Turtle swimming off the coast of Savai'i in Samoa overlay

Getting to Know Samoa's Native Wildlife

From swimming with turtles to seeing endangered endemic birds or meeting an immigrant population of goldfish there is wildlife galore to explore in Samoa.

Samoa’s beautiful tropical climate, lush jungles and diverse landscapes lend itself well to a varied array of colourful birds and animals, while its colourful coral reefs present a whole new world to explore.

Whether you’ve come to relax on Samoa’s beaches and snorkel among the vividly hued fish or are on a targeted wildlife discovery quest, these islands won't disappoint.



Sea turtles are seen regularly in the lagoons of Samoa. Whether you see one as you snorkel or explore is a matter of chance.

While you might be lucky and see lots of turtles during your stay, they can generally be elusive.

To improve your chances of a wild turtle encounter during your Samoan holiday, book in with one of the several companies that offer swimming with turtle tours.

Marine mammals

Many species of dolphins frequent Samoa’s waters, and porpoises and whales migrate through the ocean that surrounds the fringing reefs.

Spotting them is just a matter of luck. Ask at your accommodation, seek information from the locals or just head out and cross your fingers.



Samoa is a magnificent place for bird watching, and you don’t need to go far off the beaten track to see some truly special and unusual species – in fact, just head for the nearest forest.

Samoa has 10 endemic bird species and about 16 of the 34 land species are unique to the island.

Endangered endemic birds include the Tooth Billed Pigeon (Manumea), Crimson Crowned Fruit Dove (Manutagi) or Red-Headed Parrot Finch (Manu Ai Pa`u La`au).

A great spot for bird watching, and in particular for a chance to see the tooth-billed pigeon, is the Tafua Crater on Tafua Peninsula Reserve, near Salelologa on Savai’i.

On Upolu, Dave Barker’s Eco-Lodge offers a good vantage point to spot a wide range of Samoan birds in the forests around and below the establishment. 

To see pe'ape'a (little swiflets), visit Pe'ape'a Cave which is located deep within the O le Pupu Pu’e National Park on Upolu's south coast. A guide is highly recommended for this walk.

For seabirds, the Coastal Walk on Upolu's south coast and loop track around Manono Island are great ways to spot some of the more common species.

Flying foxes

At the end of each hot afternoon, grab a cold drink, settle down in a chair and look up – you may just spot a Samoan Flying Fox soar overhead.

This animal is actually not so much fox as a very large bat, but don’t let that deter you from trying to see one of these impressive creatures.

Found in Samoa, American Samoa and Fiji but considered a near-threatened species – particularly after it was hunted in the 1980s as a luxury food item - the flying fox owes its name to its pointed fox-like face. You’ll generally spot them flying around in most areas, but particularly forested places, in the early morning and late afternoon as they head off in search of food.

A good place to catch sight of a flying fox is at Tafua Crater in Tafua Peninsula Reserve, not far from Salelologa on Savai’i. Or near the coast wherever there are trees that they swoop between.

Or book an early morning tour to visit 'Bat Island' (Nu'ulopa Island) - a small uninhabited island in the Apolima Strait, and home to hundreds of flying foxes that return to roost every dawn.

Reef fish

Samoa’s coral reefs that surround the islands are home to some 900 fish species and over 200 varieties of coral.

Heading out on the reef with a snorkel or in a kayak is bound to be an experience never to forget, whatever you happen to see that day. Keep an eye out for eagle rays and turtles, but be sure to enjoy the vivid colours of the tropical fish you’ll encounter along the way too.


Wait, what? Yes, in Samoa you can see goldfish in the wild – in the water-filled crater of an extinct volcano, no less.

Their presence is reportedly thanks to a German settler who one day decided to release goldfish in Lake Lanoto’o, Samoa’s largest lake in the Upolu highlands, during the 19th century.

Apparently the lake was a favoured recreational spot for German settlers while Samoa was under their country’s rule, and releasing the fish went directly against a law banning the introduction of exotic species in Samoa.

Of course, the released goldfish duly added to their numbers over time to create today’s wild population.

Today’s goldfish, which may take some eagle-eyed spotting, can be reached on foot, over a 5km long track. Although work to improve the track has been carried out, a guide is highly recommended to prevent getting lost.