Our decision to spend our next holiday on the islands of Samoa was a simple one to make. We wanted to go somewhere relaxing but fun, a place where we could stay mainly in the one spot, and somewhere that the kids would love as much as the adults.
My husband and I were travelling with our twenty-one-month-old daughter and some friends – two more couples and two other children, aged eight and five. One of the couples had heard about this isolated place on the Samoan island of Savai’i, but on further investigation we realised the amount of travel involved (for what was intended to be a relaxing holiday) and the traditional huts without walls, right on the water, wouldn’t be great with young children.
We ended up at a resort on the island of Upolu, near the Samoan capital of Apia, where we found activities for the kids – beach and pool – and for the adults – a swim-up bar.
We left our comfortable poolside – and barside – spots for a few days of the holiday, hiring a minibus to drive around Upolu. After all, part of the joy of travelling is to experience another culture and get out of your comfort zone.
And out of our comfort zone we were. Far from the lazy swimming in cool water, we found ourselves in a hot minibus, on an island that took literally hours to reach anywhere. The children were not happy, which in turn made the adults a little on edge.
It was lucky, then, that each of our stops was so much fun.
The first stop was turtle-feeding – a hit with everyone, but especially the kids, who loved seeing these beautiful creatures swimming gracefully and coming so close they could reach out and touch their shells.
Next was a market, full of sarongs, jewellery, carved timber ornaments and – the most popular item – weaved fans to help combat the heat.
A quick stop in the ‘city’ of Apia was enough to gather some supplies for the day, and we were off again.
And our next destination was worth it all.
The Papaseea Sliding Rocks involved a steep, slippery walk down several flights of slightly wonky stairs, eventually revealing two waterfalls. One was quite long and the other smaller, both cascading down rocks.
Apparently they were safe to use as waterslides so, to check, we did what any sane people would do: sent the menfolk down first.
They survived, so next were the children down the smaller waterfall (the eight- and five-year-olds anyway; as much as my almost-two-year-old would have loved it, I wasn’t keen on her giving it a shot).
And then the adults on the big waterfall. Turn after turn after turn, with those not so keen swimming in the rock pools below. There is no better way to rid yourself of any worries than sliding down a waterfall at full speed!
We saw the stretch of coast that was devastated by the tsunami in 2009. These beaches that feature on hundreds of Samoan postcards and tourism pictures, the untouched, pristine views, were just a shadow of what you would imagine.
Then we came to the house of author Robert Louis Stevenson (of Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fame, among many other works), who chose to move from his home country of Scotland to Samoa for health reasons. The warmer climate was better for his weak lungs.
The Australian-designed house was well worth a visit. Taking years to build, and added onto with the arrival of more and more family members, it was filled with furniture shipped from Britain and America, much of which did not last due to Samoa’s humidity.
The most amusing aspect of the interior was the fireplace – perhaps the only one in Samoa! – built to make Stevenson feel at home. It was, of course, never used.
In his time there, he became involved in the local politics and was a man well respected by the local communities, nicknamed ‘Tusitala’ (Samoan for ‘Teller of Tales’).
His writing room – where he wrote thirteen books in those four years – overlooked both the water and the nearby mountain, Mt Vaea, at the top of which he was buried.
After that visit, which clearly appealed to the adults more than the children, we were all ready to return to the pool for the last few days of our holiday.
Yes, we lapped up the luxury on offer – but that’s what holidays are made for.