13 February, 2010
Dip your toes in for true delight
By Alanah May Eriksen
4:00 AM Saturday Feb 13, 2010
They can weigh
up to 185kg and they're green and slimy so swimming with them probably sounds a
But the green
turtles at the Satoalepai wetlands - one of the most popular attractions on the
Samoan island of Savaii - are actually rather delightful.
As we drive into
the sanctuary at about 9.30am, the villagers looking after the prehistoric
animals are barely out of bed. They simply smile sweetly as we get out the car.
As with most
Samoans I came across at the various tourist spots, you have to practically
chase them, grab their hand and put money in it, they are so unassuming.
We walk towards
the part fresh, part saltwater enclosed pool where the reptiles are protected
The six or seven
endangered turtles are being raised by the people of Satoalepai who release
them back into the ocean once they are ready to mate.
trained zoologists but have learned turtle husbandry as it is passed down
through the generations.
I get into the
water - a combination of brackish and salt marsh - and try to swim up to the
They swim away
nervously and then one of the villagers comes over with pawpaw that we cut up.
Suddenly I'm their best friend.
They nip and
butt into one another fighting for the fruit, sometimes bumping me with their
slippery bodies as I yelp.
I'm the only one
in the water so the turtles are mine.
couple arrive about 15 minutes later, although they don't look so keen on being
surrounded by the hungry creatures, so for a while I feel like a turtle-tamer
at Marineland showing the amateurs how it's done.
When I held the
pawpaw above the water the turtles poked their heads above the surface,
squirted water from their noses, took a breath of fresh air and latched on to
the orange fruit. The Aussies clapped with joy.
is only so much turtle touching one can endure but it was worth the $10 entry
fee. I recommend bringing snorkelling gear for a better view.
offers accommodation in six over-water fales. However, dwellers must be
prepared to rough it slightly.
The basic fales
have just a mosquito net and the communal shower spits out cold water.
There are also
canoes for hire which can be used to explore the stunning natural habitat.
If you'd rather
see the green turtles in their natural habitat, this can be done around Namua
Island, just off the southeastern coast of Upolu, where, for about 20 tala
($11.34), tourists are taken out on a small boat.
there: Air New Zealand
operates up to seven direct flights, per week, between Auckland and Samoa.
Fares start from $270 per person, one way.
swimming: Green turtle swimming is available at the Satoalepai wetlands on
the northwest coast of Savaii. Cost is $10. You can stay in one of the six
over-water fales for $90 a night.
information: Check out the Samoa
Alanah May Eriksen flew to Samoa with Air
New Zealand and was accommodated by Aggie Grey's Hotel and Aggie Grey's Resort
on Upolu and Suifaga Beach Resort and Le Lagoto Resort in Savaii.
Source: NZ Herald (www.nzherald.co.nz)