I ended up spending more time than I originally anticipated on the island of Savai’i. The laid back culture, beautiful beaches, and warm people kept me longer than I had planned. By the time I returned to Upolu, I only had one day to explore. And that day was a Sunday.
Everything in Samoa shuts down on a Sunday
The Samoans are a deeply religious people. On Sunday’s, nothing runs. No busses (except those to the ferry, which does run twice on a Sunday), no shops, no nothing, just boisterous church congregations, and the following large family dinner.
It’s the perfect day to go on a road trip around the island
Sunday is an ideal day to explore the island by car. The roads are almost totally empty, and the various attractions along the way are deserted as well.
We hired a car in Apia, and set out around the island. I really wanted to see the famous Lalomanu beach to see how it compared to the beaches on Savai’i. I was a little chuffed that I didn’t get to spend a night there as I had originally planned (due to no busses), and I didn’t want to leave Samoa without seeing at least something of the second largest island.
As we drove down the east coast of Upolu, we passed large village churches and church goers dressed in their best Sunday whites on their way back home to spend the day with their families. The only other vehicle we saw was another tourist.
Our first stop was at Lalomanu for lunch. We pulled into a deserted car pack and went looking for something to eat. The weather was threatening rain, so there were not many beach goers on the white sand beach. After seeing Lalomanu, I was pretty pleased with my previous decision to spend extra time in Lano beach and also in Manase which are both on the island of Savai’i.
I don’t know how it is possible to get lost when there is only one road, but somehow we managed just that. Eventually we ended up on the Togitogiga waterfall, which is just off the main coastal highway, down a little dirt track which veers off into the rain forest. The waterfall is a popular spot for day trippers and Samoan families, but since it was Sunday, it was also deserted.
Located half way up the cross island road is the 100 m high Papapapai-tai waterfall. The only way to view this waterfall is from the lookout which is just off the main road.
A little bit of religious diversity in Samoa
A few kilometres north of the waterfall is the Ba’hai temple of Samoa. One of only eight temples in the world, the Ba’hai temple is a relaxing stop after a day of driving. The grounds are beautifully kept, the temple open and spacious, and the quotes on the wall a refreshing breathe of religious tolerance.
The Ba’hai religion preaches religious tolerance and openness and originally came from Persia. It was brought to Samoa by an Australian follower, and the temple was later built by a Canadian architect.
Road tripping in Samoa
For those on a time budget, hiring a car can be a really great way to see large amounts of Samoa in a short space of time. All the main sights of both Upolu and Savai’i can be seen in one day each. The roads are kept in really good condition, and there aren’t many of them, so unless you have me as your navigator, you shouldn’t get lost.
Samoa has just recently (in the last few years) adopted New Zealand’s road rules. This means that they recently switched from driving on the right hand side, to driving on the left. This means that many vehicles in Samoa have the steering wheel on the left hand side (for right side driving). Although, if you are renting a car, you are pretty much guaranteed to get a car which is properly formatted for driving on the left and this should only be an issue if you are borrowing and buying a used car.
Another thing to be aware of in Samoa is that the speed limit is only 25 mph between villages, and 15 mph in villages. Unforgiving speed bumps are everywhere, as well as other hazards in the form of stray dogs, pigs, chickens, and children. Drive slowly and be aware of the road, and you will not have any problems in Samoa.