Our second day in Samoa has been absolutely incredible. It was a jam-packed day full of some great experiences our family will always remember. It all started after we got up early in the morning to have a wonderful French Toast breakfast to use up the large quantities of eggs we had bought in American Samoa. Space in the fridge was getting a bit limited from the 7 loaves of bread tucked away in there as well, so it was the perfect breakfast to thin out the fridge a little bit. We all were able to fill up and eat a hearty breakfast which was perfect for the busy day ahead of us.
At 9am we were picked up by the tour company Polynesian Xplorer for an incredible day tour that took us down to the South East corner of the island of Upolu and back to Apia. We first toured around the city of Apia where we were able to see many of the new government buildings that have been built in the past 10 years. Kirsten noted that it looks very different from the city she saw 25 years ago when she last visited as a young girl. Within the last 10 years other big changes have occurred such as switching to drive on the left side of the road (as in New Zealand and Australia), added their first stoplights (they have many now) and moved to the other side of the international date line so that they are closer in time to Australia and New Zealand. We were also able to stop for a photo outside of the beautiful “Mormon Temple” with all of the kids. It is an absolutely gorgeous building that is just outside of the city. It was moved slightly, redesigned and rebuilt in 2005 after having been destroyed by a fire a few years earlier.
We met up with a honeymoon couple after our tour of Apia and they joined us for the rest of the day as we drove along the North East coastal road. We drove down some back roads and then made a stop along the coast overlooking the rolling surf of the ocean. It was a short stop before turning inland and to the South. Our first stop was in the mountains at a beautiful garden overlooking Sopoaga Waterfall. From here our guide Tupu demonstrated the many uses of the coconut tree. He hopped up to the top of a tall coconut tree and pulled off a fresh coconut and ripped off a palm frond. After carefully descending down the tree he took us over to a small area where he proceeded to show us how each part of the coconut tree could be used. He wove a basket from the palm frond to start. It was incredible to see how quickly he could weave the leaves back and forth to create the basket. He tried explaining it to us but the speed with which he went to work was incredible.
Next he demonstrated husking coconuts using both a rock and a stick. I preferred the easier stick in the ground method that the kids have been using during our trip. It is much quicker. After husking the coconut he gave us all a sample of the juice before grating the coconut and letting us taste the milk.
During the presentation, Zakary was making the most of not being tied up on the sailboat. He was happy to be off his harness and able to roam around freely. When Tupu dumped out the coconut shavings on the ground, all of the chickens came running over. Zakary who had been chasing the chickens was absolutely excited to see so many chickens coming to greet him instead of running away. They kept their distance though if he tried to get too close. Watching Zak roam around was loads of fun. Anytime he can get on the surface of the earth he goes crazy and can be hard to keep in sight. I had to go running after him as he started playing with the sand by the chickens in the cooking fale.
We soon had to go and so we piled into the van. We drove down the other side of the mountain pass to the southern coast with its many sandy beaches, vacation fales and resorts. We went to the restaurant at the Tapaga Beach Fales. It was lunch time so we pulled out our picnic and combined it with some food from the restaurant. It was a good thing we brought a little something because it took at least 45 minutes before our food arrived. By that time the kids had eaten what we had brought and long gone into the ocean to cool off. The sky was clear and it was over 30 degrees Celsius outside. The only reprieve from the sun was to get wet. The water was crystal blue and the sand was almost as white as snow. It was a gorgeous place to stop. This beach was awarded as being the 7th best beach in the world! If I was not on a sailboat I would have rented one of the many beach fale rooms that are up on wooden stilts over the sand. The fales here are open like traditional Samoan homes and they do have privacy tarps that drop down around the circular room (although it probably can get very hot if closed up). They are simple accommodations with no in-room washrooms but there are also suites available with washrooms. The kids splashed around for half an hour before the food we ordered arrived. Just in time to have a bite, shower off and get underway again.
Our main stop in the afternoon was a visit to the To Sua Ocean Trench. As with almost all beaches and natural attractions, there is an admission fee of 15 Tala ($6) for Adults and half of that for kids 7 to 12 years old. This was one of the highlighted locations everyone in the family had wanted to visit. This ocean trench is a series of two deep holes in the earth that are at least 100 or more feet deep and as much across. At the bottom of one sinkhole is dirt bottom while at the bottom of the other there are fern lined cliffs leading to a pool filled with water that seeps in from the ocean. From the top of the hole there is a pathway that leads to a tall, steep ladder that descends down into the circular saltwater swimming pool. Near the bottom of the ladder is a large wooden platform.
From the ladder and the platform, the kids spent most of their time jumping into the water below. It is such a unique watering hole that was absolutely irresistible for all of the kids. Zakary fell asleep in the car and so we carried him to one of the little fale’s in the park surrounding these two holes. Our guide stayed with him as he slept soundly so that we could enjoy splashing in the water with the rest of the kids.
From the one sinkhole there was a large underwater opening that went underground and connected to the second hole with dirt in it. Our explorer minded kids of course, swam through the tunnel and over to the other hole. It was interesting to note the current that kept pushing you to one side or the other of the big hole. At first I thought the current was pushing me in one direction but only a few minutes later is was going the opposite way. It must be following the currents that go under and through the rock wall to the ocean.
It was hard to get all of the kids out of the water after only swimming for half an hour but they eventually climbed up the ladder without “accidentally” jumping back into the water. I’m sure they could have spent at least half a day there without any problems. As we were so anxious to go down into the hole we didn’t even pay attention to the beautiful park like setting surrounding the holes. It was good to see our admission fee going to such good use of turning the surrounding area into a lush green natural setting.
When we finally climbed back into the tour van a little bit wet, we were well tired out and worn from the long day. We stopped briefly at the Papapapai-uta Waterfall which is Samoa’s largest set of falls (with multiple drops) before skipping the last two anticipated stops. We were all rather tired as it was 5pm and we had covered a lot of ground and visited a variety of sites throughout the day.
Overall it was one of the most spectacular excursions we have taken on our voyage. It had something for everyone in the family and we were all able to go at a pace that was manageable yet kept us moving and the kids interested.