Savai'i: Shaped by nature's forces

By Bruce Munro

On a journey around Savai'i, Samoa's biggest island, Bruce Munro finds plenty to do.
Cooling off by a waterfall, Samoa-style. Photo / Felipe Skroski
Cooling off by a waterfall, Samoa-style. Photo / Felipe Skroski

ISLAND LIFE

Laze, swim and snorkel endlessly at the many beautiful, sandy beaches of this reef-ringed island. Each beach belongs to the local village, so ask first and be prepared to pay ST5-20 ($2.80-$11.40) per person.


LAVA FIELD

Volcanoes have played an important role in the history of Savai'i, even as recently as 100 years ago. At Sale'aula, on the northeast tip of Savai'i, stand the remains of churches destroyed by lava that flowed across a broad swathe of land between 1905 and 1911.

MT MATAVANU

It's 10km uphill from Safotu village to the edge of the precipitous Mt Matavanu crater. In dry weather, a high-clearance vehicle can carry visitors all the way to the camp of the extinct volcano's iconic guardian, Da World Famous Craterman (ST20). From there, you can push on by foot to complete a 2km hike to the lip of the broad and deep bush-clad crater.

DWARF CAVE

Disappear down an unremarkable hole in the ground to discover a stunning network of caves. The Dwarf Cave is a large lava tube crossed by subterranean streams. Look for signs at Paia, on the Main North Coast Rd. A guide (ST20) will lead you through the cave, but bring your own torch and sturdy footwear for the journey.

CANOPY WALK

Climb a 9m-high metal staircase, cross a 24m swing bridge and then climb another stairway around the outside of a 230-year-old banyan tree for a bird's-eye view of lowland rainforest. The canopy walk (ST20) is in the 1200ha Falealupo Rainforest Preserve on the northwest extreme of Savai'i.

FALEALUPO RUINS

The postcard-perfect coastline of the Falealupo Peninsula still bears reminders of two devastating cyclones that struck a quarter of a century ago. Among the traces are the remains of the photogenic Catholic church at what was Falealupo village.

AFA-AAU WATERFALL

About 12km west of Salelologa, on Main South Coast Rd, this bush-enclosed waterfall fills an idyllic swimming hole with refreshing spring-fed water (ST5).

ALOFA'AGA BLOWHOLES

On the southwestern corner of Savai'i, narrow tunnels in a small lava field create impressive geysers at high tide. Entrance costs ST5. For another ST5 "parking fee" the local guide will turn the geyser into a cannon, firing coconut missiles. Then stand well clear and enjoy the show - just watch out for where those coconuts land.

- NZ Herald

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