I always find that having accommodation organised for the first night in a strange country makes for an easy arrival. By more good luck than good management, I found Seipepa Travel Home in Apia on the web (http://www.samoa-experience.com), and now strongly recommend the establishment for new arrivals. And once there, you will probably not want to leave until moving away from Apia.
The managers, Mats (a Swedish guy) and Sia (his delightful Samoan wife) along with their immediate and extended family, make you very welcome. You may be allocated one of four rooms in their house, or a fale. Because of their popularity, and restrictions of space, they recently added two double storey fales, probably the first in Samoa.
Everybody eats a Samoan breakfast together, giving you an early introduction to all the guests. And that gives you the opportunity to find out where and what to see, where to eat, and other accommodation around the islands. First hand advice from tourists is usually far more accurate than out-of-date guide books.
If you enjoy snorkelling, make sure you pack your mask and snorkel, for there are frequent opportunities to enjoy many locations, and save on hiring fees (if equipment is available to hire at all).
In Apia, a surprisingly excellent location within walking distance of the centre of town at Palolo Deep Marine Reserve. Entry costs two tala, the beach area is small, but there is a basic shower, toilet and change cubicle. Access is easiest at high tide, at the left side of the area. The variety and quantity of coral and fish so close to a heavily populated area is surprising.
A visit to Cindy's Transvestite Show is a must if you enjoy a laugh. Admission is only 10 tala, and the cast of male and female dancers entertains for at least two hours.
A tour of the beautiful Upolo Island is a must, taking in waterfalls, forests and several beaches.
Litia Sini's Beach Fales at Lalomanu Beach come highly recommended. I visited the village, and planned to return for a longer stay, but didn't make it because of an extended stay on Savaii Island.
On Savaii, I stayed at Tanu Beach Resort. Mats phoned and booked a fale for me. Originally planning to stay 3 or 4 days, I ended staying a week, believing that I couldn't find anywhere else that could be as enjoyable. Having my own fale on the beachfront, with the waves gently breaking on the shore of the clean sandy beach, breakfast and dinner provided each day, and regular entertainment when we weren't swimming or sunbaking, was my idea of paradise.
While there, I renewed acquaintances with tourists I'd met earlier, as well as meeting many more. On the first morning when we finished breakfast, guests were sitting around talking and filling in time as it was cloudy and dull. Suddenly, a member of the family appeared and stated that they apologised for the weather and had organised some entertainment. And that was the standard for the week. We enjoyed several fia fias (traditional dancing and singing etc.) in which guests sometimes participated.
We not only went snorkelling inside the reef, but swam outside where the fish are larger, and the coral changes completely to masses of large plate coral. Getting outside the reef is not easy, and is best attempted at high tide, but well worth the effort.
An outrigger canoe is available to guests. We organised time trials among ourselves, which was great fun.
A trip to see the Taga Blowholes is worth a visit, especially if you take a supply of coconuts. If you throw the coconuts in at the right moment, they are blasted high in the sky above a jet of water.
Regrettably, I didn't cover as much of the two islands as I would have liked or intended, but did enjoy the slow easy lifestyle, instead of rushing from one tourist location to another. Besides, now I have the excuse to return, when I plan to cycle around both islands, renewing acquaintances and seeing more of this beautiful country and the marvellous, friendly people.
For more pictures of Samoa, go here.
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