Photos are the bottom

Sitting around in Auckland in the cold, a light bulb moment, let’s go somewhere warm.

 Nuie was an option, but then the Air New Zealand sale with cheap fares to Samoa came up.

 Coupled with the knowledge that friends had cycled there in 2017 with “Outdoor Samoa” ,run by New Zealanders ,Ross and Francis Bidmead,  three of us cycle and tramping buddies, booked a 9 day,9 night trip around Savaii.

This included all of our accommodation, dinners and breakfasts, E-bikes, and a support van to transport our bags each day.

Savaii is the largest of the two main islands, but the least developed, and has a population of 40,000. The remaining 150,000 are on the other island of Upolu.

A few weeks later we were disembarking at Faleolo Airport, sorting out our tala and local Sim cards and taking a taxi to the Transit Motel, for our first night before being collected by Ross the following morning and taken 3 km to their base at Mulifanua, close to the Ferry Terminal.

There we were welcomed by Francis, with coffee, outfitted with our bikes, given our itinerary, and what, turned out to be very pertinent advice, about dealing to the dogs ,pigs and chickens which we would encounter along the way. We were then dispatched to the Sheraton Hotel to fill in time until the Ferry Sailing to Savaii at 4 pm.

The Sheraton is as close as many tourists get to the real Samoa ,but it was a stunning setting for a send off as we tucked into Oka, generous chunks of  raw tuna, marinated in coconut cream.

”Australian Survivor” was being filmed in Samoa and the cast and crew were based there!

The ferry was packed to the gunwales, as it was the finish of the school holidays and every inch of the decking and lounges was strewn with bodies. You couldn’t help but recall the regular ferry sinkings on overloaded boats from around the world .However 90 minutes later we arrived in Salelologa,the only large town on Savaii, disembarked , turned right at the only traffic light on the island and spent the remainder of the afternoon cycling through traditional villages while children everywhere yelled  “bye” to us.

Our first night, and introduction to the fales that we stayed in for most of the trip was spent at  Lauilua,which is situated on a beautiful sandy beach.

A fale is an open sided beach hut on stilts, set at the water’s edge, with a foam mattress ,a mosquito net and even electricity, which make it the height of luxury for a tramper

 It’s best feature though is going to sleep listening to the waves a few metres away, then waking at 5 am and watching the changes in the light until the sun is finally, gloriously up.

 We had been told that the food was fairly basic, but thought ,that it would be better than “dehy” so the dinners and breakfasts were a pleasant surprise. They did vary  but we usually had eggs and fresh fruit for breakfast, and fish, meat and vegetables for dinner. Pawpaws featured prominently as they were in season and we bought bananas from a roadside stall one day and also large juicy mandarin type oranges.

The volcanic nature of the island became very evident as we cycled anti-clockwise on to Manase. We paused at a church which had been destroyed by lava flow during the eruption of Mt Matavanu  between 1905-1911.

As it was Sunday  we passed  beautifully dressed children in white on their way to church and their equally smartly dressed elders.

Smoke billowed from many of the villages from the umus as the big Sunday feast was prepared.


Every village had at least one church or more, of the various Christian Denominations and Religion underpins the traditional village structure and rigorous control of people’s lives.

Nothing opens on a Sunday until 4 pm, so after arriving at our accommodation in Manase we decided to cycle up Mt Matavanu which we quickly abandoned, as it was 8 km straight up a tramping track.

Unfortunately on the way back one of us got bitten as she tried to out cycle a dog. We had been told to shout “Alu” at them ,which did actually work on two subsequent occasions, but you do need to hold your ground!

The Medical Centre was very good but it was still awful that it had to happen, and of course no swimming,one of the main attractions of the trip.

Luckily the next two nights were spent at Vaimoana, which is Resort style and Ann was able to travel in the support van that day.

Again the Resort was beautifully situated around a lovely swimming beach.

Across the road was a Cocoa Plantation which supplies Whittakers with the cocoa for some of it’s chocolate. We were shown around the plant, which was very low tech by the manager Solly, who told us about his experiences working in New Zealand in Horticulture.

Falealopo, remote and beautiful, at the westerly tip of the island was our next overnight stop.

We saw a church that had been wrecked by the cyclone in 1990 and heard how the villagers had to swim for their lives to shelter inland.

The fales were very basic and the electricity was off all day, but the people there still gave us a good dinner, and we discovered wonderful snorkeling just off the beach, and the sunset was amazing.

Off again the next morning It was lovely cycling initially beside the sea on the sandy tracks, underneath the coconut palms, before rejoining the main road.

At Satuiatua the fales nestle beneath giant bunyan trees, cool and shady. The snorkeling was only 2 metres off the beach, marvellous with a myriad of sparkling, darting reef fish. We discovered a freshwater pool to soak in, and we listened to the beautiful singing of the children as we walked past the village school.

After 2 days here we left for Florence’s Place at Palauli village.On the way we visited the Taga Blowholes and also the Afu Afu Falls.Both very scenic and spectacular. Good swimming in the Falls

Florence’s Place is an old Plantation House dating from when the Germans farmed coconuts here.The hosts , Ruth and Kelvin had some good stories .He is farming cattle and trying to improve local farming practices. He also talked about the strong community mores and how the families of wrongdoers would  be heavily fined, and need to give  cows, boxes of fish and boxes of chicken to the community in reparation.

The last day, was a short ride and a return Ferry trip, a lot less crowded and a chance to watch Fiji and Samoa battling it out at rugby.  Back to “Outdoor Samoa” to return the bikes and then back to the Sheraton for more Oka and the high life, while waiting for the flight home.  

It was a great trip ,because of the people we met, both the locals and fellow travellers, and the beautiful natural environmemt.

Savai-i in Samoa – A winter holiday in the sun – by Kay Willcocks