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A Samoan High Chief takes us in an extraordinary tour of his incredibly beautiful island

Updated: Feb 20, 2023

There is a strange feeling that comes over me when I am in a place I am not likely to ever visit again. Samoa, one of the most lush and welcoming countries on Earth, is such a place.

I had to keep reminding myself during the roughly seven hours I spent on the ground to keep taking it all in, to commit everything to memory.

My friends John and Judy from Florida, who are a lovely pair of retired school teachers, invited me to join them and on a tour of the island they had arranged online with Tai Fiti. Here he is sandwiched between Judy and me.

Tai has degrees in history and English literature and is also the hereditary High Chief of four Samoan villages (well, sort of hereditary ... the people of the villages had to give their approval) and works for the education ministry during the week but takes tours on weekends to share his culture with the outside world.

Samoa has been independent for 60 years, which means 70 per cent of it was returned six decades ago to Indigenous communities (after colonization by the English, the Germans, and the New Zealanders) ... and that means it has escaped a lot of the commercialization and development that changed the face of other island nations of the South Pacific.

It is stunningly green, with tall volcanic mountains (long since dormant) looming over villages where people live in open-air pavilions. This is summer and the humidity hit us like a hot blanket.

Like most Samoans, Tai is tall and handsome (think of Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson but without the abs and and chiseled nose, and possesses an incredible knowledge of Samoa and its history and people.

Our first stop was the magnificent Catholic cathedral n Apia, the Samoan capital, which is heavily decorated with wood carvings and religious themes with a Samoan flavour.

That was followed by a trip to the market.

Then we scooted out of town to the museum that was once the home of author Robert Louis Stevenson who spent his final years on this island and was buried here at the top of a mountain by the Samoan people who, according to Tai, revered him.

After walking the grounds (we hear from friends that we should have gone inside and taken the tour), we drove to the south side of Samoa and found a small, ramshackle, but inviting bar on a wide white beach. We waded into the warm water ... this is Judy picking her way across the Sandy ocean floor.

Then we returned to shore to catch a musical show by Samoan dancers before tucking in to fish and ships and a daiquiri prepared by the two lovely women working both the bar and the kitchen at th beach hut.

Tai took us to three waterfalls - one of which was dried up and two of which were spectacular.

He showed us how to cook in the traditional Samoan way, with rocks heated red hot on an outdoor fire, and he shucked cocoanuts to give us a taste of cocoanut cream.

We ended with a visit to what I would call a cenote - a giant pit in the earth that is filled with ocean water. John went swimming (he is the one doing the back stroke in the centre of picture below) but I stupidly had not brought my bathing suit so I did not venture down the long and slightly intimidating ladder to the bottom of the hole.

Seven hours after setting out on our tour, we returned to the ship, but not before we had learned, from Tai, about the history of Samoa and how its people arrived 3,000 years ago and then took their long boats on sea voyages to populate far away islands including Hawaii and New Zealand. Two teachers and a former journalist can ask a lot of questions ... and we were overfilled with Samoan knowledge by time we stepped back onto the Poesia.

I understand why RL Stevenson made Samoa his final home. Now we are off to Fiji, for a different South Pacific experience.

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