Samoa is much more than just an excellent place to cycle or kayak. It has coral sand beaches with safe swimming and dramatic coral outcrops teaming with colourful tropical fish. Much of Savaii has a near subsistence economy with strong traditional customs such as mat and tapa cloth making. Fiafias or dance nights in the small villages are events not to be missed.
The 200km ride around the coast of Savaii is a great way to see and experience traditional Samoan village life. Savaii is much less developed than Upolu and cycling provides a natural introduction. Stop and talk to villages, get involved in a game of kilikiti (local cricket), join a weaving group or just chat to locals in the fresh water pools or small village shops. Every night is on a sandy beach beside a calm lagoon with good, safe snorkelling.
The coastal route is sealed with a few hills but little traffic and the road passes the main attractions of the Alofaaga blowholes and the Afu Aau waterfalls.
Alternatively cycle the 160kms around Eastern and Southern Upolu. It's a little more developed but can be combined with kayaking, waterfall and coastering challenges to create as much excitement as you want. The route takes in To Sua Trench, Togitogiga Falls, the Coastal Walkway and the Giant Clams.
At present there are no formal downhill mountain bike tracks. There are a few rough back roads and routes on Savaii and we are slowly negotiating and building routes on Upolu.
With 29 degree open water temperatures and extensive lagoons Samoa is a warm and exciting place to kayak. The offshore islands of Manono, Nuusafee and the Aleipatas provide a range of trips for all abilities. Manono is a very traditional Island that can be reached entirely with the reef system, Nuusafee is uninhabited, remote, spectacular and accessed via a sheltered trip over the reef. Namua is a classic island retreat with just the small fale resort on the sandy beach as the only habitation. Nuutele island is outside the reef and often involves negotiating large swells and a challenging surf landing.
Kayakers will almost always see turtles, have opportunities to snorkel over the coral and will usually see a good variety of birdlife including frigate birds, ganets and shearwaters. We sometimes see whales, dolphins and eagle rays.
It was the pristine white sand beaches with fale accommodation on the beaches that first attracted us to Samoa. Waking up with the waves lapping within a few feet of the fale and the sun streaming over the water and peaking through the matting walls is still a highlight. Its a few steps from bed to the sea for an early morning swim in warm, sheltered and safe water.
There is no better place to learn to snorkel and when I work as a tour guide I spend at least an hour a day in the water. Look down and study the coral and colourful tropical fish or look across and hunt for turtles and manta rays, either way there is always lots to discover. The coral has suffered damage from bleaching and the 2009 tsunami but there is still some good coral on Savaii.
Samoa is intensely proud of its traditional culture with the village still the centre of activity for most people living away from Apia. Most families in these villages still regularly cook on an umu and rely heavily on fishing from small boats and on crops of taro, yams, banana etc grown on their family plantations. Preparing an umu is a labour intensive and skilled activity that is well worth watching. Eating the palusami and other delicacies that emerge is a delight. A small pig is cooked in under 40 minutes in these very hot ovens made by covering hot rocks with banana leaves. Visiting a plantation and seeing cocoa and coconuts processed is also an activity not to be missed.
Women in the villages tend to meet for at least one day a week to weave fine mats. We often stop at these and I suspect that while the mats are important, it is the gossiping and laughter that keeps the village together. There are also opportunities to see Tapa cloth (Siapo) being made.
Besides the cycling and kayaking Samoa has plenty more to offer. Our favourites are the Waterfall Tour (4 hours with as many and as high a waterfall jumps as you dare) and the Coastering Challenge (whole day of climbing, scrambling, bush bashing and swimming).
Other attractions include:
- sliding rocks
- Diving (4 Padi places)
- Big Game and regular sport fishing
- kite surfing
We can often arrange these as part of your tour.
There are flights 3-4 times a day from Auckland with Air New Zealand, Virgin and Samoa Airways (flight times are under 4 hours). Increasingly Air NZ flights are on wide bodied jets.
Virgin and Samoa Airways fly several times a week direct from Sydney and Brisbane (5 hours) and most days from Australian cities via Auckland.
Fiji Airways has flights from several countries including the USA, Australia and New Zealand. These flights mostly overnight in Fiji. Fiji has recently committed to flying 737s/A320s on the Samoa leg, which should improve reliability.
See Planning for more details on Flights.