Samoa is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about half way between Hawaii and New Zealand. It consists of two main islands, Savaii and Upolu, several smaller islands, and uninhabited islets. The terrain is narrow coastal plain with volcanic, rocky, rugged mountains in the interior. The highest point is Mount Silisili at 1,858 meters (6,096 feet).
Environmental issues include soil erosion, deforestation, invasive species, and over-fishing. As a member of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment organizes a national Environment Week every October. The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme is headquartered in the capital city of Samoa, Apia. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP Samoa) also maintains a Multi Country Office in Apia, with active programs, including UN Volunteers. O le Siosiomaga Society is Samoa’s primary environmental NGO, established in 1990. There is also Auala Village Reef Society.
Protected areas of Samoa include the uninhabited Aleipata Islands, Central Savai’i Rainforest, Fagaloa Bay – Uafato Tiavea Conservation Zone, Falealupo Forest Preserve, and Tafua Rainforest Preserve. National parks include Lake Lanoto’o National Park, a Ramsar wetland of international importance, and Pupu Pu’e National Park. Tusitala Historic and Nature Reserve is located at Mount Vaea (Mount Vaea Botanical Reserve), above Apia. There locally managed Conservation Areas at Sasina and Uafato, as well as Marine Park at Auala. The Central Savai’i, as the largest patch of continuous rainforest in Polynesia, has been proposed for biosphere reserve status. In 2009, the international NGO Seacology funded the construction of a new aluminum tower for the Falealupo Rainforest Canopy Walkway.
The Samoan Birds website is dedicated to the biodiversity of Samoa. The islands are part of the vast winter breeding grounds for humpback whales in the South Pacific. Samoa receives powerful, quality surf year-round, with February to April being the prime time. The Samoa Surf website lists surf spots for Savaii and Upolo. There are surf resorts on the south coast of Upolu, including Aganoa Beach Retreat, Maninoa Surf Camp and Salani Surf Resort.
Geographically, Samoa lies near the center of Polynesia. Archaeology of Samoa places the first human settlement at around 3,500 years ago. The Samoan language is Austronesian. Samoans consider themselves native Polynesians.
European contact began in the 18th century, but did not intensify until the arrival of the British in the 19th century. By the latter part of 19th century, Britain, Germany and the United States all claimed parts of the kingdom of Samoa, which eventually resulted in the partitioning of the island chain. Britain ceded their claims to Germany in exchange for other territories elsewhere. Western Samoa became German Samoa, and eastern Samoa became American Samoa. Following the outbreak of WWI, New Zealand occupied German Samoa. New Zealand administered Western Samoa after WWI as a League of Nations Mandate, and after WWII as a United Nations trusteeship. Samoa gained independence in 1962, and dropped “Western” from its name in 1997. In accordance with the 1962 Treaty of Friendship, New Zealand is responsible for defense, and so Samoa was formed as a country without armed forces.
In 2011, Samoa changed their timezone from east of the International Date Line to west of the IDL, in other words from the last place in the world to celebrate the New Year to the first. The IDL now passes between Samoa in the west and American Samoa in the east. In 2009, Samoa suffered a devastating earthquake and tsunami. In 2012, Cyclone Evan again devastated the islands. In the South Pacific, the month of December is the high point of the traditional cyclone and storm season. In 2012, there was also an armed stand-off with disgruntled villagers outside Samoa’s international airport at Faleolo. Samoa is considered a gay friendly destination due to the traditional role of fa’afafine in Samoan culture.
The Ministry of Education, Sports & Culture administers the Museum of Samoa. There is also the historic Robert Louis Stevenson Museum on his former estate at Vailima. Significant archaeological sites in Samoa include Falemauga Caves. Two sites have been submitted to the Tentative Lists of World Heritage, Fagaloa Bay – Uafato Tiavea Conservation Zone and Manono, Apolima and Nuulopa Cultural Landscape. There is a long history of the Bahá’í Faith in Samoa, and today the Bahá’í House of Worship is one of eight continental temples worldwide. The Teuila Festival is one of Samoa’s most celebrated annual events. The International Samoan Tatau Festival celebrates the historical importance of tattooing to Samoan culture. Samoa is also known for mat weaving and Cacao farming, such as Savaii Farms.
In 2013, Samoa made the Ethical Traveler list of World’s Ten Best Ethical Destinations. The Samoa Tourism Authority maintains an informative website, and hosts an annual industry even called the Samoa Tourism Exchange. Interesting tour operators include Kayaking Samoa, Manoa Tours, Samoa Adventure, and Samoa Urban Adventures. The Samoan Web Ambassadors Programme organizes voluntourism opportunities. WWOOF Samoa offers opportunities to work with subsistence farmers.
Beach fales, a kind of thatched platform, are the traditional form of accommodation in Samoa. Samoa Village Stays offers to broker homestays with locals. Lalotalie River Retreat, Lusia’s Lagoon Chalets and Virgin Cove Resort offers variations of traditional fales. Dave Parker’s Eco Lodge offers a more conventional ecolodge experience. Both Savaii Lagoon Resort and Samoana Resort in Salamumu feature composting toilets. The Lupe Sina Treesort above Apia offers luxury treehouse accommodations.
Samoa Shipping Corporation operates regular ferry services across the Apolima Strait, between Savaii and Upolu islands. There is also boat service available between Apia and the island nation of Tokelau. Sleeping in Airports reports that Apia airport is relatively safe for sleeping. Samoa Air has become famous for being the first to introduce a “fat tax”, based on combined passenger and luggage weight. Inter Island Airways flies connects Apia and Pago Pago, American Samoa. Virgin Samoa connects Apia with Australia and New Zealand.
- Report On A Scoping Mission In Samoa And Tonga: Agriculture And Tourism Linkages In Pacific Island Countries by TS Rogers & L Taufa, 2012
- Policy Environment for the Tourism Sector’s Adaptation to Climate Change in the South Pacific–The Case of Samoa by E Wong, M Jiang, L Klint, T DeLacy & D Harrison, 2012
- Responsible Tourism in Samoa: An Exploration of Attitudes in Samoa Towards Responsibility in Tourism by T Kline, 2012
- Tourism planning in small tropical islands: methodological considerations and development issues in Samoa by DG Pearce, 2010
- Tourism Recovery after the 2009 Tsunami in Samoa by T Tagomoa-Isara, 2010
- Beach fale tourism in Samoa: The value of indigenous ownership and control over tourism by R Scheyvens, 2009
- The growth of beach fale accommodation in Samoa: Doing tourism the Samoan way by R Scheyvens, 2009
- Beach Fales: Sustainable Eco-Tourism and Cultural Preservation in Samoa: A Case Study of Beach Fales in Manase, Savai’i by R Dolgin, 2008
- Beach fale tourism for pro-poor development: a study of expectations in rural Samoa by AM Haughey, 2007
- Satisfaction measurement of small tourism sector (museum): Samoa by Y Huo & D Miller, 2007
- Growth of beach fale tourism in Samoa: The high value of low-cost tourism by R Scheyvens, CM Hall & S Boyd, 2005
- Samoa Sustainable Tourism Indicator Project by G Miller & L Twining-Ward, 2005
- Growth and Benefits of Budget Beach Fale Tourism in Samoa by R Scheyvens, 2002
- Implementing STD on a small island: Development and use of sustainable tourism development indicators in Samoa by L Twining-Ward & R Butler, 2002
- Monitoring sustainable tourism in Samoa by L Twining-Ward, 2001
- Commons and environmental conservation: some attempts of ecotourism in Samoa by M Imai & M Kikuchi, 2000
- Tourism plan reviews: methodological considerations and issues from Samoa by DG Pearce, 2000
- Tourism development and National Tourist Organisations in small developing Countries: the case of Samoa by D Pearce, 1999
- Samoa’s tourism future looks bleak by C Peteru, 1998
- Tourism development in Samoa: context and constraints, L Twining-Ward & T Twining-Ward, 1998
- Ecotourism in Western Samoa-for better or for worse by Å Lindgren, L Lodin & I Schönfeldt, 1997
- The Ecotourism Operation Was a Success, but the Patient Died: A Case Study from Western Samoa by L Sooaemalelagi & S Brown, 1996
- Gender, culture and tourism development in Western Samoa by P Fairbairn-Dunlop, V Kinnaird & D Hall, 1994
- Tourism in Western Samoa: Situation, Policies, Impacts and Constraints by HL Theuns, 1994
- Terrestrial coastal environments and tourism in Western Samoa by S Pearsall, 1993
- Why Samoa? Tourists and tourism in the South Pacific by H Fischer, 1984
- The best kept secret: tourism in Western Samoa by M Meleisea, PS Meleisea & F Rajotte, 1980