On our first morning in Samoa, we woke to what we thought were the sounds of gale force winds tearing through our tiny island resort. As we lazily got up from our bed, Danni and I realised that the sounds were actually of the ocean, only metres from where we slept in our beach bungalow. The sun was hovering just below the horizon, so we sat on the balcony as we watched the bright ball of light slowly rise over the water. The tiny beachside bungalow that we would spend the week calling home was everything I’ve ever dreamed about living in. Located just metres from the sandy shore, our little fale was perfect in every way. However, as much as we could have spent every day hanging out in our new home, there was plenty to do on the island of Upolu in Samoa, and so it was time to explore…
KITTENS AND SWIMMING HOLES
Before we’d even left home, Danni and I knew there was just one place we absolutely had to see while on our Samoan adventure – To Sua Ocean Trench. Our constant email exchanges in the months leading up to our departure were full of stunning photographs of the iconic Samoan landmark, both of us not quite understanding how something so beautiful could possibly exist.
Then, we visited it for ourselves.
TO SUA OCEAN TRENCH
From the gorgeous photographs, we were expecting the trench to be within a lush, rich rainforest, with a long tunnel stretching towards the sea. When we arrived, however, we were surprised to find a vast, open space, full of tropical plants and a view of the ocean from the cliffside. We paid our 10-tala entry fee, and began to wander around the beautiful grounds, eager for our first glimpse of the ocean trench. Then, in typical wet season fashion, the skies opened up and the rain began to pour. Seeking cover in one of the nearby fales, Danni and I decided to admire the incredible ocean view until the rains had passed.
Before long, a tiny orange kitten had appeared from under a nearby fale, meowing in earnest for a cuddle and a treat. Not one to deny a kitten a snuggle, I coaxed him onto my lap for some warmth. The kitten, however, had other plans. Ignoring my desperate pleas for him to join me, he insisted on giving his attention to Danni, who couldn’t have cared less for his love. I was overcome with jealously as I watched him snuggle into her lap, and Danni smiled smugly as she scratched his tiny head.
TIME FOR A SWIM
Thankfully, it took only about ten minutes for the rains to finally pass, and so we said goodbye to the little kitten and made our way to the ocean trench. As we wandered carefully down the narrow staircase, we caught our first glimpse of the sparkling aqua water through the lush vegetation surrounding the swimming hole. The entire trench came into view as we reached the thirty-metre ladder which extended down to the water. Holding on tightly, we descended the slippery ladder, hoping not to slip and fall into the water below.
After safely making it to the bottom, we put our towels on the small deck area and jumped straight into the salty water. There was no-one else in sight. As we frolicked around in the stunning swimming hole, we began to hear voices. Another swimmer suddenly emerged from one of the darker ends of the trench, and it was then that we realised we weren’t quite alone. The girl was swimming by herself, snorkelling her way around the trench when a huge splash startled us all.
We looked up, and realised that someone had jumped into the water from high up on the ladder. Another person was up there too, getting ready to jump. It was then we figured out that these people were with the girl who’d been swimming alone, and they’d swum through the rock tunnel from inside the trench out to the Pacific Ocean. As they swam closer to us, we recognised the young couple from our flight the previous day.
Being the friendly people that we are, Danni and I began chatting to the couple, who were accompanied by a local Samoan tour guide. Their names were Lachie and Kara, and it turned out that they were both from Canberra, ACT, where Danni also lives. Not only that, but we soon realised that Kara worked for the same department as Danni – what a small world!
We spent a bit more time swimming and chatting with our new friends and their Samoan tour guide, Sili, before they invited us to check out the blowhole on the cliffside with them. We happily accepted, and the five of us made our way back up the slippery ladder.
We ventured toward the edge of the gardens and made our way down a path which lead to the coast. We scurried over the black, volcanic rock, admiring the views surrounding us. Sili took us toward the edge of a large rock, and pointed down to a hole a few metres from it. “Watch,” he said, before he jumped off the edge into the water. We watched as he floated underneath us and his smiling face appeared in the hole. A few moments later, he emerged from behind us, dripping wet and laughing. “Your turn!” he said.
Nervously, we all jumped into the water and began to swim under the rock. The water was a stunning electric blue, which almost glowed against the dark, black rocks. As we swam toward the back of the cave, Sili told us to hold our breath. Sure enough, a wave then rushed through the cave, causing the water level to rise for a few moments. Laughing and spluttering as the wave left as quickly as it came, we swam out and climbed back up the rock, politely refusing Sili’s offer to jump again.
We walked back up around the ocean’s edge, staring out toward the Pacific with smiles on our faces. As Danni and I said our goodbyes to our new friends, we made plans to meet them at their hotel later that afternoon for cocktail hour.
NEW FRIENDS AND NEW ADVENTURES
We joined Lachie and Kara for cocktail hour and dinner at the Saletoga Sands Resort, about a 45-minute drive from our own resort. Over a few pina coladas, we made plans to pick them up the next day to explore the southern part of the island together. Hooray – we’d made friends!
SAMOA IN A DAY
After scooping our new mates from their resort the following morning, we set off to the south-east part of Upolu, which is famed for its spectacular beaches. With our eyes peeled, we looked for the perfect place to stop for a swim, and when we reached Tagiilima Beach, we knew we’d found it. After paying a few tala to park at the beach and sit in a fale, we eagerly ran to the shore and dived into the crystal clear water. Now, I know I’ve mentioned ‘crystal clear water’ in just about every island post I’ve ever written, but I honestly believe that the water at this beach in Samoa had THE clearest water I have ever seen in my life. Seriously.
It was absolutely stunning, as you can see by the pictures, and we enjoyed splashing around in the perfectly tempered ocean for about an hour before we decided that it was time for lunch. Not far down the road was brightly coloured little shack with the word ‘restaurant’ plastered across the side, so we decided to head on in and see what it had to offer. With incredible views of Lalomanu Beach, we figured it was as good a place as any to enjoy some food and a few drinks!
Our friendly (and not to mention fabulous) waiter gave us his recommendations for menu items, and more importantly, the best cocktails. I settled for a strawberry daquiri, but everyone else decided to try the ‘Wake Me Up, Sweet Jesus’ cocktail, which appeared to be the Samoan version of a Long Island Iced Tea.
WAKE ME UP SWEET JESUS
Oh, boy. I am still so glad that I only had one drink, because after just two ‘Wake Me Up Sweet Jesus’ cocktails, the rest of the gang were wasted. If I too had enjoyed one, we would’ve been stranded at that restaurant until we sobered up, which wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world considering it was next to one of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever seen, but we had plenty of exploring to do!
I rounded up my drunken friends, and off we went to continue exploring the island. We decided to drive all the way around to the north side, and found ourselves cruising up and down the windy mountain roads. Coconut palms were scattered across the low valleys we drove past, and everywhere we looked we could only see green. It was the perfect scenery for a road trip, so we pumped up the tunes and admired the incredible views.
Finally, we made it to the other side of Upolu, just as school was letting out. The side of the road was full of young, bubbly schoolchildren making their way home. As for us, we were searching for the entrance to the Piula Cave Pool, which we’d heard was not only beautiful, but one of the most refreshing places for a swim on the island.
After driving up and down the same stretch of road twice, we pulled over to enlist the help of the schoolchildren for directions. Taking cover under a shady tree, I couldn’t stop laughing as a drunken Danni tried to ask a group of young Samoan boys how to get to the cave. Between giggles, they eventually managed to point us in the right direction!
CAVE POOLS AND SLIDING ROCKS
We reached Piula Cave Pool to find a few locals splashing about in the water. We wasted no time before we jumped in, escaping the heat of the afternoon. We were surprised to find the water was actually fresh rather than salt, despite the pool being right next to the ocean. We swum inside the cave, and marvelled at the colour and clearness of the water. It was much cooler than the ocean, but it was so bloody refreshing!
Our last stop of the day was the famous Papase’ea Sliding Rocks, located not too far from the centre of Apia, Samoa’s capital. Again, we got a bit lost trying to find it, thanks to the lack of signs in Samoa in general! When we arrived, we made our way down the tall staircase and found ourselves at the top of the sliding rocks. It was steep, and the small pool of water at the bottom didn’t look too deep. Needless to say, we were all pretty nervous about sliding down, and no-one wanted to be the first to do it. Luckily, a group of New Zealand travellers arrived shortly after we did, and it became very obvious that they’d done this before! We watched them slide without fear, and Lachie soon become the first of our group to give it a go.
After watching him slide down the steep, bumpy rocks without dying, I figured I’d give it a go too, and soon realised how much fun it was, despite how much it hurt my butt! We all made it down the few different sliding rocks, and laughed and screamed the entire time – it was so much fun! All good things must come to an end, however, and so it was time to head back to our resort.
SUNSETS AND SMILING SAMOA
After dropping Lachie and Kara back to their resort, Danni and I began the journey back to our own resort. As we travelled through the tiny villages, we saw all the Samoan families getting together and playing sports; cricket, rugby and volleyball were the top choices, and the golden sunset sky cast an incredibly beautiful glow over everything. There was magic in the air, and as we passed each village, we waved furiously at the locals, laughing and smiling happily with every wave and smile we got in return.