Samoa for backpackers
January 1, 1970
by Anna Paloma
Samoa is an independent state in South Pacific formed by two islands: Upolu and Savai’i. Probably everyone has heard about it because of the tribal tattoos very fashionable on the past years. Most of the islands from Polynesia are known as a luxury destination and the honey moon paradise for couples. But Samoa is an oasis for backpackers and travelers with a tight budget who are crazy about adventures pure nature.
One of the things that most worries backpackers is where to stay. Well, now I’m going to introduce you the first (and probably the only one I know) samoan word: fale. A fale is a hut on the beach whith roof, floor and cane curtains to protect you from the wind. A lot of you will be thinking about mosquitos and the answer is yes, you need a good repellent. The deal in all fales is the same: bed, breakfast and dinner. The most common price is 70$ Tala per day.
Another headache is how to move Around. I rent a car from the first to the last day, the initial idea was a motorbike but not a brilliant one on the rainy season. Even so if you choose to be an ‘easy rider’ be sure to choose suitable wheels. Between islands there is a ferry (12$ Tala per way), is more expensive if you board with the car, so you can always rent one in Savai’i but for me is not worth it the time I save comparing with the money, but that’s up to the traveler. Other options are the bus and of course hitch-hike, I didn’t do it but I picked some people up around and nobody told me anything bad about it.
Going back to the ferry issue, if you decide to take the car with you be there with plenty of time to be able to get your tickets. We had no issue on the way to Savai’i because it was a Thursday but when we tried to come back to Upolu on Saturday it was impossible cause a lot of people go to the capital on the weekends. But I must say that thanks to it, we stayed in Savai’i for four nights instead of the two we were thinking about.
Always the way to find the best places is simple: ask. That’s how we get to Satuiatua Beach Resort on the western coast next to Salailua. There you will meet Fila’s family one of the highlight of my samoan experience and our guide around the island.
We were the luckiest on the world because there was no one but us when we were there. It is not easy to describe with words a place like it, more than the obvious beauty is the calm you feel in the water. I would say it’s like to forget about the social world and be part of the nature universe.
In Taga Village you can find the perfect water power example. This blow holes are able to throw the liquid around 100 meters height, which could be a bit scary if you get so close to it.
Sundays at the church
This is something you have to do no matter if you are a believer or not. Samoan Sundays are reserved for the community and God. I am not a religious person but this is a must thing to do in this country, for the natives is the way to make the relations between people in the vila, to share family moments and socialize, and they are pretty happy to have travelers around.
Well, this is not exclusive from Savai’i because both islands are perfect for aquatic sports. The calm waters allow you to enjoy of paddle surf, kayak, snorkeling… Is the best way to start your day, waking up and practice some yoga in the middle of the ocean.
And of course, the crown for the ocean lovers: diving. Honestly I think any place is good but I choose Dive Savai’i. I can’t give you an opinion about the courses cause I am already a certificate diver but the two dives I made were incredible with a visibility of… of everything. So, if you have time and money dive everywhere in Samoa, I’m sure is worth it (don’t trust the video cause my skills recording underwater are very limited).
The secret beach
Like you can guess I can’t tell you where the beach is (because i’m not so sure), but Fila can, the only thing is you will have to convince her to take you there. At that moment we were 6 travelers on Satuiatua fales and we went together. Be ready to enjoy an unforgettable sunset.
Obviously there is much more in Savai’i but one thing you have to do yes or yes is to get lost Around. Plenty of times I didn’t know exactly where I was we just parked the car and run towards the beach and play with the village people. By the way, is pretty normal to pay for park the car or be on the beach. Don’t try to argue about it, just pay, is their way to make things. On the villas they have kind of self-management administration, that’s why is totally secure, if something happens the accused has to face the village people before the police, so nobody wants problems with the neighbors.
Is the first stop in Samoa. Once in the airport you can buy a SIM card with 3G, that will keep you connected anywhere on both islands. My election was Digicel for 10 days and no complains about it. If you land over night better to have a place already booked to tell the taxi where to take you. If you land during the day you can get the bus to Apia.
To Sea Ocean Trench
For a simple definition it’s a big natural hole full of water and the best thing is that you can jump from the top to the bottom which is about 15 meters. I would give you an advice: remember to keep your legs flexed in the moment you touch the water because is not really deep and you are gonna hit the ground. And to go up again you would have to climb a huge staircase. There is an entry fee of 20$ Tala, you can spent the whole day there if you want and it’s an ideal place for a picnic.
Robert Louise Stevenson Museum
A place to stop by for reading lovers. The author of the Treasure Island or The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde among others, spent the last years of his life in a house converted into a museum now. If you are interested in history or just a bit curious, is the perfect location to imagine how was life in colonial Samoa of the XIX century.
Paula cave pool
A beautiful natural pool ideal to read a book after you visit to Robert Louise Museum. For the adventurous ones there is a tunnel that connects two pools, is completely dark so be sure to bring a water lantern with you cause you will have to dive 15-20 meters not knowing the way and not being able to see anything, so it’s a bit claustrophobic.
Swim with turtles (in captivity)
Regrettably I can’t give you a positive opinion here. The turtles are not free and of course you have to pay an entry fee. I will recommend it if you don’t enjoy snorkeling on the open water and you would like to swim with this animals but if you travel around the world with mask and fins save this time and try to find savage turtles in the ocean.
To finish I’m gonna tell you two things. Try not to walk around on your bikini or without t-shirt if you are not on the pool or on the beach, samoan people are really conservative and you have to respect it, it’s a pity but no topless allowed.
And the last one, I know you are on a budget and maybe not particularly interested in luxury resorts, but you can take a look around for one day. If you have a late flight stop by the Sheraton close to the airport and spent the day drinking at the pool. You can go in for 20$ Tala and be one guest more. They have a shuttle to the airport every hour, so you can take one once you have enough cocktails. Cheers.