The liv­ing is easy on an is­land par­adise

Al­lan Thomp­son dis­cov­ers how to ‘sur­vive’ stun­ning Samoa

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - News -

SOME call it par­adise, so it seems an un­likely spot to cast the 19th se­ries of the pop­u­lar US re­al­ity TV se­ries, Sur­vivor, but, if noth­ing else, Samoa will pro­vide some of the most spec­tac­u­lar scenery seen on the pro­gram.

Stun­ning green moun­tains, rain­for­est and wa­ter­falls con­trast with some of the most bril­liant blue and green wa­ter, from reefs, la­goons and crash­ing surf which sur­round th­ese amaz­ing is­lands in the mid­dle of the Pa­cific Ocean, 4400km from Aus­tralia.

It’s just dif­fi­cult to imag­ine any­one ris­ing to the com­pet­i­tive chal­lenge of out­wit­ting and out­last­ing any­thing when you are im­mersed in such nat­u­ral beauty. This is made even harder when you add the friend­li­ness and charm of the lo­cals, the easy ac­cess to the main is­lands of Savaii and Upolu, the qual­ity of the lo­cal food and wa­ter and even the gen­eral clean­li­ness of the many small vil­lages and mag­nif­i­cent gar­dens dot­ted across the is­lands.

We are stay­ing on the south­ern side of Upolu, near the small vil­lage of Sala­mumu.

Rest­ing with a straw­berry daiquiri while watch­ing the sun­set over the ocean af­ter a hard day’s snorkelling, kayak­ing and swim­ming in the won­der­fully warm and crys­tal clear Upolu wa­ters, it’s hard and some­what amus­ing to imag­ine that over on the next beach, des­per­ate con­tes­tants are locked in 40 days of com­bat for a US tele­vi­sion se­ries.

As I or­der an ex­cel­lent Vail­ima lo­cal beer to fol­low my daiquiri and con­sider what I will have for din­ner at the se­cluded, small, but charm­ing Sa’Moana Re­sort, I can think of many places I have vis­ited where the Sur­vivor con­cept would seem en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate. But not here. Ev­ery­thing seems too easy, just as a great va­ca­tion should be.

Each day starts with a dip in the pool, built into the lava rock that dom­i­nates the is­lands, and over­look­ing reef and un­spoilt trop­i­cal rain­for­est.

Other than the seven fales (beach bun­ga­lows) of the re­sort, no other man-made struc­tures can be seen, en­sur­ing you can en­joy noth­ing but the nat­u­ral beauty of this is­land par­adise. If you de­cide to stay put at the re­sort, then the day’s ac­tiv­i­ties are usu­ally built around the tides.

As high tide ap­proaches, it’s time to don the flip­pers and snorkel gear and ex­plore the reef right on your front doorstep. The mo­ment you put your head un­der the wa­ter you are im­me­di­ately as­tounded by the num­ber, va­ri­ety and colour of the fish and coral. And you are equally happy at the pris­tine con­di­tion of the reef – co­rals of all shapes and sizes seem to be thriv­ing – to­gether with the clean­li­ness and vis­i­bil­ity of the wa­ter.

Those seek­ing a bit more ex­cite­ment can grab a kayak and pad­dle out to a deeper part of the reef which, as well as at­tract­ing much big­ger fish, is a haven for sea tur­tles. Be- cause the wa­ter is so clear you have no prob­lem see­ing th­ese ma­jes­tic crea­tures, even those at a dis­tance.

While we are happy enough to snorkel and swim, Samoa also at­tracts peo­ple from all over the world to dive, surf and catch big game­fish in its won­der­ful wa­ters.

In fact, Samoa is an ad­ven­turer’s dream. Robert Louis Steven­son, au­thor of Trea­sure Is­land, lived here for the last five years of his life and the is­land’s rugged beauty in­spired him.

It boasts more than 200 vol­canic

craters, forests, gorges, blow holes, wa­ter­falls, ocean trenches and im­pos­ing moun­tains, and all can be ex­plored.

One of the most amaz­ing spots to ex­plore on Upolu is the To Sua Ocean Trench which is lo­cated just off the main south coast road near Vava’u. To Sua is trans­lated as ‘‘big hole’’.

The ocean trench con­sists of a pair of huge sunken wa­ter holes, one of which has a lad­der which de­scends al­most 20m to the calm wa­ter.

The climb down the lad­der alone is not for the faint hearted, but well worth the ef­fort. The wa­ter is crys­tal clear and its daz­zling blue con­trasts to the lush, ver­dant veg­e­ta­tion grow­ing on the side of the hole’s 30m high walls.

For the re­ally ad­ven­tur­ous, an un­der­wa­ter tun­nel leads out of the trench into a cave which sits be­tween the trench and the ocean. An­other smaller tun­nel then leads di­rectly out to sea.

But a word of warn­ing, any­one at­tempt­ing to do this must know what they are do­ing, or be with peo­ple who do.

Un­for­tu­nately, when I de­cided to take the plunge and swim through the tun­nel, I missed com­ing up in the cave and re­ceived the fright of my life when I had a dire strug­gle to make it out into the clear wa­ter of the ocean and fresh air – my own Samoan sur­vivor story.

Es­cape from it all:

Trav­ellers can sit back and en­joy the pic­turesque sand and surf (above) or ex­plore the lush trop­i­cal rain­for­est (above right).

What a view:

The invit­ing beau­ti­ful blue ocean (above) and for the more ad­ven­tur­ous, a rock­pool to ex­plore (inset right).

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