Samoa is the place to go to fly and flop on powdery, blindingly white beaches with towering palm trees dripping into mirror calm turquoise tropical seas (your quintessential childhood image of the South Pacific) but also to discover a traditional way of life called Fa’a Samoa (The Samoan Way).
Understanding Fa’a Samoa (The Samoan Way)
Fa’a Samoa (The Samoan Way) is a 3,000 year old custom not found anywhere else in the South Pacific and plays a vital role in village and community life. It’s a guideline for every Samoan on how to lead their lives, celebrating and embracing traditional values, culture and visitors.
Fa’a Samoa has three key elements to it, the matai (chiefs), aiga (the extended family) and the church. There are over 362 nu’u or villages in Samoa with a total of 18,000 matais (chiefs).
Matai are the heads of the extended family unit and their complex role covers family, civic and political duties in the villages.
Go to church
Sunday is observed as a day of rest with families visiting church and enjoying toonai (Sunday lunch) – be sure to catch a service. You can celebrate mass in the cathedral even if you are not religious. Think of it as a chance to sit down for an hour and be charmed by the angelic voices of the Samoan choir.
Samoans believe it’s good for people to slow down, if only for one day of the week and exude natural, heart felt. You’ll even be greeted at the airport by smiling passport officials with flowers in their hair, men in skirts and even a welcoming group of musicians.
The Samoa Cultural Village and Fia Fia show
The communal way of life is easy to observe but Samoa’s rich cultural heritage can also be explored through the Samoa Cultural Village. The main islands of Samoa are Upolu (home to over two thirds of the population and the thriving capital Apia) and Savaii (the largest island in Polynesia).
It’s on Apia that you’ll find the Samoa Cultural Village, a place to discover Samoa’s age-old culture and traditions in a fun and interactive way. There are workshops on woodworking and siapo cloth making, lunch from the umu (hot-stone oven) and traditional dances.
Food and dance are central to Samoan culture and will host a Fia Fia night, showcasing Samoan and songs along with Samoan cuisine.
Fia Fia means “happy” an appropriate name as the singing, dancing, slapping, enthusiasm and within the dances is both contagious and joyous. The Siva performed by females is more graceful, all elegant hand movements whilst the Siva Afi, dance performed by males and not without makes for a spectacular finale.
Head to the beach
Almost everyone comes to the region to get wet. The lagoons and reefs around the islands are home to some 900 species of fish and over 200 varieties of coral.
Turtles are regular visitors to Samoa’s warm waters and you can share a memorable experience by swimming with them. There’s basically a choice of diving or do nothing with one beach particularly standing out. Pristine Lalomanu Beach on the South Coast (pretty much a paradise on earth) is the place to laze on a hammock soaking up the sun whilst admiring the views of the pacific and scenic mountains of Upolu, not a high rise.
Other popular beaches include Return to Paradise Beach, made famous by the Gary Cooper of the same name and Aganoa Black Sand Beach offering safe, sheltered swimming.