25 August, 2011     

Samoa Tourism partners with ATG in UK for South Pacific Musical

The Samoa Tourism Authority is delighted to partner with the Ambassador Theatre Group in their West End production of the Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical South Pacific, which opened at the Barbican Theatre in London on 15 August 2011. 

Alison Cryer, UK Director, Samoa Tourism Authority commented “We are delighted to support the talented cast and team behind the production of the musical South Pacific as it opens in London. Samoa is often referred to as the ‘Treasured Islands of the South Pacific’ and offers UK visitors an authentic and affordable South Pacific option. We hope audiences in London and across the UK are inspired to visit Samoa and experience these wonderful islands for themselves. ”

The islands of Samoa - The Treasured Islands of the South Pacific - are the true heart of Polynesia. Ten islands of stunning wild beauty, Samoa is paradise waiting to be explored. From powder soft beaches, to warm tropical seas, colourful coral reefs alive with marine life. The rugged, lush interiors reveal endless wildlife, waterfalls and hiking trails.

Take away all the natural beauty and entrancing landscape of these islands and you will still be left with the most fascinating aspect of a trip to Samoa, the people. Samoans are rightfully proud of Fa'a Samoa, the Samoan life and culture, and the motto and centre piece of its existence is family. Above all, Samoans have natural world class hospitality, journeying into a Samoan village you will find yourself the object of much attention and you will likely be lavished with fine food and a great deal of inquisition. For UK residents, the islands of Samoa are an idyllic twin centre option for any trip to New Zealand or Australia with short haul flights from Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland available.  For more information on Samoa call 0208 877 4512 or visit www.samoa.travel.

The musical South Pacific won seven Tony Awards on Broadway and is the most acclaimed production ever of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.  Director Bartlett Sher’s hailed production played to sold-out houses on Broadway for two years.  This was the first Broadway production the Rodgers & Hammerstein Estate had allowed to be staged since the musical originally opened in 1949 and ran for almost five years.  Considered one of the finest musicals ever written, the score includes Some Enchanted Evening, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair, Bali Ha’i, I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy, Younger than Springtime, Happy Talk and There is Nothin’ Like a Dame.    After a seven-week run at the Barbican Theatre, which ends on 1 October, the production will go on a UK Tour, beginning on 12 October in Milton Keynes.  For more information, visit www.southpacificonstage.com or www.atgtickets.com

For more information on Samoa contact the Samoa Tourism Authority UK Office:
Kate Fenton
Tel: 0208 877 4512
Email: samoa@representationplus.co.uk
www.samoa.travel

For SOUTH PACIFIC the musical at the Barbican Theatre and on Tour, please contact Amanda Malpass PR, 020 7299 4250 or info@amandamalpass.com.

  22 August, 2011     

Simply Samoa

By Adrienne Kohler

"Explore Tafua Crater for five tala", the sign says in faded red-and-blue writing. The volcanic cone on offer looms over us swathed in tropical rainforest and, as it seems a little daunting, we ask our guide Latu if we can do it Jandals.

"Sure. No problem, it is only a five-minute climb," he says.

I'm not altogether convinced. "Is that a Samoan five minutes or a Palangi five minutes?" I ask. Latu laughs at this and assures me it is really only a short walk.

We pile into our rented van and head off until we reach a slightly flatter piece of rainforest he imaginatively describes as a carpark. A faint trail leads out of it and we follow behind Latu.

Sure enough, five minutes later we reach the crater rim and it is a "whoa" moment. The interior of the mountain is hollow. Vertical sides enclose a spectacular rainforest. A giant banyan tree stretches from the floor and bats take startled flight out of the trees around us. It is a scene straight out of Avatar or Jurassic Park.

As we walk along the rim, the eastern side of the island comes into view. Palm-fringed beaches, tropical rainforests, traditional villages with grand churches, misty mountains and dark lava fields. That is the essence of Savai'i, a stunningly beautiful island that, with some exploration, reveals many hidden treasures.

Granted, it takes some effort to get there, either an early-morning departure or arrival, a four-hour flight from Auckland, then a one to two-hour ferry crossing.

But the dank New Zealand winter fades with the first sip of a cold Vailima - the local Samoan beer - as ahead lies a week of tropical warmth and doing nothing much at all.

Nonetheless, the island has much to offer if you muster the energy. The Tafua Peninsula rainforest reserve is scattered with picturesque villages and ends in a beautiful white sandy beach largely unused except for a few stray tourists and locals. Our guide Latu plans to build fales on his family land and has begun guided tours of the beach and crater.

The island's tourism infrastructure is less developed than places such as the Cook Islands and local villagers often act as guides, usually for a payment of a few tala. The service is slower and without the crowds or commercialisation of other destinations. Climbing a coconut tree is not a demonstration for tourists; it is how you get lunch.

The island is a shield volcano, similar to Rangitoto but on a larger scale. It takes four to five hours to drive the tar-sealed ring road.

The highlands consist of volcanic craters covered in dense rainforest. The highest peak, Mt Silisili, rises up to 1838m and can be reached by a two-day guided round-trip.

The last eruption was in 1900 and lasted six years, creating ropey, twisted lava fields and a rugged coastline. The porous rock is honeycombed and tunnels form spectacular blowholes as the ocean surges against the shore.

The Alofaaga blowholes on the southwestern side are the best example and for a few talas the locals throw in coconuts which are blasted out with loud "whoof" of spray and foam. On the northern coast, you can explore the Saleaula lava fields, the result of outflows from Mt Matavanu.

The beautiful sandy beaches that abound are ideal for swimming, surfing and lazing. Most offer accommodation that ranges from open beach fales to luxury resorts. The northern Falealupo Rainforest Preserve offers a canopy walk, archaeological sites and stunning bays that are the perfect spot to swim and enjoy a cold beer in the late afternoon sun. Nearby, Cape Mulinuu is considered the last place on Earth to see the sunset and, according to local legend, is where the dead depart for the otherworld. It is also the site of an ancient star-shaped mound. Another, the Tia Seu Ancient Mound, at 12m, is one of the largest in the Pacific.

Along the coast are traditional villages with numerous churches that range from simple buildings to soaring gothic masterpieces. The island has natural beauty and tourist attractions in abundance but the true magic of the island is Fa'a Samoa - the Samoan Way - and the kind-hearted people who are always happy to help or chat about their relatives in New Zealand. After a few days, time seems to slow as the cares of our consumer-culture slip away and are replaced by the ebb and flow of a simpler way of life.

Travellers' tips

Getting there: Air New Zealand and Pacific Blue fly daily to Samoa. However, if you arrive early morning you have to spend the night in Apia before heading to Savai'i. I stayed at Le Vasa Resort, which offers a day room and use of facilities for $20 tala.

When you're there: Car ferries run several times a day between the two islands. The ferry terminal at Mulifanua Wharf is a 10-minute taxi ride from the airport. Two large ferries take about an hour to reach Savai'i.

Getting around: Car hire is available on Savai'i or can be taken from Upolu. It costs about $200 tala and booking a berth at least three days beforehand is vital.

Further information:

* Salelololga is the main village and has a small selection of shops, supermarkets and banks plus an internet cafe. The food market in Salelologa has a variety of local fruit and vegetables.

* Sunday is church and family day so some attractions are closed, and swimming not allowed at some beaches.

* Lusia's Lagoon Chalets are nestled in a small rainforest and are an ideal base. On the northeast coast at Fagamalo, the Savai'i Lagoon Resort is on a white sand beach and offers a range of beachfront bungalows.

* Service tends to be slow throughout the island so it pays to relax.

Useful websites:
samoa.travel has details of attractions in Savai'i
lusiaslagoon.com
savaiilagoon.co.nz
falealupobeachfales.ws

Source: New Zealand Herald
  09 August, 2011     

Legends live amid the lava flows

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

It's 30C outside and yet there's a sudden chill in the air.

We've just entered what is arguably one of the most spiritually sacred places in my homeland of Samoa and I can't help but attribute the cold shift in the air to ghosts.

Or maybe the air conditioning just needs to be turned down.

We're travelling by jeep through the island of Savai'i when the car enters the village of Saleaula.

Although a deeply religious country - evident by the number of grand churches it has - a lot of Samoa still holds on to the myths, legends and superstitions of its pre-Christian past.

Every village has its own share of superstitions, like the one dictating that long hair should never be worn down, or another warning ladies to be careful of wearing a red sei (flower) behind your ear, as female ghosts can be jealous... and feisty.

I'm not sure what Saleaula's are at this stage, however I do know the village holds some of the country's most well-known treasures.

The entire village sits on barren lava.

Traditional Samoan fale, family homes, clotheslines and gardens - how does that work, I think to myself - have been built on stretches of dark grey lava.

But why, I wonder out loud, aren't there many people around. That, I'm told, is because when the sun is up, the last thing you want to be doing in this village is standing outside.

The superstitious in me is quick to ask whether ghosts are involved in that rule. No, it turns out, it's just because you'll burn your feet.

We stop at a place known simply as the Lava Fields where a large signs tells that it is the result of the eruption of Mt Matavanu between 1905 to 1911.

Once it was a thriving community but today there's no sign of life. Black, bumpy stretches of rock spread as far as the eye can see and continue as far as the ocean a good two hour's walk away.

It simply is an incredible sight and it surprises me to learn that no one died in the volcanic eruption.

My guides tell me the eruption was so slow that it took years to reach the village so villagers had time to escape by canoe to Samoa's other main island: Upolu.

There they resettled in a new village called Le'auva'a (meaning the group of canoers), which to this day is made up mostly of people whose ancestors originated from Saleaula.

A little way down the road we pull up at the site of an old church, whose sacred remains still stands more than 100 years after the eruption.

Curiously, or rather miraculously, the church was not fully destroyed by the flowing lava.

Instead, the lava went through and around it, leaving the eerily beautiful skeleton that stands today.

There's something surreal and spiritual about standing in such a place. However a story one of the guides tells me makes me laugh.

Inside there used to be two large trees - one a mango tree - that over the years had grown inside the remains of the church.

One day, while driving past the site, he noticed a large plume of smoke billowing from the spot and to his horror noticed that the trees were being burnt down by local women.

"They thought it would look prettier for tourists. It wasn't until I pointed out that when the tree attached to the church goes down, the whole thing will go down, that they very quickly put it out."

About 100m to the left of the church is a rocky path, shadowed by trees, that gives off a sort of foreboding vibe.

At the end of the path, however, is something that, as a young girl, I had heard of and longed to see one day: The Virgin's Grave.

Legend has it that the village taupou - which literally translates to virgin but who is the high chief's daughter - died of tuberculosis as a teenager.

Locals believe she was so pure that the lava flowed around her grave, not touching it.

One of my guides, an 81-year-old palagi man who has lived in Samoa for 30 years, offers another explanation - a scientific one - then adds, "But the Samoan story's lovely, so we'll go with that." I'm holding a small hibiscus flower in my hand, which we picked earlier to give to the virgin.

I don't know exactly why, but I kiss the flower before dropping it gently onto the grave below. It's that sort of place.

CHECKLIST
Getting there: Air NZ offers up to seven direct flights a week between Auckland and Samoa. Fares start from $270 per person, one way.

What to do: Visiting Saleaula' Lava Fields is free. A small entry free is required to see the church site and the Virgin's Grave. Most hotels run tours around Savai'i, which include a visit to Saleaula.

Further information: See samoa.travel

Vaimoana Tapaleao was assisted by Samoa Tourism Authority, Aggie Grey's Hotel and Le Manumea Hotel on Upolu and Vacations Beach Fales in Savai'i.

Source: New Zealand Herald
  01 August, 2011     

Samoa leaps across dateline

Samoa will become one of the first nations to see the New Year

Samoa Tourism Authority has officially announced their plan to switch time zones to the west of the International dateline, to be in line with Australia and New Zealand.

Samoa presently sits to the east of the international dateline and crosses through the middle of the Pacific, 11 hours behind GMT and is one of the last places on earth to see the sunset.

The change will come into effect at midnight on 29 December, which will place Samoa one hour ahead of New Zealand and three hours ahead of Australia.

According to the Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi the time change will allow for an increase in productivity and convenience for business trade with Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the Pacific Rim.

Peter Sereno from the Samoa Tourism Authority said the feedback on the change has been positive.

“This will have a positive impact on Australian trade and tourism as it puts Samoa in a more convenient time zone.  It will mean better access and correspondence with our agents here and the operators in Samoa,” Mr Sereno said.

Mr Sereno said although they will no longer be the last place on earth to see the sunset Samoa will gain by being one of the first nations to see the Sunrise of the New Year.

“2012 will be a big year for us and we encourage everyone to come and visit and join in on the celebrations.”

Source - e Travel Blackboard