Katrina Lobley finds the fales and restaurants reopening on Samoa's tsunami-ravaged south coast.
Lumepa Apelu is almost apologetic, pointing to a menu of just a dozen items framed with flowers on the wall of her family's shiny new beach restaurant. On a quiet Monday in January we're the first customers of the day, pulling in for lunch at Lalomanu on the south-east tip of Upolu, Samoa's main island.
Almost four months earlier, Lalomanu - with its ridiculously picturesque coastline framed with coconut trees and dotted with beach fales standing just metres from the baby-blue waters - took the brunt of a series of deadly waves.
The September 29 tsunami claimed about 200 lives and wiped out the restaurant that previously stood on this spot servicing guests at the family's Taufua Beach Fales - semi-enclosed huts with such a pretty outlook that Samoan families often came here, too, to holiday alongside tourists.
Taufua's 18 fales - along with all the neighbouring ones - are gone. The only clue they ever existed is a battered sign propped against the new restaurant and bar, which opened for business just three days earlier.
Former guests, expats and friends came from all over to celebrate the opening, as symbolic as the first eucalyptus leaves sprouting after an Australian bushfire. They ate themselves silly, then camped overnight on the restaurant's floor. It was, by all accounts, quite a party. But as we wait for our plates of crisp battered tuna, chips and salad to arrive, my companion tells me the tsunami also killed one of Lumepa's two young daughters.
As we pay the bill, I can't ask Lumepa directly about her loss; her sadness is as visible as a black mourning dress. Instead, I ask if it was a difficult decision to rebuild the shattered business.
"You have to rebuild in memory of your loved ones," she says. "If we didn't rebuild, we wouldn't be showing them love and respect. This shows we still think about our loved ones."
Her uncle, Fuimaono Taufua, lives in New Zealand but made a beeline to Lalomanu when he heard how the tsunami had devastated the clan - he reels off the relatives lost - and organised a building team. Now the restaurant's up and running, he plans to get cracking on the first fale tomorrow (five fales have since been rebuilt, with more under construction).
The psychologist Dr Pamela Connolly, married to comedian Billy Connolly, is well known in these parts - her company, Frangipani Productions, has made stars of several Samoans and she once retraced the South Sea travels of Fanny Stevenson, the wife of Samoa's most famous resident, Robert Louis Stevenson. Late last year, she spoke on Sydney radio about the incredible resilience of the Samoans. Now I'm beginning to understand what she means. Uncle says that those lost "are still alive to us". "We loved the people who lost their lives here," he says. "They were lost here and they are still here."
It's a sentiment that's been given a dark twist of late. In a nation full of myths and legends - a far-fetched story accompanies pretty much every Samoan landmark - some are gossiping about ghosts haunting the tsunami-wrecked area (which runs from Saleaaumua on the non-touristy east coast to Maninoa on the south coast; about 20 kilometres west of Maninoa lies the area where two seasons of Survivor were filmed back-to-back last year, pre-tsunami). My companion from Apia, who spent the night of the tsunami making soup and hot dogs and collecting bottled water to sustain emergency workers the next day, shakes his head in disgust at the rumours. Lumepa's family and others who are rebuilding are desperate for visitors to return; that kind of talk isn't helpful.
As we leave, we notice the family is following a post-tsunami suggestion to use traditional thatch roofing instead of corrugated iron (which killed and maimed many in the disaster). The suggestion - made at a meeting in November when those in the tourism industry looked at ways they could move forward - came from the owner of the Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa, Joe Annandale, who lost his wife, Tui, in the disaster (the Sinalei plans to reopen on April 1).
Heading for the Cross Island Road that will return us to Apia, we press on westwards along the south coast. To be frank, it's still a wreck. There's little heavy machinery; much of the cleaning up is done by hand. Everywhere are concrete slabs that were once part of somebody's home or an open-walled meeting house. Others that withstood the seawater are crowned with twisted iron, while random structures stand miraculously untouched. A sign announces Habitat for Humanity volunteers are busy building a house.
At Saleapaga there's a motley collection of fales sandwiched between sea and road. The owner of the Faofao Beach Fales, Koroseta Legalo, rebuilt her fales, restaurant and bar a mere six weeks after the tsunami, figuring it was a waste of time waiting for a cheque to arrive. You can't help but admire her determination. If I didn't already have a bellyful of lunch, I would have pulled in here for another meal to support the family's efforts.
Lots of visitors will come to Samoa and submerge themselves in the other parallel universe here, the one where you slide down mossy waterfalls as though you're 14 again, snorkel among technicolour fish, take the ferry over to the even more beautiful "big island" of Savai'i, work on your tan, swim with turtles, lounge in the hotel pool and slurp cocktails.
I did all of that and could have returned home sated by those adventures. Going to the south coast wasn't without some fear - the main one being that I'd feel like a voyeur of the worst kind or that people might stare me down or shout at me as a nosy intruder. It turned out to be the best thing I did in Samoa. It was an emotional lesson in optimism, in how people can survive the worst and pick themselves back up.
At Satitoa, on the east coast, as I watch young guys shovelling beach sand into a truck, Sinapi Lemalu tells me he's turning this sand into bricks for his new house to save on the cost of building materials. We sit on what remains of his former home and he talks openly and easily about what happened, who he lost and how he's rebuilding further inland.
He is, he says, grateful for the help from New Zealand and Australia. And then - heartbreakingly - he smiles for my camera, as though it were just another day in paradise.
The writer was a guest of the Samoa Tourism Authority, Aggie Grey's hotels and Le Lagoto Resort on Savai'i.
Polynesian Blue flies from Sydney to Apia. Phone 13 16 45, see polynesianblue.com .
Rent a car in Apia to travel to the south coast or hire a taxi for the day — expect to pay between 200 and 300 tala ($88-$132). If you swim, snorkel or surf, remember all land belongs to someone and you will need to pay a small fee.
WHERE TO STAY
The garden bungalows at Aggie Grey's Hotel and Bungalows in Apia are the last word in old-fashioned South Pacific glamour. Ask for No. 93 if you're a Marlon Brando fan. $US130 ($145) single, $US160 double/twin a night, see www.aggiegreys.com .
Aggie Grey's Lagoon Beach Resort & Spa is 10 minutes' drive from the international airport and five minutes' drive from the Savai'i ferry, $US200 a night. See www.aggiegreys.com .
On Savai'i, the boutique Le Lagoto Resort, near Fagamalo in the north, fronts one of Samoa's best snorkelling beaches; $US220 a night for oceanview bungalows, $US275 a night for the unbeatable beachfront bungalows. See www.lelagoto.ws .
On the south coast, visit the Samoa Tourism Fale in Apia, open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm and Saturday 8am-noon, for the latest information about accommodation and eating options along Upolu's south coast or see samoa.travel .
I have just returned home from Apia and participation at the three-day TIDES Samoa tourism conference that attracted 180 delegates from around the South Pacific and well beyond.
Most encouraging as outcomes was agreement to strengthen regional co-operation and collaboration in key areas that include destination marketing and branding, airline services and investment.
Also, the theme of sustainability was emphasised to help achieve lasting environmental, social and economic outcomes to benefit local communities.
The people of Samoa once again proved to be generous and wonderful hosts to all those involved at the conference - thank you.
My colleagues and I are already looking forward to returning to this amazing island nation. Green Samoa is so well endowed with a rich diversity of natural and cultural heritage, environment, attractions and much more.
The opportunities from well planned and developed sustainable tourism will help to secure prosperity for the current and future generation of Samoans.
This can and must include adaptation measures to make its people more resilient to the effects of human-induced global warming and climate changes.
We look forward to exploring ways to work in partnership with the Samoan community and its stakeholder organisations to meet these challenges in strategic and practical ways.
Some of the best outcomes will be those local projects that have strong leadership, inclusive consultation and engagement, integration, collaboration, commitment, courage and creativity. Some fun and humour will also help to sustain us along that journey.
SOURCE: Samoa Observer20 February, 2010 permalink
Samoa has taken the next step up to improve the tourism industry.
This week Samoa and many tourism organisations from across the globe will discuss key factors on how to promote the industry.
The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) with the help of Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) held the Tourism Investment for the Development of Enterprise and Sustainability (TIDES) conference.
PATA is a membership association which motivates the responsibility of development in the Asia Pacific Travel and tourism industry.
“We are here to stimulate tourism in Samoa,” said Pacific director Chris Flynn.
“To look at areas with potential and to offer advice on how tourism could be better for Samoa.”
TIDES was a planning process from 2006, until 2010 when Samoa has hosted the first TIDES conference. The organisation was developed as a stepping stone to showcase plans and activities that will boost and strengthen the tourism industry throughout the South Pacific.
The TIDES conference in Samoa focuses on five key ideas to help develop and improve tourism.
• Regional Access (air and sea)
• Marketing and Branding
• Linkages (with other industries)
TIDES also offers:
• A Business to Business (B2B) networking programme in support of new investment and new business partnerships
• An interactive discussion framework designed to promote innovation and new thinking in travel and tourism.
• And a social program which will showcase the best of Samoan hospitality.
“We hope that we are not here just talking to everyone,” said managing director of Keystone Corporate Positioning Donna Meredith.
“We don’t want this to be just another conference, we really want this conference to have huge impact on Samoa’s tourism industry.”
Keystone is also part of the tourism industry.
There are 24 countries including Samoa who are apart of TIDES Samoa 2010.
SOURCE: Samoa Observer18 February, 2010 permalink
New TIDES and a new Miss Samoa were making new waves in Samoa last night.
Samoa welcomed to its shores a flood of delegates attending the very first Tourism Investment for the Development of Enterprise and Sustainability (TIDES) Samoa Programme that began yesterday, Wednesday 17th February 2010 at the Aggie Greys Lagoon Beach Resort & Spa.
In a wave of support at the TIDES Samoa Official Opening yesterday evening, the more than 150 participants from around the globe and the local tourism sector warmly welcomed Tavalea Nilon as she made her first appearance as Miss Samoa.
Great news for a new beginning, the TIDES Event has definitely kicked off to an exhilarating start.
“TIDES is the starting point for driving tourism in Samoa and the Pacific,” emphasized Greg Duffell, Pacific Asia Travel Association’s Chief Executive Officer in his Opening Address, after calling for a moment of silence for the victims of the Sept 09 tsunami that struck Samoa and neighbouring islands.
One focal point to be taken away from this ‘critical and strategic conference for Samoa, the Pacific and the entire region’, as pointed out by Duffell, is the ability to ‘understand the unique beauty of the islands and understanding the unique products they can provide’ to the outside world.
The Hon. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Misa Telefoni Retzlaff feels that to be able to give visitors something unique and of value, the Pacific Island Nations need to give more of themselves.
“We must have a passionate love affair with the country, because if we’re not passionate about our own country, we can’t be passionate about selling the South Pacific, and we’re not going to be able to get to people to want to come and visit.”
Such passion is what has been the deciding factor for Tavalea Nilon who has opted to defer her academic studies and take on the role of Miss Samoa.
“This is my home…this is my country… I want to be able to give something back. I’m excited, I’m challenged…I believe I can be a good Ambassador of Samoa as Miss Samoa.’
Is she perturbed by the events leading up to her taking on the Miss Samoa role?
“That was before my time…my focus is now…I am honored to be given this once in a lifetime opportunity at this particular moment and with the support of my family, friends and our people, I will strive to make my country proud.”
Such feelings of pride and unity in the Pacific region of what each island nation has to promote to foreign investors will be echoed throughout the next two days as the TIDES conference sessions and exhibitions continue.
The TIDES will conclude at the Official Closing tomorrow, Friday 19th February 2010 with Miss Samoa, Tavalea Nilon etching in the minds of the overseas delegates a brief but lasting imprint of Samoa as she performs the ‘taualuga’ bidding them farewell as they leave Samoa’s shores.
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 little unnerving.
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 from predators.
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.
They're not 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 reptiles.
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.
An Australian 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.
Admittedly there 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.
Satoalepai 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.
Getting there: Air New Zealand operates up to seven direct flights, per week, between Auckland and Samoa. Fares start from $270 per person, one way.
Turtle 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.
Further information: Check out the Samoa Tourism Authority.
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)
Four cruise ships are set to grace the Apia waterfront starting with the P&O Line Cruise Ship Arcadia which arrives today.
Local agents, Pacific Forum Line, say there will be 1,852 passengers and 873 crew members on board.
This is the maiden voyage for Arcadia. The Samoa Ports Authority (SPA) will be presenting a plaque to mark occasion.
Tomorrow, another cruise ship Saga Ruby arrives.
Local agent Polynesian Shipping Line say the company has become fond of Samoa as a destination to sail to.
The influx of cruise ship visits is increasing with the number of firm bookings. It is evident of efforts by Samoa to promote our country as a destination during the Miami Seatrade Convention, Florida.
Another cruise ship, the Balmor
al, is expected to arrive on 19 February. Transam Samoa Ltd is the local agent.
The fourth cruise ship is the MS Albatross which is being brought in by the Samoa Shipping Services (SSS).
“The economic benefits of not only much needed foreign exchange but also business as usual for the islands is sure to keep everyone busy for this month,” the Samoa Ports Authority said in a statement.
“Samoa Ports Authority will be again setting up Handicraft and souvenir stalls on the wharf.
“Samoa Tourism Authority shall be providing the meet and greet with its STA dance troupe for the expected Cruise Ship visits.
“The continuous swells in the harbor and bad weather had affected the arrival of other cruise ships in the previous month which was unfortunate as the principals had to cancel at the last minute.
“It is hoped that good weather permit and that the people of Samoa will make our visitors feel welcome here in our beautiful islands as 2010 promises to be the year for Cruise Ship visits.”
SOURCE: Samoa Observer12 February, 2010 permalink
The Samoa Tourism Authority’s plan to launch a major television advertising campaign in Australia has been temporarily shelved as concerns mount the destination is being swamped by the discount deals offered by its rivals.
The country is recovering from the devastating tsunami last September, with a series of roadshows taking place around Australia (see pg 3). The Authority launched a $150,000 television campaign in November in partnership with Viva Holidays, with plans to roll out a larger campaign in February (Travel Today, October 26).
Lorenzo McFarland, the Samoa Tourism Authority’s Australian marketing representative, told Travel Today the campaign has been delayed by two months as the government ploughs money into rebuilding projects.
He stressed other promotional activity will not be impacted. “We still have the existing allocations for press advertising with wholesalers, that is not affected,” he added.
A smaller online campaign has also launched in partnership with Yahoo.
Meanwhile, McFarland said the raft of deals in the market from rival destinations was making it very hard to compete.
“Fiji has air deals from $150 return. It is swallowing us up,” Macfarland said.
He hopes to hold talks with Polynesian Blue – the only carrier to fly direct from Australia to Samoa – about the possibility of cutting fares to drive demand. Polynesian Blue flights between Australia and Apia were 50% full.
The roadshow will continue in Brisbane tonight, before moving to Adelaide on the 10th and Melbourne on the 11th.
SOURCE: Travel Weekly01 February, 2010 permalink
Survivor's Jeff Probst brings his thirst for adventure home to inspire young adults to pursue their dreams
“The adventure you’re ready for is the one you get!” Jeff Probst told the world last September when he accepted his second Emmy as outstanding reality show host. Crisscrossing the globe for a decade as the face of Survivor, a show that cracked open the whole notion of reality television, Probst’s adventures seem endless. He has camped out for months in the Amazon jungle and Australian Outback, not to mention an island paradise or two.
But for 47-year-old Probst, adventure encompasses more than Survivor-style challenges; life’s journey as a whole, including the tough choices, lessons learned and prep work, readies him for the next opportunity.
He’s grateful for those opportunities, as well as the people who encouraged him to dream big and pursue his goals. But he knows not all kids are so lucky. “There’s this magnificent world out there, and as much of it is yours as you’re willing to take,” says Probst, who tries to convey that message to disadvantaged young people through his work with The Serpentine Project, a personalized mentorship program for L.A. youth who leave foster care when they turn 18.
Probst’s own adventurous spirit took root early on. The eldest of three boys, growing up in Wichita, Kan., he was influenced as a teen by the books of Joseph Campbell, the late comparative mythology author whose philosophy was best described in his phrase, “Follow your bliss.” Campbell believed everyone experiences a “Hero’s Journey” involving personal growth and change, a theory he put forth in his best-known work, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, first published in 1949.
Probst paid homage to Campbell during his Emmy acceptance speech, paraphrasing the author’s message, which continues to shape his own outlook.
Still, the young Probst didn’t dream too far beyond his Midwestern boundaries. “We lived in Kansas and that was the end of it,” he says, until his dad’s new job uprooted the 15-year-old and landed him in a busy metropolis sporting a Space Needle. The move to the Seattle area “opened my eyes up to a new way of looking at the world,” he says.
“One thing I’ve learned is you are the measurer of your success, and that’s something that can easily get lost in job titles or how much money you make or awards you’re given for your performance at work,” Probst says. “But the truth is that only you truly determine if you’re successful or not.”
Although Probst relishes his accomplishments and the tangible aspects of his celebrity, it’s the personal progress he’s made for which he’s proudest. “I’ve worked the hardest on how to become a better person on this planet,” he says. “There are certainly people who do a lot better things than I do and more often, but I’m a better person than I was yesterday, and that’s the measure of success that I hold myself to.”
Countless starry nights in makeshift homes on location in jungles and on beaches have given Probst opportunities to contemplate the world and his place in it. “Survivor has been the greatest gift ever,” he says. Finding himself living in Kenya or on the island of Samoa for four months at a time, Probst is witness to a broader sense of life, where food, culture, religion, even the way women and men are treated socially, is different.
Laughter, however, seems a common denominator. Probst recalls pickup volleyball or soccer games with residents on Samoa. “They are all laughing, even when they are in competition. There’s never taunting or making fun of somebody for hitting a bad shot. It’s fun. There’s laughter. They’re playing.”
Despite economic hardships unfathomable to most Americans, life and play is celebrated, and that has made an impression on Probst. “I’m here for an uncertain amount of time and I want to get the most out of it. Part of that is things that I want to achieve in work, but the more I travel and the more experiences I have with Survivor around the world, the more I realize that I also want to live, I want to laugh and I want to love.”
Teaching Kids to Dream
That philosophy includes leveraging his celebrity for the greater good. Probst helps raise money and awareness for The Serpentine Project, whose mentors help young adults develop action plans to reach their goals—which can include voc-tech classes, college or internships—then apply for Life Grants for tuition, books and supplies, rent assistance and medical costs directly related to their individualized goals.
“Our goal is really simple: to teach these kids how to dream and get their minds to open up to the Joseph Campbell idea, The adventure you’re ready for is the one you get ,?” he says.
Probst also has helped raise money and awareness for the American Red Cross, which provided assistance to tsunami-ravaged Samoa shortly after the 20th season of Survivor wrapped shooting there.
Celebrating Survivor’s 20th season, which airs in February, is perhaps even more poignant considering Mother Nature’s devastation. While the concept for this new season took some backroom wrangling, Probst says, “We came up with an idea that we felt really encompassed what Survivor has been about for the last 20 seasons.… It’s pretty clear that if you’re a Survivor fan, then you’re going to enjoy this.” The new season will feature 20 of Survivor’s former contestants competing on two teams—the heroes and the villains.
Returning after four months in Samoa, Los Angeles hits like a freight train moving 100 mph—texting, BlackBerrys, jobs, traffic. Among Survivor’s enduring lessons, Probst says, is that he is not the center of the universe and his all-important schedule is just his stuff to deal with. “Man, there’s balance,” Probst says—a lesson Americans could learn from the islanders of Samoa.
SOURCE: Beth Douglass Silcox February 1, 2010, SUCCESS Magazine
Excerpts taken from article link: http://www.successmagazine.com/jeff-probst-a-survivors-perspective/PARAMS/article/987#