30 APRIL 2013
Fishing for compliments on the South Pacific outpost of Samoa
Samoans are a tough bunch. So how will Adrian Phillips fare on a visit to the islands?
Anthony, my guide, was like a chunk of granite in flip-flops. There seemed to be a great many chunks of granite flip-flopping their way through the streets of the capital, Apia. I could have thrown a rope with my eyes shut and lassoed somebody more than capable of pushing a grand piano up a flight of stairs. Yes, if there's a certainty in life, it's that a Samoan won't blow away in a gale. And that's no bad thing when you live on a palm-fringed island in the South Pacific because occasionally nature packs up the sun, stirs up the sea and points its attack dogs at paradise.
A month before our arrival, Cyclone Evan had hit Upolu, one of the two main islands in the Independent State of Samoa (formerly known as Western Samoa). It was the worst tropical storm the people had faced in over 20 years, a vast plughole swirl that snapped banana trees like toothpicks and sucked roofs from their houses. Part of the airport collapsed, power was lost and surging floodwater flipped cars upside down. But these islanders are as big in spirit as they are in body.
"The day afterwards, I saw a house that was leaning right over but hadn't quite collapsed," Anthony chuckled. "The owner had painted a message outside: 'Down but not out!'"
That's Samoan spirit writ large: uncompromising, steadfast, even a touch masochistic in its relish for life's bumps and bruises. It feeds the implacable commitment of the national rugby team, whose most famous player was called "the Chiropractor" because the blind ferocity of his tackling rearranged opponents' bones. It steels the nerve of those who choose to display the pe'a, a traditional tattoo that reaches from the ribs to the knees and is scored into the skin with a hammer and sharpened pieces of boar tusk. But Anthony had declared that nobody personifies such iron resolve more keenly than a lady called Zita Martel – that to know Zita was to understand Samoa – and he was taking me to see her.
Anthropologists aren't sure whether the ancestors of today's Samoans came from South-east Asia or South America, but either way they made a heck of a sea trip to get here. The islands are dust-specks on a mass of blue, almost 2,000 miles from Auckland. Each year the villages celebrate their seafaring heritage with a lung-burstingly competitive longboat fautasi race. There are two things to note about longboat racing. First, the longboats really are long. Forget those dainty slivers you see sliding along the Thames: these measure 100ft in length and hold a burly crew of 50. It takes supreme teamwork to propel such a behemoth through the waves. Second, this is a sport for men – conservatively, doggedly, won't-hear-it-any-other-way insistently male-only. Or at least it was until Zita came along.
Zita greeted us with a gentle smile and a flower in her hair. You'd struggle to find anyone who looked less likely to say boo to a goose. But as she spoke, it became clear she was a goose-booer through and through. Her story began in 2000 with a meeting of her local church committee to elect a skipper for their longboat. Zita was serving tea when someone proposed that, because she was an expert canoeist, she should be given the captain's role. Before she'd even downed her teapot in protest, the motion had been carried. "I refused, flat out. 'In case you haven't noticed, I'm a woman,' I said to them. But the chairman replied: 'Do women from the village of Aleipata have no guts?' My blood boiled. Nobody says I've got no guts. And so I took it on."
A fautasi skipper is master of his boat. He sets tactics and training, and stands proud in the stern to urge on his men. He must command complete respect. Zita had never set foot in a longboat and when she took her position at the start of the 2001 race, she did so as the only woman among 699 men manning the 14 boats. "The skipper of the team next to ours stared me in the eye and put his leg up on the side of the boat so that his lava-lava [sarong] fell open in the wind – and he wasn't wearing any undies. It was psychological warfare. His crew burst into laughter and I could see the strength leaking out of my guys. We came last by a mile – it was humiliating."
Zita's response is already the stuff of folklore. Fautasi means "build as one". From that point on, she told her crew, it was a philosophy that would guide everything they did. They would work hard together, without complaint or hierarchy. She would brook no indiscipline. But her approach was about more than huff and puff. Another word for longboat is sa, which translates as "sacred"; Zita taught her charges that their boat was a symbol of something greater, of shared history, that they rowed in the shadows of their ancestors. Her challenge to the traditionalists was rooted firmly in tradition. "I told my boys, 'You are descended from warriors. You have a fighting fierceness in you. Own the fierceness and you will fly.'" And the following year they did fly, sweeping all aside to win the race. Now that's Samoan spirit in a nutshell.
Early the next morning, I walked to Apia harbour for an ocean adventure of my own. I was greeted by a skipper with a smile as wide as Zita's, but he didn't have a flower in his hair or, indeed, many teeth in his mouth. Ian was the leather-skinned captain of the Pure Indulgence, a cruiser that takes tourists on fishing and wildlife-watching trips around the islands. "We might see a humpback or a sperm whale, touch wood on my bald spot," said Ian, tapping the crown of his head.
It was the wet season and the weather could turn on a sixpence. We left Upolu's coast beneath a band of blue and headed towards a sky growing heavy with cloud. At the back of the boat, Shae – a wiry New Zealander with gingery whiskers – had cast four fishing lines, their pink lures leaping in the frothing wake. A tern swung in behind the boat, dipping to prod at a lure before departing in search of a less rubbery meal.
I've never traced my family tree, but Phillips means "lover of horses" so seafarers probably don't feature prominently. As time passed and the wind grasped harder, my stomach became increasingly conscious of the pitching world around me. I watched the lures skip up and down, up and down. The rod tips swayed back and forth as though leading nature in a lurching dance to the throb of the engine. "Seasickness isn't nice," Shae observed, with concise accuracy. "Best to focus on the horizon." I directed a shaky gaze at the flat, dark mountains in the distance; they rose and fell like scene changes in a puppet theatre.
A moment later, one of the rod reels bursts into life, its spool becoming a screeching blur of yellow line as something dragged the lure into the depths. Shae pointed urgently to a wooden seat fixed to the middle of the deck. I wobbled queasily into position and he slotted the end of the rod into a cup between my legs. For a minute, we did nothing as the line fed out to sea, but finally it slowed and the reel went quiet. "It's over to you," said Shae, with a supportive slap on my shoulder. "Pull evenly up on the rod and then wind the line in as you lower the tip." And so the battle began.
I pulled and wound, pulled and wound, the spool gathering precious layers of yellow before the fish made a sudden dash and the line spilled back below the waves. "Start again," Shae urged. Pull, wind, pull, wind, screeeeeech. Silence. Pull, wind ... The boat continued to lift and roll. Nausea washed over me in cold and sweaty assaults. I rallied around Zita's warrior words, trying to concentrate on the fierceness inside me rather than the tropical pancake breakfast. "Don't let the line go slack or you'll lose him!" warned Shae. My arms felt filleted of their bones. "Keep going – if you rest, the fish rests!" For nearly an hour we struggled, that 8ft marlin and me, until the tug of war was won. Shae shook my cramping hand as I slumped in the chair. "Well, that was easy," teased Ian as he hoisted the boat's blue marlin flag. "We'll find you a big one before we finish, touch wood on my bald spot."
That night I stayed in a hillside hut on tiny Manono Island, ferried there in his tin boat by a rotund village chief and his sons. They cooked a meal with the mahi mahi I'd also caught that day, a pug-nosed brute of a fish that tasted delicious with warm banana and bread fruit. Next morning I woke to the throaty calls of cockerels and walked around the island's single track through trees hung with papayas and banks of orange flowers that buzzed with bees. Villagers waved from their fales, open-sided homes with roofs of thatch or iron. Sometimes children joined me, walking a few steps in front as if guarding my progress through their villages. Piglets truffled and chickens scraped. Wooden outrigger canoes lay at the shoreline. There were no cars on Manono.
In the following days, Anthony took me to Savai'i, the biggest island and the lushest, to explore its rainforest and black lava fields and to trek through the jungle-filled crater of Mount Tafua. Wherever we went, life was lived with the same Samoan spirit. You could see it in the games of kilikiti at the roadside, whole villages passionately absorbed in their peculiar form of cricket played with a three-sided bat and a ball made from leaves. You could see it in the teenagers daring each other to leap from rocky ledges and swim under waterfalls. You could see it in the way families treated the gravestones in their gardens, the tombs used as seats or tables, the dead still part of the group, the ancestors never forgotten.
And you could see it in Anthony's eyes one afternoon when our route was blocked by the waist-high flow of a flooded river. We waited an hour before he could resist the challenge no longer. "Hold on," he said, revving the engine and gritting his teeth, and we plunged forward into the foaming sweep of water.
Source: The Independent
19 APRIL 2013
Playing with fire and beauty queens in Samoa
It’s not every day you get your photo taken standing between a beauty queen and a fearsome tribal warrior. But there I was, sandwiched between the reigning Miss Samoa and a truly scary looking dude in full regalia as the photographer snapped away. Talk about beauty and the beast!
This rare photo opp came as more than 40 hotel operators and tourism related businesses gathered at the To’oa Salamasina Hall in Apia for the third Fa’a Samoa Roadshow, designed to showcase the many and varied offerings of this delightful country. The event has grown every year and the 2013 version was the biggest in its short history.
I was among a host of travel agents, buyers and sellers from Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the UK who attended the event and like my colleagues was truly impressed by the range of accommodation and activities available. Samoa has gone through some tough times in recent years but with the resilience and good humour that its people are renowned for, the country is well and truly open for business.
Once the day-long roadshow was complete, we were able to visit some of the properties that had attended and enjoy some of the local activities. I was particularly taken by the Orator Hotel in Tanumapua, just 10 minutes from the centre of Apia. Open just three years and run by a delightful couple, this hotel has magnificent gardens, a cascading, three-tier pool, spacious restaurant and superior villa accommodation.
We also got to visit the Aga Reef Resort, which had only been open for a week, the magestic Seebreeze Resort, and the always impressive Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa, all of which offer views of the ocean and stunning coastline of Samoa.
But what would a trip to Samoa be without a little adrenalin rush? So it was off to the Sua Trench and a somewhat daunting climb down a wooden ladder to the cave pool below. Gird your loins and make the effort to climb down because once you are in the water, it really is an amazing spot.
So next time you’re looking for somewhere a little different, why not consider Samoa? It’s only five hours from the east coast and just three hours ahead of Australia. The people are friendly, the weather is great and there are coastal resorts that are the match of any around the world. Wish you were there?
27 MARCH 2013
Samoa: Tales of the teller live on
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
It's not often that museums move me to tears, but I wasn't the only
tourist pulling out the tissues at Robert Louis Stevenson's Museum in
Apia, Samoa. When the guide read the famous Requiem and then sang it in Samoan I noticed even some chunky Ocker males were tearing up.
We were standing in the room Stevenson used as his hospital ward in the
beautiful plantation home called Vailima where he spent his last days.
The Scottish-born writer, who ranks among the 26 most translated writers in the world and is famous for works such as Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, spent the last four-and a-half years of his life on the hilltop property where he died in December 1894 at the age of 44.
I was celebrating a significant birthday in Samoa and, always
intrigued by "Tusitala" (the name the Samoans gave Stevenson, meaning
teller of tales), I was determined to visit the museum, located directly
below Stevenson's Mt Vaea burial site.
In failing health, Stevenson searched for a suitable place of residence
for some years before he bought 161ha in Upolu, Samoa, in 1890 to build
A century after his death and burial, the Robert Louis Stevenson
Museum/Preservation Foundation dedicated the completely restored
building of Vailima and opened it to the public as the Robert Louis
Faithfully recreated by Mike McDaniel, an American interior designer,
Vailima, looks very much as it did during the years the author lived
there, with a few additional rooms.
Fortunately I arrived just as a very charming and eloquent Samoan guide,
Margaret Silva, had begun her tour of the house including the Great
Hall, author's library, the smoking room and numerous bedrooms.
Like the legendary Tusitala, Margaret told some wonderful tales. With
her colourful commentary it was so easy to imagine R.L.S. lying in that
hospital room (the Stevensons called it the Medicine Room) where he was
tended by his American wife, Fanny - often using traditional Samoan
Although many of the pieces of furniture on display are not the
originals, there are some pieces the family owned - such as a big
travelling trunk marked R.L. Stevenson and a chintzy armchair in the
writer's mother's room.
There is also a major collection of photographs of the Stevenson family
throughout the house, including many of the writer at work and around
the property with the local staff.
Pictures of Fanny show her in full Victorian garb with a flowing white
gown and buttoned-up boots. Her Samoan name was Aolele - meaning "flying
clouds", because of the long white dresses she always wore.
Also on display are some paintings by Stevenson's stepdaughter and
secretary, Isobel, who did many drawings for his books. She spoke fluent
Samoan and was named Teuila by the locals after the Samoan native
flower. Her portraits show her trussed up in velvet gowns - it can't
have been easy in the balmy Samoan weather.
The original safe where the writer kept all his manuscripts (it was the
first safe in Samoa) is still on show in the Great Hall. Stevenson used
to keep the local children away by claiming spirits lurked inside the
He wrote 13 books during his Samoan sojourn, but, apart from his
literary successes, you need only a few minutes in the very evocative
atmosphere of the museum to know how well loved and respected he was by
As our guide explained, Stevenson believed in the Samoan way and was
very involved in Samoan politics. He always said he wanted to be buried
on Mt Vaea with "his boots on", which was understood to mean to be there
with the Samoan people. He referred to the Samoans as "one of God's
Margaret pointed out across the beautifully manicured gardens up to his
burial site. She described how when the news of his death went out
across the islands of Samoa, the locals poured in to clear the Road of
the Loving Heart to the site. They worked through the night by the light
of kerosene lamps to clear the dense rainforest so he could be buried
within 24 hours. They then took turns carrying Tusitala's coffin up the
Road of the Loving Heart for his burial.
His tomb is inscribed with his famous Requiem and faces his homeland of Scotland.
His wife Fanny died in California in 1914 and the following year her
daughter brought her ashes back to be interred next to Stevenson on Mt
It takes about 45 minutes to climb that Road of the Loving Heart, which
should be done in the cool of the morning or late afternoon. It's a road
I intend to climb when I next visit Samoa because I'm captivated by the
place and the magic of Robert Louis Stevenson.
Getting there: Air New Zealand usually (seasonal
changes) flies between Auckland and Apia six times a week. Visitors can
take a taxi or one of Samoa's famous buses from the centre of Apia to
visit the museum.
Details: The Robert Louis Stevenson Museum is a
non-profit organisation. It is open Monday-Friday 9am-4pm; Saturday
9am-noon and closed on Sundays.
By Robyn Yousef
25 MARCH 2013
New jewel for the treasured islands - Aga Reef Resort to open its doors March 2013
Samoa Tourism Authority is proud to announce the opening of Aga Reef Resort - the newest 4 star resort in the picturesque south coast of Upolu
Aga Reef Resort is the brain child of former Samoan Trade Commissioner to New Zealand, Apete Meredith, is the newest addition to Samoa’s stellar line up of deluxe beach front resorts and is expected to be one of the hottest beachfront properties amongst Australian travellers to the islands.
Set along the beautiful Lalomanu Beach, voted by Lonely Planet as one of the 10 Best Paradises on Earth, Aga Reef Resort has a private island which houses 3 island villas, a Sunset Bar for delicious sun downers as well as a swimmingpool.
The island is connected to the mainland by an overwater walkway constructed carefully as to not disturb the beautiful coral clusters and marine life that feature in the waters surrounding the resort. Waterfront villas, Ocean View hotel rooms as well as the reception, main restaurant, bar, spa and the main swimming pool are located on the mainlandsection of the resort.
The kitchen will be headed by Chef Kit Foe - an award winning chef from Wellington who plans to develop a seafood focused, European/Samoan fusion offering to delight Aga’s patrons.
“Many people naturally gravitate to the nation’s capital of Apia not realizing that the best beaches and waterfront resorts are found along south coast of Upolu,” says Peter Sereno of Samoa Tourism Authority.
“The South Coast of Upolu is an emerging destination within an emerging destination and even our PM sees the region rivaling Apia. Big plans are in place for the south coast with plans for the construction of a new wharf for yachts and possibly an airport.”
“Aga Reef Resort is in the perfect location to reap the benefits of the region’s growth and we see this property as a key player in the development of the Alapeita region,” says Peter.
Aga Reef Resort has released some amazing opening specials with rates at 50% off.
22 MARCH 2013
Samoa properties recognised for excellence
Three of Samoa’s properties have been honoured at the TripAdvisor 2013 Traveller’s Choice Awards.
Seabreeze Resort, located along the stunning south coast was chosen as one of the winners in the following categories:
Top 10 Hotels for Romance in the South Pacific
Top 25 Bargain Hotels in the South Pacific
Litia Sini Beach Resort, on picturesque Lalomanu Beach placed in the Top 25 Bargain Hotels in the South Pacific.
Savaii Lagoon Resort, on the Big Island of Savai’i, placed in the Top 10 Hotels for Service in the South Pacific.
Now in its eleventh year, the annual TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Awards honor the world’s best hotels and are chosen based on millions of reviews and opinions from travellers around the world.
Peter Sereno of Samoa Tourism Authority says it is of no surprise that the world is starting to discover the excellent properties that Samoa has to offer.
“Samoa has a range of accommodation to suit all budgets and travelers – from deluxe spa getaways, to beachfront family resorts, city escapes and of course fales! It’s amazing how a five hour flight from Australia’s east coast seems to take you back thousands of years to paradise. Most of our properties have been designed to celebrate the natural beauty of Samoa’s surroundings and regardless of your star rating preference, everyone leavesSamoa a little richer in memories and experience” says Peter.
08 MARCH 2013
Chef Oliver and Zoomslide TV back to promote Samoan cuisine and food tourism
International Chef Robert Oliver and Zoomslide television productions are back in Samoa to film an episode of their food and travel show Real Pasifik.
Real Pasifik is a food and culture TV series promoting food tourism in one of the most pristine regions in the world, the South Pacific. Each episode shows the distinctive cuisine of that country.
The series is inspired by "Me'a Kai the food and flavours of the South Pacific", which was co-written by Oliver and Tracy Berno and won Best Cookbook in the World at the Gourmand Awards in Paris.
Oliver says it's been terrifically inspiring to be back in Samoa which he says he feels like a second home.
“I’m getting to work with some of the nation's best chefs and food heroes to discover the true treasures of Samoan gastronomy. It’s extraordinary the leadership role Samoa is playing in the world today in relation to organics and this story needs to be taken to the world.”
On Tuesday, Oliver and a team of local chefs will be presenting a stunning three-course meal to a small group of VIPs at Aggie Greys Lagoon Beach Resort and Spa, which is also hosting them. The menu will feature classic Samoan dishes made with local organic produce from Women in Business farmers in a five-star format.
Resort manager TheresaSing says the dinner is an excellent opportunity to showcase the resort, its talented chefs and the cuisine of the country.
Oliver and the RealPasifik team have selected four extraordinary young chefs to work with them. They are Sony Vaasili, Toe’aeFesolai from Aggie Greys, Dora Rossi from Paddles and Dana Rasmussen Ah Young.
Zoomslide TV productions were in Samoa last year with Oliver during the Teuila Festival and have been looking forward to coming back to shoot the episode.
Director Anna Marbrook says they know Samoa is truly in Robert’s heart. “So it’s important that we capture the wonderful people, food, culture and essence of Samoa.”
The TV show will be released later this year and distributed globally with international networks already lining up to see Samoan cuisine on a global stage.
Oliver will also return to Samoa next month to finish his Samoan Cuisine cookbook.
The television episode is made possible with the generous support of the Samoa Tourism Authority, Aggie Grey’s Lagoon Beach Resort and Spa, Virgin Samoa, Avis, Women in Business and Satuiatua Beach Fales.
26 FEBRUARY 2013
Boat race festival in Samoa
"IT isn't a festival without a boat race," Faumui Iese says.
We stand together on one side of a spectator boat as it follows the Teuila Festival Fautasi Race.
On the shoreline, a crowd clambers down a retaining wall. It seems his is a common sentiment.
Each team represents a village.
But Manono, which lies between the main islands of Upolo and Savai'i, has two teams in the final. Apparently, there are a lot of young men in Manono. And, of course, being island dwellers they are natural rowers.
Manono's two boats will claim first and third prize, and 60,000 Samoan tala, which I'm told will go to the village "matai", or chief.
Races like these make very visible a village system that remains strong in Samoa. This is a country where individual identity is rooted in small communities, and where nationhood is as much a matter of braided village strands as it is a single, national story.
To the newcomer, it isn't always obvious where the villages begin and end, or indeed where the traditions they represent overlap with modernity.
Following the ring roads of Upolo and Savai'i, you notice that some are tidier, some more prosperous, but otherwise they seem alike: two or three immaculately kept churches; often a denominational school; slightly ramshackle "falepalagi" or white-people's homes (named after the colonists who introduced them); traditional fale, or oval, wooden-posted buildings; countless chickens, dogs, and pigs. On the ocean side are the beach fale, which are used for tourism and family reunions.
On my first night, I sleep fitfully, too aware of the noise of the sea and the odd shower that threatens to blow in.
But on the second night, when the weather clears and I'm in a fale campground that sits a little further back from the sea, I don't wake at all, and greet the dawn with the feeling that the whole world must be as spacious and calm as my view out to the Pacific.
This sense of space can come at a cost, and Samoa has had its share of island disasters. In 1990, Cyclone Ofa, the worst here for 100 years, hit the northern coastline, flattening the farms and villages in its path.
As we round the northwestern corner of Savai'i, we come into what was one of the worst-affected villages, Falealupo. Because of its west-facing position, it's an area long associated with traditional burials at sea, which were directed towards the setting sun.
After Christianity, Samoans took to burying their dead. When Cyclone Ofa came, it unearthed these remains, joining many with those who long before were sent out to sea, and dispersing others along the beachfront. Those bones that could be found were collected and placed in an open tomb, which visitors are permitted to see.
Across the road, the ruins of a Catholic church largely demolished by the storm complete the haunting commemoration, and also a very beautiful statement of village identity, past and present.
A similar crisis hit the southern tip of Upolo in 2009, a tsunami that left scores dead and the landscape disfigured. There, I met an Australian couple, Chris and Wendy Booth, who had only just finished building their Seabreeze Resort when the wave hit.
They watched from the honeymoon suite as it tore apart two years' work.
"Rebuilding was an easy decision to make, but a difficult decision to see through," Wendy says.
I'm glad they did. It makes a wonderful place to stop for lunch: the rebuilt resort includes a fine restaurant which sits like an extended boatshed on one side of a private bay.
My favourite swimming spot, though, is the Piula Cave - a pool that reflects so much of what is enchanting about Samoa.
A few metres from the ocean wall, a clear freshwater pool is half-encased by a lava tunnel. Above it is a theological college. A choir is practising, and while I swim into the dark I'm surrounded by voices raised to heaven, or perhaps to the sea and the ghosts of Samoa.
A 30-minute drive later, I'm back in Apia for what turns out to my best meal, at Paddles, a waterfront restaurant run by Samoan-Italian Giovanni Rossi.
It's Thursday night, which I'm told means Diva Night at Maliu Mai, a club that sits a few streets back from the harbour. It's here the weaving of old and new finally leaves me breathless.
Samoan culture has traditionally included a third gender known as the fa'afafines, boys who are raised as girls.
But tonight the fa'afafines have taken some inspiration from Oxford St: the heels are very high, the make-up is applied thickly, and I'm in their sights.
The performers are not delicately built, but early into the second number I find one has joined my table, or rather climbed on to my table to more easily climb on to me. Then, when the table becomes a hindrance, it is lifted out of the way with startling ease. I am left fully exposed.
A skirt is flung over me. It's as dark as the cave at Piula, but the music that finds its way in is quite different.
The final number is Tell Him, in which the Samoan incarnations of Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand duel for me.
I am to join them on stage and, before I know it, I find myself torn between the two fa'afafines, and between the old and new worlds they represent.
The writer was a guest of the Samoa Tourism Authority.
28 JANUARY 2013
A cultural life in Samoa
By Kari Gislason
I grab a coffee and join the journalists who've gathered for the opening of Teuila, Samoa's cultural festival and one that celebrates the country's 50 years of independence. There's a semi-circle of market stalls selling barbecued chicken, the local Tapa cloth and T-shirts advertising Vailima, a local beer. The smoke of just-lit barbecues is trapped under canvases.
I look for a T-shirt and from the stalls scan a raised platform of dignitaries: the Prime Minister, beside him commissioners; in the second row, the finalist of the Miss Samoa competition. We watch with the rest of the small crowd as a dance troupe in navy blue dresses adorned with red hibiscuses sings a welcome song.
It's the most lovely performance, full of warmth and respect. I wish there were more people to watch it, but the crowds will pour in tonight.
The rain has eased. The women dancers wear garlands of teuila flowers, the red ginger plant that gives its name to the festival.
I'm told that the name of the flower was once pronounced differently, and that the present version is how it was said by Isobel Field, Robert Louis Stevenson's stepdaughter.
It's a good story, and you have to like the spirit that lies behind remembering her in a mistake.
But this is Samoa all over, an intensely friendly country that makes visitors feel welcome. In particular, the islands have a long history of accepting religious influence from abroad. Traditional buildings (or fales) and churches make surprisingly sympathetic neighbours, even if, like me, you find yourself wishing that less money was being poured into grand places of worship.
And in the late 19th century, the community clearly adopted not only Isobel's pronunciation but the Stevensons as a family. Isobel was given the name she mispronounced. Stevenson, who by the time he arrived in 1889 was already famous, was Tusitala, "the teller of tales".
He endeared himself to Samoans by criticising the colonial administrators and by building a grand house at Vailima - the same name as now graces the local beer. It means "water in the hand" but also, depending on your source, "five streams". In either case, it fitted the house and its chief occupant very well, for Stevenson was never far from water.
He spent years travelling in the South Pacific, and reportedly came to Samoa on the recommendation of the king of Hawaii, no less. One of his last works, aptly named The Ebb-Tide, tells the story of three down-and-outers who find themselves in charge of a shipload of champagne. An enviable situation, you might think.
But alas it's a trick, and the cargo turns out to be nothing more than water. Fortune runs through their hands, and the vagabonds' situation goes from bad to worse.
There is little of this bleakness in the beautiful grounds of Stevenson's old home. With the sun streaming in, even the sick bed in which he wrote seems part of the idyll. Our guide says that Stevenson particularly liked being on the veranda. It overlooks a lawn bordered by a high, tropical hedge of palms. Once, you could see the ocean, but now the best views are from Mt Vaea, where Stevenson is buried.
It's a good half-hour trek, and I'm sure there are better times to make it than now, at noon with the sun edging its way through a canopy of broad leaves. But at the summit you rejoin the sea breeze of the morning, and in the company of the great writer you look out to the villages that line the ocean road as it makes its way into Apia. The sea is a thin, light blue.
The inscription on the tomb is from a requiem he'd written earlier; it says, "Home is the sailor, home from the sea".
Back at sea level, I rejoin the festival, which includes an open-air display of local arts. Our guide through them is Chris Solomona, who begins his tour with a display of himself, or rather the tattoo that runs as a block of intricate patterns from his lower back to his legs.
This is the Pe'a, a form that represents aspects of Samoan life traditionally needed in order to survive, such as boats and spears.
The tattooing process is lengthy and indescribably painful. It is also in progress in one of the festival displays. A young man lies on his back.
On his left sits the "tufuga ta tatau", or tattoo artist, while three others perform support tasks: one fans the young man, who is enduring this ordeal in the noon heat, while two others stretch his skin, keep him still and wipe blood and excess ink from his leg.It's a shock to see it being done, and I find myself turning away. But of course that's the point: the tattoo is a mark of endurance and respect, like tradition itself.
And like Stevenson's mark on the island, made during his decline, the inscription seems richer for the commitment to Samoa that it witnesses.
-- The writer was a guest of the Samoa Tourism Authority
13 JANUARY 2013
Fishing Samoa's South Side
Over the years I have had the pleasure of fishing in Samoa many times, and generally the results have been good.
On some of those occasions I've fished the more exposed south side of Upolo Island with some great catches. Unfortunately, most of my trips to Samoa have been based out of the main port of Apia, where getting around to the south side in a day has been something of a 'mission impossible'.
The good news is New Zealand Fishing News, in conjunction with Dive, Fish and Snow Travel, have put together a 'Fish Samoa's South Side' package for 2013.
Last September, accompanied by my wife Faith and anglers Mike Wessels, Geoff Peake, Paul Davies and Bill Cavanagh (with the latter two accompanied by wives Donna and Trish), we did a test run.
Our plan was to have four days' fishing: two aboard the Ian Moroney-skippered 10.7m (35ft) Bertram Pure Indulgence, and the remaining two with Chris Donato and Southern Destiny. It was to be a mix of gamefishing, jigging and casting for giant trevally and dogtooth. However, a blown turbo saw Chris unfortunately eliminated from the gig at the last minute, leaving us to do four days with Ian.
Our base for the week was the delightful Aggie Grey's Lagoon Beach Resort and Spa, located just 10 minutes from the international airport on the shores of a calm lagoon. It's also close to the south side, providing access to some great fishing opportunities, making it an ideal base for what we were hoping to achieve.
On board Pure Indulgence Ian had two crew for this trip - his regular Samoan deckie Sally Asafo and an 'Aussie import' in photographer Dan Young-Whitforde.
Ian knows this area well, with Pure Indulgence often bringing live-aboard charters to this part of the coast.
It would be fair to say the majority of the anglers were keen to tangle with the GTs and dogtooth in particular, and this fishing is something of a speciality for Ian.
Over the four days we saw some good action, both on jigs and surface lures - and while the GTs were not especially big (twenty kilos stopped the best of them), as anyone who has fished for them knows, even fish of this size will put up a tremendous and exciting scrap.
We also caught dogtooth up to 15kg on jigs in 40-80 metres of water; fortunately the weather gods smiled on us for most of the trip, enabling us to fish the handy grounds with relative ease.
The billfish were less co-operative. A couple of sailfish shots and the attention of one marlin was all we managed, and none stuck. (Typically, the following week Ian told me it was 'all on', with a number of fish raised and caught on the south side, as well as a couple of respectable tuna - as they say, timing is everything!)
I must say it was great to come home to the comforts and luxury of a resort at day's end; Aggie's staff could not have been more helpful, and certainly played their part to ensure the success of the fact-finding mission. Early breakfasts and lunches were not a problem, and the executive chef Horace Evans and his team went out of their way to prepare our freshly-caught mahimahi and wahoo on several occasions.
Similarly, general manager Theresa Sing and function and events manager Greg Meredith smoothed the way, whether it was organising late checkouts and rental cars or other special requests.
Join us in Samoa in 2013
Over the week of September 21-28, 2013, Faith and I will be hosting the Mr and Mrs Fishing News 'Fish Samoa's South Side' readers' trip.
This angling adventure is suitable for both experienced and novice anglers alike, and can be shared with non-fishing partners. It will involve five days' fishing with five very different charter operations, targeting a range of tropical species from giant trevally, bluefin trevally, red bass, Maori wrasse and dogtooth tuna, through to marlin, yellowfin, sailfish, wahoo and mahimahi. And if you haven't fished for GTs before, there will be casting tuition available.
Fishing will be done by crews of four, so you'll either need to make up your own team or we will place individuals with other 'unattached' anglers.
Accommodation is on a share-twin basis; we can also arrange single-room accommodation for individuals, but this would be at an added cost.
For non-fishing partners, there is plenty to see and do on a user-pays basis. Adjacent to the resort is an 18-hole golf course with clubs and carts for hire. We played nine holes one afternoon and it was good fun - a great way to work up a thirst to slake with a couple of pre-dinner tropical cocktails!
Aggie Grey's Lagoon Resort boasts five dining venues and bars, from a 'swim-up' bar as part of the pool area, to an Asian restaurant. The main Fale Apolima Restaurant features different dining themes each night, including the traditional Samoan feast and a fiafia cultural and fire dance show.
For the ladies the Manaia Polynesian spa can add an extra element to a relaxing stay with a variety of therapies available. For more information on the full range of facilities on offer, check out the website ww.aggiegreys.com.
The boats and skippers for the Fish Samoa's South Side trip are all well-presented and experienced.
Alfred Schwalger is the skipper of the smallest boat of the five, an eight-metre New Zealand built Kingfisher monohull. I've had the pleasure of fishing with Alfred on a number of occasions and enjoyed some good action.
Another Kingfisher, this time a nine-metre catamaran owned by Kevin Kohlhase, is in the mix too, with an experienced local skipper on board. As for the three big boats, these are: Reel Indulgence, skippered by Ian Moroney and operated under the Troppo Sportfishing banner; Chris Donato's Southern Destiny; and recent arrival Jonathan Barlow's big Bladerunner catamaran, Extreme Measures.
Between the five operators there is a wealth of experience to ensure a successful trip for all.
Included in the escorted package is: return airfares ex-Auckland flying Virgin Samoa; seven nights' accommodation on a twin-share basis with late check-out for half the rooms; five days' fishing quarter-share with lunches provided; full buffet breakfast; trip polo shirt; nine holes of golf and 15 minute massage - one per room; use of the resort's non-powered water activities and snorkelling equipment; use of sauna, gym, volleyball and tennis courts; as well as airport transfers in Samoa; and the shuttle bus to Apia every day, except Sundays.
The cost is $4195 for anglers paying by direct debit, cheque or cash, and $2250 for non-fishing partners paying the same way.
For more details, Grant Dixon, email@example.com, (09) 634 9851 or Markus Wunderlich at Dive, Fish, Snow Travel firstname.lastname@example.org
(09) 918 5518.
10 JANUARY 2013
The last wild corners on Earth
By Tamara Hinson, contributor, MSN Travel
O le Pupu Pu’e is Samoa's only national park and was created in 1978. The park's northern section boasts two volcanic peaks - Mount Le Pu'e and Mount Fito - while the southern section's O Le Pupu Lava Coast is equally spectacular.
Must-sees include the beautiful Ofa Waterfall, although getting there involves a three-day hike along overgrown trails. The Pe'ape'a Cave is considerably closer - just a six-hour walk - and is famous for its huge lava tubes.
Source: MSN UK
24 DECEMBER 2012
17 DECEMBER 2012
Samoa Traveller Update
Monday 17 December 2012
Cyclone Evan caused widespread damage to Samoa when it struck on 13 December. Many roads were blocked by flood waters, downed trees and power lines which resulted in communication issues.
Due to flooding in Apia, Aggie Grey’s Hotel have re-located their guests to Aggie Grey’s Lagoon Beach Resort & Spa. All guests booked for the Hotel property will have their bookings transferred to the Resort at no additional cost.
On the South Coast, Coconuts Beach Resort & Spa is in need of repairs and will close until the end of the month. Sa’Moana also suffered damage forcing its closure until the new year.
The ‘big island’ of Savai’i did not suffer the effects of Cyclone Evan.
Tourism especially in these times is critical to Samoa’s economy and visitors are encouraged to continue their support.
The Samoa Tourism Authority recommends that all travellers re-confirm their bookings especially over Christmas/New Year with each property directly to clarify that their hotel amenities are open for their guests.
Sonja Hunter, CEO, Samoa Tourism Authority stated “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of those that were tragically killed by Cyclone Evan. But we know that they would still want visitors to continue to come to our Treasured Islands. The clean up has began and will be back to ‘business as usual’ in a short space of time. The proud people of Samoa won’t let the Cyclone stop them from providing their usual warm and friendly hospitality.”
For more information please contact:
Samoa Tourism Authority
Ph: +61 418 49 39 59
20 NOVEMBER 2012
Visit one of the jewels in Samoa's crown
SAMOA'S Aleipata region at the south coast of Upolu is emerging as the hottest new destination for the Treasured Islands of the South Pacific.
Samoan Prime Minister, the Hon Tuilaepa Sailele Malielagaoi says that he envisions Aleipata as the next big city rivaling the capital, Apia.
Developments are well on their way along this magnificent stretch of coastline on the south side of the island with plans of a new wharf and possibly an airport on the pipeline.
New resorts are popping up on scenic spots along the coast such as the 4.5 star Aga Reef Resort (set to open at the end of 2012) Saletoga Sands Resort and Spa (due to open early 2013) as well as a Warwick Hotel currently being built on the beautiful beach of Vavau and set to open also in 2013.
Established resorts are also upgrading facilities, most of exciting of all being the return of Coconut's Resort and Spa's overwater fales to Samoa. These rooms will offer a spectacular view of the Pacific and are set to be opened in time for the new year.
"The South Coast of Upolu is one of the many jewels of Samoa's crown," says Adele Leathan of Samoa Tourism Authority.
"Many people naturally gravitate to the nation's capital of Apia not realizing that the best beaches and waterfront resorts are found along south coast.
"Fales are placed here where the best views and beaches are found, and it is also where the iconic To Sua Trench is located.
"This side of the island also enjoys better weather than the north-east and is a splendid place to visit especially during the 'off season' when there are no trade winds."
For the latest holiday deals for Samoa and south coast accommodation, visit www.samoadirect.com.au
14 NOVEMBER 2012
The new Surfer's Paradise
Craig Tansley rides high on Samoa's world-class reef breaks without the crowds of Indonesia or Hawaii.
Flawless 1½-metre-high waves - the kind every surfer drew on the school exercise books of their adolescence - are wrapping through a narrow reef pass with ridiculous monotony, yet my arms are so tired I can't lift them to catch another wave.
My surf guide can't understand why I refuse to go in; he's calling to me from the skiff, sensing my fatigue. But how could he understand? If I had the strength I'd explain: surfing in Australia has lost some of its magic as competition for waves on the east coast has soured the mood.
Even when we travel throughout Indonesia, Hawaii and Tahiti, surfing has been swamped by surfers desperately competing for that all-elusive perfect wave. But my guide is Samoan; how could he understand? To him, this is just another day.
Surfing in Samoa still makes you feel like a pioneer. Despite a theory even many Hawaiians believe that the sport of surfing originated in Samoa more than 2000 years ago, few Samoans surf today. There's almost no surf industry at all. Just imagine, no Quiksilver, no Billabong, no Rip Curl - it's best you bring a spare surfboard with you.
Unlike French Polynesia and Hawaii, where territorial locals rule local breaks, Samoans have yet to understand why we wish to go beyond the reef. But Samoa has all the physical characteristics of a surfing icon. It's surrounded entirely by coral reef, onto which deep, far-flung ocean swells break on numerous reef passes. What's more, unlike Hawaii, which only attracts decent swell in its winter, you can surf year round in Samoa.
Samoa has two distinct seasons, but the water's warm all year. The dry season from May to October attracts huge swells up to three metres in height, and during the wet season, from November to April, the swell size tops out at 1½ metres. It's up to surfers to determine which season suits their ability. But it's worth noting that beginners should approach Samoa with extreme caution; razor-sharp reefs offer little room for error, although Samoa lacks the life-threatening breaks for which Hawaii and Tahiti are famous.
There are world-class surf breaks all over Samoa's main two islands: Upolu and Savaii.
Most surf camps and hotels are set up on Upolu's south coast, where the most consistent waves break on some of the island's best reef passes. Luxury surf resorts have been set up along this coastline, giving surfers and their families more options than the simple wall-less fales surfers stayed in when they first arrived here in the 1990s.
At resorts such as the Sinalei Reef Resort and Spa, no luxury is spared for guests, with access to lagoon-side bars and restaurants, swimming pools and day spas. For surfers who prefer to rough it, wall-less fales beside the lagoon are also available.
But for those who like to feel like intrepid explorers, the big island of Savaii beckons. Less developed than Upolu, locals still reside in traditional villages abiding by local custom. There are few visitors on Savaii and even fewer surfers. On Savaii's northern and more remote southern coastlines, there are surf breaks that have still not been named, or surfed.
Accommodation is often in simple fales, but there's also a choice of more-luxurious hotels and pensions, where surf guides will meet surfers to take them to secluded, deserted reef breaks. However, should you fall on the reef, medical services would be limited; the traditional method - cutting a lime in two to scrub the wound clean - is preferred on Savaii.
In peak season, when experienced surfers chart swells approaching from Hawaii, reef breaks in Samoa can get a little crowded, but with more than 40 known reef breaks in Samoa, solitude is only ever a short boat ride away.
The writer travelled courtesy of Samoan Tourism.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald
04 NOVEMBER 2012
Holiday on the beach islands of Samoa: Where the body art is as eye-popping as the scenery
By Katie Spain
The man whimpers as he is dragged into the Pacific, screaming as the salty water laps at his red, raw buttocks.
Tears spring to his eyes as a team of villagers support his limp body, firmly holding him in place.
Around them, a group of children slap the water to keep a frenzy of butt-flesh-hungry fish at bay.
“At this point I was pleading to god to give me a heart attack so I could die,” Chris Solomona tells me, recalling the scene from more than 15 years ago. “A lot of men commit suicide after the first section of a full-body tattoo.”
I’m sitting in the middle of Samoa Cultural Village – a collection of small, open coastal huts (fales) showcasing more than 3000
years of Samoan history.
Nearby, women weave intricate coconut leaf baskets while men rub sticks together to make fire. Chris is devoted to teaching visitors about Samoan customs and his culture runs deep.
The 45-year-old absent-mindedly rubs his buttocks as he continues his story. The memories of his painful tattoo are obviously as clear to him as the blue waters which surround his Samoan Islands archipelago.
Chris endured the gruelling process in 1998, aged 31. The 12 sections of his complex body art took up to six hours each to complete and, despite warnings from his grandfather, Chris went through four weeks of “agony, pain and pure hell”.
The traditional tattoo covers approximately half of his body – crescent moon shapes run from the hip bones down to the pelvis, his bottom is covered and it extends to his kneecaps, and he has intricate patterns all the way down his right arm.
As he whips out the implements used to mark his body, I grab my own posterior in sympathy.
There’s not a needle in sight. Instead, he shows me sharp tattooing combs made of boar’s tusk and turtle shell plate, and candlenut soot used for the tattoo pigment.
The combs are hit like a chisel with a 23-inch-long mallet and the pain, Chris reiterates, is intense. Once inking begins, there’s no looking back; failure to complete the full dozen sections results in shame so great that death might seem an easier option.
Six strong assistants had to hold Chris down while the revered tattoo artist went to work. “It was the worst decision of my life,” admits the strapping Samoan.
But with its bloody completion came his transition from boyhood to manhood, and a vow of dedication to his family, village and country.
This, in a nutshell, is the beauty of Samoa. Traditional tattoo torment isn’t for everyone, but a strong sense of local pride, family and culture is.
So too is a slow-paced way of life, as I find out the day before when I’m met at the airport by my talkative guide, Anthony, and briefly introduced to local road rules.
So laid-back are the cheery island drivers, the change from driving on the right-hand side of the road to the left, ordered by the Samoan government in 2009, didn’t cause the mayhem you might expect.
Anthony chuckles: “Accidents? Nope… we’re too relaxed for that!”
Despite his insistence that island motoring is a seaside breeze, the 45-minute journey from the airport to Apia seems wild and unpredictable to me.
Kamikaze chickens, roaming pigs, daredevil domestic dogs and the occasional human spring from the overgrown roadsides, darting across the road without a sidewards glance.
It’s like Super Mario Cart without the point system. No wonder the Samoans stick to the 55kmph speed limit. Surprisingly, roadkill is rare – a swift toot is apparently enough to keep beasts at bay.
Even the hairy roads don’t stop me from taking in the scenery we pass.
Artists would have a field day painting the vibrant Samoan landscape – if they had the palette for it, that is.
While Apia provides Upolu island’s biggest spread of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, I find the real optical smorgasbord off the beaten track.
My retinas are overwhelmed by an onslaught of colour as Anthony steers his 4WD through backroads filled with vivid red and green tropical plants, fruit stalls and eye-poppingly bright clothing hanging on washing lines.
There’s pride in his voice as Anthony points out his home and, like all young Samoans, shows beloved devotion to both his parents. It’s enough to make a traveller feel guilty about not calling her own more often.
There are 366 villages in Samoa, each with a chief and usually at least two churches. Religion is extremely important and, for this reason, the place shuts down on Sundays.
“If you ever have a one-day stop in Samoa make sure it’s not a Sunday!” Anthony chuckles.
Houses dot the landscape, each dwelling a unique work of art. Bright yellow roofs, orange bricks, blue windowpanes, pink verandas and green railings abound.
“We like colour,” Anthony says, stating the obvious. Elaborate gravestones sit in front of homes, shrine-like in their size and grandeur.
Family members buried a stone’s throw from the front door is both a sign of respect and a show of generations of property ownership.
The rainbow abodes are a spectacular sight. Our destination, however, is a more European affair. Robert Louis Stevenson’s towering white mansion is now a historic homage to the late Scottish author of Treasure Island.
The sickly writer and his family moved to the island so the climate would ease his tuberculosis symptoms. The Samoans fell in love with the good-natured white man – and he with them.
Anthony lures me up the neighbouring Mount Vaea, on top of which Stevenson was laid to rest. “How did the… village people drag... that coffin up here?” I gasp.
Pure willpower and adoration, it seems. But once we’re at the top, the urge to vomit from exhaustion is suppressed by the view – exotic plants and trees that stretch as far as the distant blue sea. No wonder Stevenson loved this joint so much.
Our next stop is on the far side of Upolu island’s south east coast, where expats Wendy and Chris Booth run the Seabreeze Resort (seabreezesamoa.com; double rooms from £166pn).
Like Stevenson, the pair fell head over heels with Samoa and set up their high-end lagoon-fronted resort in 2007.
Australian builder Chris and his wife Wendy’s dream nearly came to an end in 2009, when a wave of earthquakes cause a devastating tsunami which decimated the island.
“We were here in the honeymoon suite when it hit,” Chris says. “We held on to trees to stop [ourselves] from washing away.”
The suite, award-winning restaurant and adjacent rooms weren’t so lucky. Standing in the newly rebuilt deluxe suite, it’s hard to imagine the extent of what happened here, but Chris says he and Wendy were determined to stay put: “Leaving didn’t cross our mind – it could be a thousand years before the next one – and we love it here.”
Further along the coast, I chat to Koroseta Legalo, the owner of family-run business Faofao Beach Fales (chalets from £19pn; wsamoa.ws), who also lost much of her livelihood.
“We didn’t have any warning… we saw the water sucked out to sea and ran,” she says. But in spite of the painful memories, today she is all smiles, the disaster far behind her.
Fales, the traditional Samoan huts, are encased only with banana leaf thatching.
I’m to spend the night in one and I can’t lie, I’m petrified about having little but foliage between me and the waves.
But despite an offer to bed down in the alternative multi-storey accommodation block, I decline. This Samoan experience can’t be passed up and so I bunker down in the open air.
It’s such a refreshing night’s sleep that with first light comes a fear conquered, a crab in my trainers and a vow to do it again.
A chance comes sooner than expected, as fale dwelling is the sole form of accommodation available on Manono Island, a tiny dot between Upolu and Samoa’s other main island Savai’i, accessible only by a 20-minute ride in a small tin boat that I catch from the Manono-uta jetty the next day.
This place is the epitome of simple, Samoan living – there are no dogs, no cars and a minimum of technology. It’s even tough to find a shop selling bottled water, but red cordial-filled plastic bags seem to generally suffice for hydration purposes.
A stroll around the island takes 90 minutes – longer if you stop and oblige the endless stream of children pleading “Pue-ata” (“capture my smile!”). As I explore, I find myself almost overwhelmed by this sleepy, remote world.
As darkness falls, three bedraggled European travellers emerge from the sea, dripping wet, with freshly caught tuna in hand.
Their boat is moored a few hundred metres out and they’ve decided to swim ashore. Islanders welcome them without hesitation, and we all sit around a star-lit table to dine together.
Generosity seems to come naturally to the Samoans we’re eating with and, when it comes to physique, big is beautiful here, so there’s no option but to abandon concerns about your girth and go with it.
We all dig into a feast of fresh lobster, battered tuna steaks and local delicacy oka (raw fish in lemon and coconut milk), which everyone shares.
Maybe it’s the stunningly fresh food, the cheerful company or just the picturesque island setting, but this is definitely one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had.
I return to the mainland the next morning to catch my flight home, feeling a little heartbroken to have to say goodbye.
As the plane takes off, a pair of fishermen abandon their hooks, look up and wave at my plane.
By this stage, such a farewell doesn’t even seem remarkable.
Genuinely enthusiastic from “talofa” to “tofa soifua” (Gagana Samoan for hello and goodbye), these people are beyond welcoming and happy to share their world with the rest of the globe.
I look forward to my next chance to revel in its simplicity.
When to go: It’s best to visit Samoa between May and October’s dry season – this is also when most of the major festivals are. Christmas and New Year gets busy as many Samoans who live abroad return home for the festivities.
Currency: £1 = WST3.67 (Samoan Tala)
Accommodation: Find modest, closed beachfront fales at Taufua Beach Fales, or an open option for a night with the breeze in your hair (samoabeachfales.com).
From £18pppn based on three or four sharing. Overnight stays include dinner and breakfast.
Getting there: Virgin Atlantic flies from London Heathrow to Sydney from £1270 return. Catch a connecting flight from Sydney to Apia with Virgin Samoa from £192 return.
Photos: Katie Spain,Samoa Tourism, Thinkstock, Getty