Spread across three separate islands, this national park is home to an abundance of fish and coral species, as well as native bats and lush rainforests.
As the USA's National Park Service celebrates its centenary, we're profiling the wilderness areas it manages.
Today: American Samoa's sole national park . . .
"[Its] super-corals may hold clues to saving coral reefs everywhere."
- National Parks Conservation Association
"Samoa" means sacred earth, and visitors to this Polynesian paradise are encouraged to exhibit the implied respect.
Here, in the only US national park south of the equator, beaches are among the world's most beautiful. But this is not a cabana-style destination. Those who fly from California to Honolulu to Pago Pago International Airport typically are seeking something more rare.
The effort of travelling more than 4000 kilometres southwest of Hawaii is rewarded by rain forests and extensive coral reefs. (Bring your own snorkel or diving gear; air tanks may be rented.)
In contrast to most US parks, the only land mammals here are three types of bats, and the fruit bats have 90cm wingspans. Much more diverse is the underwater population of at least 800 native fish and 200 coral species, as well as rare and endangered sea turtles and humpback whales. In addition to snorkelling and swimming, bird watching and hiking are popular activities.
Visitors are encouraged to learn about the 3000-year-old Samoan culture in advance. Modesty and humility are advised.
Size: 13,500 acres (9500 land; 4000 marine — primarily coral reefs)
Founded: Authorised, 1988; established, 1993
Attendance: 13,892 (2015)
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