A no-frills break on the island of Savaii proves uniquely soothing, writes Vaimoana Tapaleao
SSHH ... KRRR ... SSHH ... KRRR. Ah, the sound of the ocean. It's something I have loved since I was a child. It's a soothing sound to fall asleep to and it's the song that stirs me awake on this particular morning.
I'm staying at the Vacations Beach Fales in Savaii, in my motherland of Samoa. It's a resort made up of several traditional huts, called fale, that offer tourists a unique cultural experience.
With just a bed and a mosquito net, for some it's living rough, but there's something special about sleeping next to the sea and waking to its sound each morning.
Getting up to a scene that's far from what you're used to at home also has its perks. No high-rise buildings, fast cars or city buzz; but a tropical view of the Pacific, palm trees and golden sand.
Just a few tourists are staying here, which is lovely, as a resort that's teeming with people can sometimes defeat the purpose of getting away from it all.
Most people I speak to say they chose the beach fale option, as opposed to the resorts, precisely in order to get away from what they are used to.
A German couple and their two children love it here, they tell me. "I went swimming yesterday morning and the water was so clear, it was amazing," the woman says. Laughing, she points to a spot where she almost drowned and warns that it's not a place to take children swimming. Being named after the sea, you might think I was a good swimmer - I'm not - so I take a mental note of this. It's better to take kids about 10 minutes away to the Le Lagoto Beach Resort.
Another favourite activity among the tourists is snorkelling. The area's marine animals, for some reason, are not scared to approach you, so there are plenty of colourful fish to see up close.
Many tourists I meet are here to do absolutely nothing. But there are others keen to see more of Samoa and its culture, and they head out with a tour guide to see some secret treasures.
Among the best of these is the Taga Blowholes, where jets of water shoot out of holes in the volcanic rock that stretches along the coast. Depending on the tide, the water can shoot up to 30m into the air - sometimes higher. If you're feeling brave, chuck a coconut into one of the holes and watch it fly (but remember to run away before it comes back to earth).
Another favourite with tourists is seeing how traditional Samoan siapo (tapa cloth) is made. There's a family in the village of Taga that has taken it up as a business. A woman uses a small knife to remove strips of bark from a branch and then begins to pound it with a large mallet.
The result is a slightly soggy, crumpled bit of paper that is stretched and then dried before it is painted with diluted clay.
Later, we head back to the Le Lagoto Beach Resort to dine on traditional Samoan cuisine, including raw fish, pork and luau (made from taro leaves and coconut milk). Yum.
A fiafia night - a celebration - is being held and the tourists are on their feet, dancing and singing with the cultural group.
Later that night, I head back to my fale, where I fall asleep to the sound of the moana ... bliss.
Getting there: Air NZ offers up to seven direct flights a week between Auckland and Samoa. Fares start from $270 per person, one way.
Where to stay: Vacations Beach Fales are on the web at www.vacationsbeachfales.com
Further information: See www.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 Savaii.
Source: New Zealand Herald