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Samoa is characterised by both its gleaming beaches and verdant green mountainside - just begging for you to explore its jungly interior. From local watering holes (of the natural kind) to waterfalls and abundant wildlife, discover all of Samoa’s naturally glorious layers.
1. Jaws to the floor, it’s picture-perfect Lalomanu Beach
Hands down one of Samoa’s most good looking beaches, this is the kind of Utopian hideaway we all dream about. Robinson Crusoe eat your heart out, if you want to get stranded anywhere, it’s Lalomanu. As part of the mainland, the ice-white sand and lolloping palms have ‘come hither’ written all over them. Better yet, the crystal-clear lagoon, stretching all the way from the south coast to Lotofaga, is a protected marine reserve, swarming with tropical fish. Truly sigh worthy. If rocks float your boat more than sand and sea fish, nip behind the hospital at Lalomanu and take a short guided walk to an extinct volcanic crater. Between the boulders and bedrock, there’s also an entire platoon of flying foxes.
2. Swim with green turtles in their natural habitat
From Lalomanu Beach, jump on a boat and head to Namua Island, just ten minutes further to the north. Here you can swim with endangered green turtles. A pleasantly quiet spot just off Upolu’s south-eastern coast, the coral-adorned habitat is the preferred hangout for green turtles. For roughly 20 tala ($12), the locals will take you out on a small boat to the optimum swimming spots. Don your snorkel and dive in. If you have time to spare, nearby Fanuatapu Island is also a goodie, with the coves around Aleipata coast offering a watery haven for both green turtles and eagle rays. Remember to take a picnic, the alfresco dining spots dish up some of the prettiest views in Samoa.
3. Birdlife and beach life
Once you’re done with Lalomanu, take the road south and you’ll find even more unique Samoan nature. The seabird nesting grounds on Nuutele Island are home to some of Samoa's most captivating bird species. A former leper colony from 1916 – 1918, the island is now uninhabited save for their feathered residents. Between two startling beaches and steep forested mountain slopes, typical to the glorious Samoan landscape, keep a keen eye for seabirds, sea turtles, coconut crabs and if you’re particularly lucky, whales swimming gracefully in the distance.
4. Hidden waterfalls you’ll want to uncover
The kind you’ll discover once and never again, we know about two majestic waterfalls that really are a Samoan treat. We advise you hire a rental car for this excursion because you’ll need to drive deep into the depths of Nuutele Island. Approximately 5km south from the island’s bird colonies, in the thick of rural Samoan rainforest, you’ll stumble across Fuipisia Falls. Just a 300m walk from the road and you'll find 56 metres of plunging water cascading into the fern-filled valley below. The views from the top are jaw-dropping. A further 3km south and the same river leads to the equally impressive 53 metre Sopo'aga Falls. Both are free so you won’t need any notes, but you will need to keep your peepers peeled for road signs. Blink and you’ll miss them.
5. Wet n’ Wild, you have competition
From Mother Nature herself. In Se’ese’e, approximately 15 minutes by car from Apia, there’s a natural aquatic playground fondly named the Papaseea Sliding Rock. Sandwiched between tropical rainforest and beautiful gardens, there are a series of waterfalls that you can slide down, landing with a satisfying plop into the lagoon below. Divided into two areas, one for kids and one for adults, there’s one 5 metre slide and three smaller ones at the base of the steps. Fun for the whole family, just be aware the steps leading to the falls can be a challenge. It costs 5 tala (about NZ$2.50) for adults and 2 Tala (NZ$1) for children, with all money going to the Women's Association, who run the Papaseea sliding rocks and also take care of any personal belongings while you drop and slop. The members also use the money to rebuild their surrounding area so it’s an all-round feel good event.
6. Cannonball into the To Sua Ocean Trench
An ocean trench might not be the best way to describe this place, it’s more like a giant sinkhole or cenote. The stunningly beautiful swimming hole is fringed with lush green foliage and connected to the ocean by an underground lava tube which fills it full of crystal clear water and colourful tropical fish. There’s a slightly nerve-wracking ladder leading into the trench which might daunt younger sprogs in your clan, but the older ones will love to cannonball from the steps into the lush waters below. Remember to have some cash on hand as there’s a small fee if you want to take a dip.
7. Knock your socks off snorkelling
It’s beaches like Vavau that make you realise how lucky we are to live just a four hour flight from such drop-dead gorgeousness. Possessing all the attributes that create a dreamy exotic escape; talcum powder sand, lush greenery and teal water that shimmers with reflective sunlight, you can’t help but sigh. Naturally breathtaking with a small lagoon grotto, the real joy are the tropical fish and coral which make the snorkelling some of the best in Samoa. What’s better than a lazy day lounging on an exotic beach, reading, relaxing and stepping in and out of the sea for a snorkel.
8. More relaxing hangouts, please!
And picnics too. Another great spot for enjoying nature’s finest green spaces, as well as a delicious lunchbox filled with Samoa’s tastiest treats, is Falefa Falls. Take a short walk through the pretty garden and you’ll reach the river’s edge. Day fales and picnic tables are all set up in this picture-perfect setting, with the falls just a few minutes up the river for a pleasant post-picnic walk. The ideal spot for a day of relaxation, admire the falls and go for a refreshing dip in the river. Open Sunday through to Saturday from 8am until 6pm.
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