“Talofa lava” and welcome to Samoa! The treasured islands of the South Pacific were governed by New Zealand until 1962 when they became independent. In 1997 it’s name was changed from Western Samoa to Samoa.
Located in Polynesia 1530km south of the equator, Samoa is 4174km from Hawaii and 2880km from Auckland, New Zealand. Samoa is a picture postcard of natural beauty consisting of ten islands, each offering very distinct and different environments to explore. Blessed with stunning land and seascapes and friendly people who are justifiably proud of their country, there are many versions of Samoan paradise just waiting to be discovered. It’s two main Islands, Upolu and Savai’i, are home to the majority of the 177, 200 population.
The local language is Samoan, a Polynesian language, though many people also speak English. With many Samoans living abroad, the total estimated number of speakers worldwide is 510,000.
Located as close as it is to the equator, Samoa’s climate is equatorial/monsoonal meaning the weather is warm and tropical all year round with two distinct seasons. The dry season runs from May to October officially and visitors can expect constant warm, dry weather with little chance of rain and an average high temperature of around 30 ºC. Even during the wet season, which runs officially from November through to April, the average temperature is still around 30 ºC; but of course this time of year also brings the cooling rains that green the island and keeps it’s spectacular waterfalls flowing but, there is still plenty of sunshine in between. Nights can also be warm and you will rarely need any warm clothing. Guests will notice a slight change in temperature while sightseeing up in the hills around the islands with the highest point in Samoa being around 1800 metres. Samoa boasts one of the most stable average temperatures anywhere in the world, with a pleasant average air temperature of 27 ºC and average water temperature of 25 ºC all year round. Ideal conditions for all watersports enthusiasts!
Even before the arrival of Europeans and Christianity, religion was and still is an important part of Samoan culture with traditional and modern beliefs co-existing in modern Samoa. Samoan mythology includes many Gods and legends of creation all embedded within “fa’a Samoa” or Samoa Way which places a great emphasis on relationships and respect for people. Today 98% of Samoans are now Christians and several Christian denominations including Methodists, Seventh Day Adventists, Catholics and Mormons have built the churches that all visitors will see while passing through Samoan villages around the islands. Indeed, one of the most pleasant times to be out sightseeing is on a Sunday when the villagers, all dressed in their finest white are making their way to church and when they sing their hymns their uplifting voices can be heard for miles around. Though Christianity is the dominant faith there are small congregations of other religions such as Baha’i and Muslims and the right to practice whichever religion you choose is enshrined in Samoa’s constitution.
Samoan culture is based around faith, family and music. It is a communal culture where most activities are performed together. An important part of village life is the “fale”, a structure supported by posts and open to the elements, they were traditionally used as homes and village meeting places and visitors will see them lining the roadsides and in villages throughout Samoa.
The traditional sarongs worn by both men and women are called lavalava and along with the art of tattooing are commonplace throughout Samoa. Tattooing is not confined to the men with many women also displaying the intricate and geometrical patterns on their lower body and upper legs that are today so popular in western culture.
The traditional Samoan dance is the siva. The female siva is performed with gentle movements of the hands and feet in time to music. The sasa is a group dance performed while sitting down to the rhythm of a drum. Samoan males traditionally perform the fa’ataupati or slap dance in a group with no music accompaniment.