The living is easy on an island paradise
Allan Thompson discovers how to ‘survive’ stunning Samoa
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).