- Samoan, English
- Samoan tālā
This collection of islands in the Pacific has all the trimmings of a traditional holiday destination – think soft sandy beaches, swaying palms and warm lagoons – but it’s the wilder side that has us hooked. Despite being just a five-hour flight from Australia, very few flashy resorts have set up shop, meaning the jungle still tumbles down near the sea and the waterfalls and waves come tourist free. It’s even possibly to swim in the country’s most Instagrammed location, the astonishing To Sua Ocean Trench, without having to share.
Apia, the laid-back capital, sits on the coast of the main island, known as Upolu. A day here should be enough before you head off to explore the country’s natural playground. Stop by the fish market selling underwater creatures almost too beautiful to eat, and book in to one of the restaurants serving giant lobsters and the local specialty of tuna oka, a delicious raw fish salad. As far as tourism centres go, the little cultural village down near the harbour is a good one, with wood carvers, meals cooked in the umu (earth oven) and traditional dance performances. Depending on the day, you might even get the chance to watch someone getting a pe'a (traditional tattoo) hammered into their skin. Once a year the place comes to life for the Teuila Festival, with dancers twirling fire and knives on a big stage in the centre of town, and local beauties sashaying down the runway at the Miss Samoa Pageant.
Life here blends the tradition of Fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way) with Christianity, and you’ll find places of worship in every tiny town. On Sundays everyone goes to church, while the umus cook a post-prayer feast, and their smoke covers the island.
Savai’i, the country's largest island, a 90-minute ferry ride away, has just one main road circling it. Few travellers to Samoa make it this far, and even fewer stay here overnight. But it’s worth the journey. Fales (traditional open-air huts) sit on beaches all around the island, and with tropical weather year-round, crossing a couple of metres from your bed into the water to swim with turtles is the ultimate island experience.