American Samoa

Environment:

American Samoa is the eastern portion of the Samoan archipelago, a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about half way between Hawaii and New Zealand. It consists of five volcanic islands with rugged peaks and limited coastal plains, and two coral atolls (Rose Island, Swains Island). The highest point is Lata Mountain at 963 meters (3,159 feet), on the island of Ta’u. The chief environmental consideration is limited natural freshwater resources. American Samoa does have one Superfund cleanup site at Taputimu Farm. The American Samoa EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) oversees environmental issues on the islands, including the ban on plastic grocery bags. The Coalition of Reef Lovers is a locally based NGO.

The jewel in the crown of American Samoa protected areas is the National Park of American Samoa. Other protected areas include Aunu’u Island National Natural Landmark, Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Ofu Vaoto Marine Park, and Vaiava Strait National Natural Landmark. Note, access to Rose Atoll Marine National Monument is only for scientific and research purposes, by permission from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wildlife includes bats, such as the Samoa flying fox, and the marine worm, Samoan palolo, an exotic, seasonal source of food for islanders. September and October are peak months for viewing humpback whale migration in the National Park of American Samoa. Pago Pago Divers is one of few local scuba diving operators.

Culture:

Samoan people are a Polynesian ethnic group. In the 18th century, Samoans fought a battle with French explorers. In the 19th century, Samoa was invaded by Christian missionaries. Late in the 19th century, international rivalries lead to the division of Samoa between Germany and the United States.

In Samoan culture, Fa’afafine describes men who prefer to live as women, a custom that has always been accepted not only in Samoa but all over the South Pacific. In American Samoa, most local people swim fully clothed in shorts and T-shirts, rather than bathing suits. Before swimming, please ask someone in the village if you can use their beach, they will usually say yes, any day but Sunday. Swimming on Sunday is against the rules in most villages. American Pacific University offers cultural and environmental study tours for groups.

Established in 1966, the American Samoa Historic Preservation Office interprets and protects historic and cultural properties. In particular, Samoa is known for its traditional architecture. Beach fale is a modern term for a simple thatched hut, and popular accommodation option. For instance, Tisa’s Beach Fale is billed as a true eco-experience. (Not to mention Tisa’s annual Tattoo Festival.) For more conventional ecolodges, there are Turtle & Shark Lodge in the village of Vaitogi, and remote Vaoto Lodge on Ofu.

References:

  • Ecotourism plan for American Samoa, 2005-2009: final by J Liu, 2005
  • Tourism development the case of American Samoa by DJL Choy, 1984