Visiting Samoa is less about seeing sights as doing things – particularly things that involve tropical beaches.
Samoa’s dive industry is far less developed than those of some of its neighbours, meaning there are some fantastic sites to explore, with access to a multitude of tropical fish and larger marine creatures, such as turtles and dolphins. Two-tank dives start from ST275 and PADI open-water courses are around ST1250.
Samoan reefs and their fishing rights are owned by villagers, so you can’t just drop a line anywhere; seek permission first. If you’d like to go fishing with locals, inquire at your accommodation or speak to the pulenu’u of the village concerned.
Game fishing is becoming increasingly popular in the islands – in fact, Samoa has been rated one of the top 10 game-fishing destinations in the world. The Samoa International Game Fishing Tournament (www.sigfa.ws) heads out from Apia Harbour in late April.
Samoa’s rugged coastal areas, sandy beaches, thick rainforests and volcanoes all invite exploration on foot. However, trails can quickly become obscured due to tangled tropical growth and half-hearted track maintenance. Combine this with the effects of heavy rain and there’s often a good chance of getting lost (or at the very least covering yourself in mud). For more remote treks, it pays to take a guide with you.
Costs vary enormously. Sometimes villagers will be happy to accompany you for nothing; at other times, they’ll be seeking goods as a reward (like cigarettes), but mostly they’ll be interested in cash.
Kayaks are perfect for pottering around lagoons; several accommodation providers have them available. Longer kayaking excursions can be organised through Outdoor Samoa.
Snorkelling & Swimming
The novice snorkeller will find Samoa’s waters fascinating and teeming with life. In places the reef has been damaged by cyclones, tsunamis and human contact, but will still reveal live corals and an abundance of colourful fish, often just a short paddle out from the beach. Some particularly good and accessible spots are Lalomanu, Namu’a and Palolo Deep Marine Reserve. Many places hire out snorkelling gear, but it’s worth bringing your own mask and snorkel.
The majority of Samoan beaches are great for splashing about in, but too shallow for satisfying swimming. Always ask permission from local villagers before using their beach.
Powerful conditions, sharp reefs and offshore breaks that are difficult to access mean that surfing in Samoa is challenging, to say the very least, and probably one of the worst places in the world to learn the sport. While the surf can be magnificent at times, offering waves of a lifetime in glorious surroundings, conditions are generally difficult to assess, with some very dangerous situations awaiting the inexperienced or reckless. That said, the islands are an increasingly popular destination for experienced surfers. The wet season (November to April) brings swells from the north; the dry season (May to October) brings big swells from the south.
It’s best to hook up with a surfing outfit. They know all the best spots and provide boat transport to them and, perhaps more importantly, they have established relationships with local villagers and understand the culture – they know where it is and isn’t OK to surf.