellent restaurants with international standard food and poolside cocktail bars which satisfy every traveller’s island fantasy.
At Le Lagoto Resort and Spa the ocean view beach hut is simple, with crisp linen, a TV and functional bathroom. The real hero of the room is outside of it. Deliciously inviting water is just a few metres from your door, when and if you feel that you can drag yourself up from the stylish sunning lounge to go for a swim. There’s a protected little cove, perfect for young children, overlooked by the restaurant where parents can observe their antics with a refreshing coconut juice or cocktail in hand. Kayaks are also available for guests to use and their lure is impossible to resist. To paddle the Pacific Ocean as the sun sets majestically behind you is only one of the romantic treats that awaits you at this resort. The spa offers couples massages in an open air room right on the water’s edge but really it is the chance to relax in the company of your loved one that makes this resort so special. Nothing is too much trouble for the staff, they are friendly and welcoming and make your stay worry-free. The lovely Gabriella is always happy to help visitors to organise outings. A driver can do full or half day tours of the island encompassing many of the main tourist attractions for approximately T150 or T300.
It is an amazing fact that in a country with a population of 180,000 there are approximately 1200 churches. Religion is very important to the Samoan people with Sunday still an official day of rest. Tours don’t operate and shops are closed. It was enforced rest time for me, in one of the most serene natural environments in the world so no complaints from me about the lack of services!
I spent the day practising yoga, mindfulness and gratitude. It was easy to do as I sat on a huge round lounge, gazing out to the Pacific Ocean from another tropical paradise. I was lured to Samoa by the promise of beautiful ocean swimming, verdant jungles with waterfalls and swimming holes and luscious looking islander men and I wasn’t disappointed on any count. As I pushed myself through each pose of my yoga routine, I inhaled the warm tropical scents and exhaled happiness, and wonder. The delights of this island were invigorating for me.
Savai’i had worked its magic on me in only two days. For those who need a little lightness, visit this paradise and rediscover your inner child.
Things To Do In Savaii
Saleaula Lava fields
Entry: 5 Tala. This is a fascinating geological area. The lava from an eruption of Mt Matavanu buried five villages whose structures are still visible.
Location: North East
Swimming with Turtles in the village of Sato’alepai
Entry: 7 Tala per person allows entry to this family run conservation project.
Location: North East
Falealupo Canopy Walk
Entry: 20 Tala grants access to this gorgeous and exhilarating walk, 40 metres above ground.
Entry: 5 Tala and you get to see the spectacular blowholes which blow water high up into the air.
Afu Aau Waterfall and swimming hole
Entry: Hand over 5 Tala to the landowners at the fale, 500 metres from the main road turn off. Park your car here and enjoy a ten-minute walk to this delightful swimming hole where you can swim
underneath the waterfall.
Location: South East