Catriona Rowntree visited the Independent State of Samoa (formerly Western Samoa). Savai'i and Upolu are the main islands in the archipelago of 10. It's a place of natural beauty with volcanic mountain peaks covered in rainforest, vast valleys of towering banyan trees, cascading waterfalls dropping into rivers, sheer cliffs and a stunning white-sand-edged coastline. Villages have meeting houses, churches and open fale
(homes) encircling the village green.
The capital Apia is on Upolu's north-east coast and is home to around 40,000 people. It is the only place you'll find traffic lights! It's easy to explore by foot and mass tourism hasn't arrived to take away its relaxed charm.
Nightlife thrives in Apia with lots of fine restaurants, drinking holes and rowdy local bars and nightclubs.
Sydney Side Cafe
Catriona always likes to suss out somewhere to stop for a coffee or a sandwich. She was told about this place which reportedly has the best coffee in Samoa and it's all the way from Wollongong! They have lots of fresh salads, French toast with bananas and coconut jam and Samoan cocoa smoothies.
Australian Youth Ambassador
Australia has many connections with Samoa, including a brand-new Australian-funded police station. Also doing his bit is Australian chef Seamus Tovey who is helping local hospitality students in his role as an Australian Youth Ambassador.
The program supports young Australians who want to live, work and make a positive contribution to developing countries. In doing so, Seamus has discovered fruit and vegetables he had never seen before and learned to cook a traditional Samoam umu which is cooking in a hot rock oven. For further information about the program, visit www.ausaid.gov.au.
Markets are always fun to visit and this one is the city's hub. It's colourful and active 24 hours a day. Families stay there around the clock for fear of losing their allotted space. It has an enormous range of fresh produce, there are cheap snacks and you can try a local kava. There's plenty of craft for sale bark cloth, wood carvings and plenty of coconut shell jewellery.
Tropicana Lounge Bar
This is the place for a big Samoan buffet. Several times a year they put on a drag show starring local fa'afafine
. Unique to Samoan culture, fa'afafine is considered a third gender. They are biologically men who are chosen at a young age to assume otherwise female gender roles. It is quite acceptable in the community, and they certainly put on a good show.
Police Band of Samoa
Every day at 8am the police band marches along Beach Road, playing the national anthem as the national flag is raised. It's well worth getting up early to watch the proud police in their white helmets and light-blue uniforms.
Catriona was honoured by being bestowed with the title of "tanu vasa", high talking chief, by a village on the island of Savai'i.
Apia, the capital of Western Samoa.
Tropicana Lounge Bar Tala buffet dinners are around $23. Contact them for floor-show dates.
Canopy Walkway is open year round. It houses two people. Visit Samoan Tourism for more details.
Polynesian Blue has flights to Apia.
- Sydney and Brisbane $429
- Melbourne $469
- Canberra and Adelaide
- Perth $529
There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the Internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at August 6, 2009 and are subject to change.
Prices correct at August 6, 2009.
For further information
Ph: 136 789
Sydney Side Cafe
Convent and Saleufi streets
Ph: +685 24638
Tropicana Lounge Bar
Ph: +685 777 3428
Visas: Tourist visas of 60 days are granted on arrival to all visitors except Chinese nationals who must obtain a visa beforehand. A passport valid for at least six months and an onward ticket are required.
Electricity: 240V using Australian-style plugs.
Time zone: GMT -11.
Currency: Samoan tala.
International dialling code: +685.
It is recommended travellers to Samoa see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit www.welltogo.com.au or www.smartraveller.gov.au.