samoa samoa

11 MAY 2014

Bewitched by Beauty

Samoa is a laid-back paradise, writes Nina Karnikowski.

When I was 10 years old, I had a teacher who was completely enamoured with Samoa. I recall her getting misty-eyed as she talked about its natural beauty and I wondered, as I cut the silhouette of what I imagined Samoa might look like (a lump with a palm tree sticking out of it) from black cardboard, what could be so special about this small glob of land.

Two decades later, as my husband and I arrive on the wooden deck of our villa at Samoa's Seabreeze Resort, I begin to understand.

The deck, shaped like the bow of a ship, juts out from a rocky outcrop and is surrounded by 270-degree views of azure ocean. To our right is the private lagoon that the 11-villa resort hugs. Behind us is lush, vine-choked rainforest. And directly in front of us - a black rock islet with a palm tree sticking out of it.

It's utterly bewitching.

As I learnt those two decades ago, Samoa's two main islands are Upolu and Savai'i (Seabreeze is on the former, about an hour's drive from the capital, Apia). The country has almost no crime, thanks to an indigenous form of governance called fa'amatai, and, as I discover the next morning while preparing to head to a traditional Samoan church service, almost no ownership.

I'm keen to attend church because I've heard wonderful things about the devoutly religious Samoans' gospel singing. The only problem is, I don't have the appropriate white lavalava sarong to wear.

"One of our staff has one," the owner of Seabreeze assures me, "and in Samoa there's no ownership, so if she has one, you have one."

Sure enough, within 10 minutes I'm wrapped in a fresh white lavalava and am being driven to church, past the traditional open-walled houses, or fales, that highlight how loosely the Samoans grasp their possessions.

The service is magic. The locals are clad head to toe in white, the women with elegant hats perched on their heads, and almost everyone is waving palm-leaf fans to combat the morning heat. Listening to the deep, resonant voices singing gospel hymns, as ceiling fans lazily shift the smoke-infused air emanating from the Sunday umus (earth ovens), is just about as close to a religious experience as I'm likely to get.

From this point on, my husband and I effortlessly slip into the lackadaisical rhythm of Samoan life.

By day, we swim and snorkel in the warm waters of Seabreeze's lagoon, watching tropical fish of the most startling colours dart around the rocks and midnight-blue starfish spread themselves across the seabed. We take the resort's glass-bottomed kayaks out for a paddle to the neighbouring deserted beaches, where we climb about in hollowed-out trees and watch dozens of hermit crabs, some just a couple of millimetres long, scuttle over sea-buffed chunks of silvery driftwood. We indulge in a massage on our deck and a glass of bubbles in our very own plunge pool, and are served a dinner of local tuna carpaccio on our deck. Samoa is the first place in the world to see the sunset, a fact of which we remind ourselves as we watch the sky become a technicolour dream of tangerines and starburst yellows.

By night, we laze on our deck's outdoor circular lounge, gazing up at the thick blanket of stars and talking in a way we haven't had a chance to in months. We leave the doors and the slatted glass windows surrounding our spacious suite open, and fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing all around us.

It's all our island holiday dreams come true, and the perfect pause in the forward thrust of our lives.

Eventually, at about the day three mark, we manage to peel ourselves away from Seabreeze and begin exploring the island. A fellow guest got us excited about nearby Vavau Beach: "It's just like the one in the movie The Beach, only better!" he enthused. And, after traipsing rainforest paths by the sea, past a couple of seemingly deserted fales and two young local boys who ask us for 5 tala (about $2.60) each for entry, we discover he was absolutely right. Another palm-fringed crystalline lagoon surrounded by that vine-choked rainforest, Vavau Beach is the kind of place that makes you want to get a bit wild.

We paddle out to the mouth of the ocean and when we spot a hole in the rock face that protects the beach we scramble through and find ourselves facing a string of even more idyllic lagoons. It feels as though we're the first travellers ever to have discovered them.

Just 10 minutes' walk away is the famous To Sua trench, which costs 15 tala ($7) to enter and that immediately transports us to a surreal dream world. Sunken 30 metres into the earth and surrounded by lush green grasses, it's actually a giant tidal hole that formed when the roof of a lava tube collapsed. We manage to stop photographing it for just long enough to descend the steep ladder for a dip, and watch a couple of mad Danish tourists dive in from the lip.

As time slowly inches forward, we discover more of these breathtaking and deeply affecting natural wonders, all of which are virtually devoid of tourists and totally devoid of touts. There's the Piula cave pool, a freshwater swimming hole that reaches into a series of caves with an underwater cavity leading to a secret exit; Papapapaitai Falls, which tumble 100 metres into a vast green gorge; Lalomanu Beach on the south coast, a palm-fringed white slash of sand dividing blue water and green craggy volcanic peaks, ringed by candy-coloured beach huts; the Pupu Pu'e national park's coastal walk, which weaves through a pandanus forest and emerges at an expansive field of wrinkly lava, created when a nearby volcano erupted 3000 years ago, and now pockmarked with blowholes fed by the ocean.

All visits are accompanied by a symphony of cicadas and gently falling waves, and legends whispered by gentle, friendly locals.

Our favourite is the tale of Sina and the Eel, which tells of a beautiful girl, Sina, who, when her pet eel fell in love with her, got scared and asked the village chiefs to kill him. As the eel was dying, he asked Sina to plant his head in the ground, from which a coconut tree grew.

That's why, say the Samoans, when the husk is removed from a coconut there are three circular marks that appear like the face of the eel - one of these is pierced for drinking the coconut, so whenever Sina took a drink she was kissing the eel, forever more.

My husband and I can't look at our coconuts the same way for the rest of our trip - and we see a lot of them. We drink at least one each day, and they're used every which way in the fresh local cuisine - palusami, a spinach and coconut-infused dip, is a favourite.

On our final night, as we sit half-submerged in Seabreeze's ocean-front infinity pool sipping our last local Vailima beer, I find myself getting misty-eyed and spare a thought for my teacher. This beautiful place has certainly cast its spell on me, too.

The writer travelled courtesy of Seabreeze Resort Samoa.

GETTING THERE
From Sydney, it's a five-hour flight with Virgin Australia to Samoa. See virginaustralia.com.

STAYING THERE
Seabreeze Resort offers 11 rooms for couples and families, starting at $325 a night, including breakfast. Honeymoon Point House (the villa in which we stayed) has a minimum three-night stay, at $557 a night including breakfast. Full and half-day tours of the island are run by Seabreeze in-house staff. Charter boat fishing can also be arranged. Traditional Samoan handicraft lessons are held on Fridays, followed at 6pm by the Seabreeze staff's own Fiafia show - including traditional dancing, singing and fire twirling on the beach - and Samoan feast. See seabreezesamoa.com.

MORE INFORMATION
samoa.travel.

THREE OTHER THINGS TO SEE AND DO
CULTURE STOP
The Samoa Cultural Village, in the heart of Upolu's capital, Apia, is a good place to stop off on day one or two if you're keen to get familiar with the local traditions and culture. Watch demonstrations of carving, weaving, umu and handicrafts-making, and, if you time your visit right, see a wince-inducing full-body tattooing session take place. While you're in "town" (Apia is small), have a peek inside the flea market (conch shells, carved bowls and shell necklaces all feature prominently), and stop off for top-notch local flavours at Bistro Tatau. See bistrotatau.ws.

TREASURE TROVE
Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, had fabulous taste. You will discover this if you visit his stately mansion-turned-museum in Vailima, in which he wrote and lived for the five years before his death in the 1890s. If you're feeling energetic, take the 40-minute uphill hike to the author's tomb at the top of Mount Vaea behind the house. It's 20 tala (about $9.30) for entry, tour and, if you're lucky, a song. See rlsmuseum.com.

WATERSLIDE
Papaseea Sliding Rocks, a series of mossy waterfalls that function as a natural waterslide, is 6 kilometres from Apia town. They're definitely worth a whoosh, but make sure you check there's enough water in there before you make the effort to head over. Entry is 2 tala (about 90 cents).



05 MAY 2014

Samoa: treasured islands in the South Pacific



20 APRIL 2014

Just another day in Samoa

Content by House of Travel

PARADISE NEVER ENDS: Behind every cluster of palm trees lies a beautiful stretch of golden beach awaiting your visit.


If you're looking for paradise, then head to the South Pacific shores of Samoa.

Behind every cluster of palm trees lies a beautiful stretch of golden beach awaiting your visit.

Check out one of these sunny Samoan spots you're sure to fall in love with - why not book that holiday time now and start packing your bags?

Lalomanu Beach
On Upolu, Samoa's most populated island, you'll find Lalomanu Beach nestled in the south-east. This is one beach not to be missed off your Samoan bucket list, as it's as picture-perfect as a postcard. Plunge into the crystalline waters or simply lounge on the soft sand with a good read. Don't forget about the part where you sip on tropical fruity cocktails.

Aganoa Black Sand Beach
For those craving a little more adventure with their beach journey, Aganoa Black Sand Beach is a great option. The only land access to its pristine shore is via a rather rough and tumble 4WD track, however it can also be accessed by boat from nearby Maninoa.

Once you're there, you can enjoy splashing around or checking out the sheer variety of life in the underwater world with a spot of snorkelling. Expect to see formations of gently swaying coral, schools of colourful fish and other marine animals.

Cape Mulinu'u
Located on Samoa's largest island of Savai'i, Cape Mulinu'u has both natural beauty and historical significance. It's the country's westernmost location, and local legend tells that the dead pass into the underworld here, although you'll likely be too distracted by the palm-fringed golden shores to be worried about that!

Some travellers also know this place as Sandy Beach as it's one of the last places in the world to watch the sunset.

Spend a long, languid day here before saying goodnight.



15 JANUARY 2014

Sleep like a log in sensational Samoa

By Sandy Savos

The first home of the 2013 Australian media group was the Orator Hotel in Tanumapua, Apia. This is a popular place for many Samoans who come here in the summer months because of its cooler temperature compared to the humid capital.

One of the guests at breakfast was a jovial Californian, Robert, who was representing one of the tenders (SunWize) to help Samoa become dependent on solar energy, especially in remote parts of the country.

I was impressed with the Samoans embracing modern technology and keeping up with the world. Recent achievements included Wi-Fi (introduced two years ago), driving on the right-hand side of the road and moving the International Date Line to the left (both actions to conform with Australian and New Zealand standards). FYI: the tala currency is about two for one Australian dollar.

A visual highlight of the Orator Hotel, apart from its appealing bungalow-styled rooms, are its hectares of manicured gardens, with the majority of the plants and trees hand-picked by the owners, Jerry and Charlotte. Craig and I were lounging by the pool when the skies darkened overhead and an almighty bolt of lightning streaked across the sky, followed by an ear-splitting clap of thunder, and most of Upolu Island blacked out until well into the evening. A thunderous applause to nature!

Our second home was straight out of the pages of James Michener’s Pulitzer Prize novel, Tales of the South Pacific. I am talking about Stevensons at Manase, Savai’i Island. No connection to the famous author, this jaw-dropping resort has beach fales (open huts) literally 10 steps from the ocean’s edge. Ten steps to the clean, pristine, sparkling blue Pacific Ocean, with sand so soft and the sea so warm.

The sun had started to sink (ever so slowly), shadows were creeping over the palm trees hugging the water’s edge and my colleagues were enjoying a refreshing swim (it was hot) when I lit my Cohiba cigar and timidly walked into the shallow sea and knew … oh, how, I knew … that I was in paradise. In those splendid moments, everything in my world was perfect. I felt like the main character in Ernest Hemingway’sThe Old Man And The Sea.

We spent two nights at Stevensons, and sleeping in a beach fale was a new, and enjoyable, experience for me. Although they were the resort’s budget accommodation (there are luxury-appointed suites and beach-front villas), I was comfortable … even with the cold showers. I am grateful to Stevensons staff who prepared an umu (such divine flavours), and performed traditional singing and dancing at the resort’s Tusitala Restaurant. Just beautiful to watch and listen.

I did not think the sunset ”dreamtime” could be topped but I was wrong. My media colleagues decided to enjoy an evening swim before bed, and I waded out to join them. There was light from some of the beach fales but not strong enough to dampen the awestruck mood … because the stars, in their thousands, were out that moonless night, and it was a magical, magnificent, exhilarating, enchanting sight. You could not help but gaze in awe. Several of my colleagues saw shooting stars. Did they secretly make a wish?

Our third home was Aggie Grey’s Lagoon Beach Resort & Spa, Mulifanua, just a five-minute drive from Faleolo International Airport, Upolu Island. This four-star resort has serious credentials, boasting 91 hectares (224 acres) of tropical gardens, with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

Aggie-Grey's Lagoon, Beach Resort & Spa Aggie-Grey’s Lagoon, Beach Resort & Spa I came across a white-walled church in the middle of the resort’s manicured gardens and became curious (as most journalists are) why a place of worship ”happened” to be in a place of hospitality. Well, when the resort was being built about four years ago, construction workers uncovered the remains of a 100-year-old church, and it was decided to resurrect it to its former divine glory. Bravo. Applause for giving new life to a remarkable building.

Please, don’t get me wrong; although I enjoyed the beach fale-experience immensely at Stevensons, the fluffy pillows, soft bed, air-conditioning and hot showers in my room at Aggie Grey’s were … divine.

Our fourth home was something ”out of the blue,” something unexpected, something that makes all your senses go into overload and ”blow off” the top of your head … especially after a bumpy ride along a pothole-ridden dirt road which seemingly lead to nowhere!

Sa’ Moana Resort, at Salamumu Beach, Upolu Island, is in a lush coconut grove with absolute beachfront bungalows (2-6 persons), a saltwater swimming pool at the ocean’s edge, and a natural reef within easy view. The 3.5-star resort opened in 1999, originally for surfers and their families to enjoy the waves and just chill out in a breathtaking setting. The two hammocks in the coconut grove were a subtle touch to the theme: total relaxation.

Two delightful (and beautiful) Kiwis had joined the Australian media team at Sa’ Moana: Rachel (campaign manager, House of Travel) and Amelia (journalist, New Zealand Herald). It was not all relaxation for Rachel; she actually came to this beautiful country to work!

”Being on the ground in Samoa, especially during the biggest cultural and sporting events of the year, provided a rare insight into this unique and impressive island nation.” Rachel says. ”Thank you Samoan Tourism Authority! I’m managing the upcoming South Pacific edition of House of Travel’s Inspire Magazine which will be available instore nationwide, online and in the Sunday Star Times. Samoa will be one of the key features in the magazine, and additional to Inspire will be ongoing campaign activity throughout the year, all with an objective of bringing tourists to this stunning island nation.”

OK, so Rachel did have some relaxing moments; it’s hard not to at the pamper-those-guests resorts dotting Samoa. Her thoughts? ”Absolutely stunning! The country is so … photogenic. The people, the land, the sea, everything,” Rachel says. ”The culture is what really stands out to me – the people are so proud, very friendly and absolutely stunning. Add to this the picturesque waterfalls, turquoise seas, powder-fine white sandy beaches, lush tropical rainforests … there’s the colourful buses that blast sweet reggae music and pumping nightclubs, fresh seafood, ice-cold Vailima [local beer], a complete range of accommodation options, the list goes on … mmm yes … Samoa is so … yummy.”

We quickly made friends later with two Victorian surfers who were told of this fascinating place by a friend of theirs, a former staff member. Simon, a financial planner, and Gareth, in construction, came to Samoa on an 11-day surfing and diving holiday. Ah, but the best-laid plans of mice and men …

”We had 50km/h trade winds for two weeks straight which killed all the activities we had planned but to experience the local people and their culture made up for everything,” Simon says. ”On Sunday, we were invited to church where they all sang for two hours and then went back to the high chief’s village to have their traditional umu. Amazing people. I will definitely go back but maybe not pack the surfboards or dive gear next time. Sa’ Moana was good but its staff are the biggest asset. The fact that the resort hires Samoans with such a beautiful temperament made our experience exceptional, despite the unsettled weather.”

Source: Travel With



30 NOVEMBER 2013

Five of the best travel deals

By Merecedes Maguire

Five of the best travel deals featured this bonus offer from Samoa's Seabreeze Resort:

3. MARRAIGE BONUS
Marry for free at the 4.5-star Seabreeze Resort Samoa and save $NZ960 ($A860). The luxury resort is offering couples who stay a minimum of six nights a free wedding ceremony. Also included is Seabreeze choir, a bouquet, minister or celebrant, all fees, licence and administration costs and a wedding planner. Six nights is priced from $NZ2126 a couple and includes return airport transfers and breakfast daily. Valid before March 31 next year and from Nov 1 to Mar 31, 2015.

See seabreezesamoa.com

Source: www.perthnow.com.au (Travel, Escape)



29 NOVEMBER 2013

11 ideas for cheap holidays that aren't Bali or Thailand


By Julian Swallow

BEEN there, done that ... and back for more.

Most Australians believe Bali and Thailand still offer the top bang-for-buck holidays.

But are they right?

A recent Galaxy survey conducted for Escape asked 1000 Australians which destination they rated as the best value for money. Bali and Thailand were the top picks and Australian holidays were rated a distant third when it came to value for money.

The Bali bias was highest in Western Australia, with 46 per cent of West Aussies naming Bali as their discount destination of choice.

Yet, beyond the traditional trips on the beaten path, it's still possible to find affordable breaks filled with sun, sand and surf.

Escape - together with Flight Centre - has unearthed 11 overseas holiday ideas - all for less than $3000 a person - for 2014 that might convince you to finally try somewhere new.

Where are you going this summer?

1. Samoa
It used to be the last place on Earth to welcome each new day. Now, following a sneaky switch across the international date line in 2011, it is the first country on earth to meet the rising sun. And lots of sun there is too! Even better, if you travel here for New Year you can be the first to ring in 2014, with a cocktail drunk from a coconut shell. If that's not reason enough to venture beyond your Pacific comfort zone, add in beaches, waterfalls, rainforests and the resting place of Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island, and you've got a destination that fascinates with its range of possibilities.

What's the deal?
Return flights and six nights' accommodation at the 3-star Insel Fehmarn Hotel with daily buffet breakfast. From $1035 per person (ex Sydney). Offer valid for sale until November 30, 2013. For travel May 1 - June 25, 2014.

Source - www.perthnow.com.au (Travel, Escape)



22 NOVEMBER 2013

Family holiday in the South Pacific


For your family holiday, you need to know you're choosing a destination with something for everyone.

The South Pacific islands are abundant with family-friendly holiday options.

Its warm climate, gently lapping lagoons, friendly locals and laidback atmosphere - not to mention its plethora of adventurous activities - mean that your family time in the Pacific will be enjoyable and memorable.

Any Pacific Island nation is geared up for family fun, but here is a taste of what's on offer.

ALL SMILES IN SAMOA
Samoa's lively, colourful and happy culture is perfect for children - filled with infectious laughter, song and dance that's easy to join into. Filled with stunning scenery, there's always plenty to explore.

Cycle together along the smoothly paved roads lined with plenty of fresh water swimming pools, and stop off so you can cool down along the way.

There is little traffic, so the most you'll need to remember is to smile and wave at local villagers as they pass by. Kids will also love an authentic beach fale experience.

Stay in traditional-style beach hut accommodation, propped above the sand on stilts.

Your kids can make their sandcastles right outside. Don't forget swimming with the turtles, or exploring local swimming holes and lagoons.

HOT TIPS
Learn the local lingo - it's always fun to try and the locals love it! At the very least learn to say hello, please and thank you.

Take Mum and Dad to a traditional local dance and song show and try some local food like taro and breadfruit cooked traditionally in an underground oven.

Go snorkelling and get up close and personal to many friendly, vibrant and tropical fish. If you're old enough you may be able to learn to scuba dive in the resort pool * Visit a local village if you can, to learn how the locals live and play.

Meet up with some of the local kids. Make sure to get their address so that you can write to them when you return home. * Watch the geckos wandering the walls and ceilings of buildings - they're fun to watch and do a great job of keeping the mozzie population down.

Visit the local markets - fun for all ages. You might even get to buy a souvenir here with your pocket money!

How about a day at the beach, swimming, hunting for crabs, building sand castles and flying a kite - cool fun!

Source - www.stuff.co.nz (Inspire Magazine - Content provided by House of Travel)




18 NOVEMBER 2013

Samoa's natural delights


There's truly nowhere quite like Samoa. From the moment you arrive on this idyllic nation's shores, you will be greeted by smiles and the lively 'Talofa' of locals, who are ready to treat you like a treasured friend.

The colourful culture and welcoming attitude is not all you'll find here - Samoa is packed with natural delights like glistening turquoise lagoons, towering volcanic landscapes, blissful beaches and banyan groves, all of which offer once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for adventure or relaxation - whichever holiday type suits you.

There are ten islands that make up Samoa, with Upolu (home to Apia, the nation's capital) and Savai'i as the main two. Each island has its own unique flavour and feel - though all are equally delectable.

Unlike some other crowded Pacific destinations, Samoa very much retains its untouched, pastoral atmosphere - which Samoan secret will you uncover?

A CULTURE OF COLOUR AND SMILES
Visitors to Samoa quickly get used to laughter and grins, thanks to the extremely social culture. Family, friendships and community spirit are the top priority - something reflected in the communal structure of the villages (nu'u).

Churches, houses (fales) and other buildings are brimming with life and an unrivalled togetherness.

The island's abundance of colour is sure to leave an impression. Locals don lavalavas and formal dresses, decorate their homes, buses, fences and even rocks with bold tones.

Another special and important part of Fa'a Samoa - 'the Samoan way' - are the traditions. Check out the song and dance such as the siva afi and taualuga at a unique cultural show for visitors.

You'll leave enchanted by the skill, grace and passion evident in the various dances, ranging from slow and captivating to thrilling and fast.

The fabulous flavour of Samoa is most apparent in its cuisine. Food is all a part of coming together, so you may find yourself invited to a mouth-watering traditional feast called an 'umu'.

Translated to 'earth oven', this ritual gives you an idea of how fresh and homemade the food is - it's cooked outside with hot rocks!

Of course, seafood is a speciality. During the day you might see men out on the rocks catching yellow fin tuna, octopus, lobster and more. Raw fish with coconut cream, bananas and juicy tropical fruits from island plantations round off a perfect meal - but not without an ice cold local Vailima beer!

AUTHENTIC ACCOMMODATION
There's a different type of accommodation to suit every need in Samoa. For one, it's the only place in the Pacific where you can really live like a local in a beach fale amid some million dollar scenery.

That means you get to sleep right on the beach under a thatched roof on wooden posts, and let the gentle lapping of waves lull you to sleep.

Samoa also has multiple luxurious lodgings if you prefer a beachside resort complete with air con. In 2014 there will be a number of new resorts opening for business across Upolu, including the stunning new five star establishment Return To Paradise Resort and Spa.

Nestled in the most spectacular beach in the South Pacific and with Master Chef Simon Gault designing the delectable menu, this resort is definitely worth the wait.

INSPIRING ACTIVITIES AND EXPERIENCES
All year round the breeze and ocean are delightfully warm, so you can always soak up the sun on the beach. Head to Satoalepai Village on Savai'i to swim with sea turtles, or set off to Aganoa Beach on the west coast for some of the most epic breaks in the Pacific.

Hiring snorkel gear is a must - beneath the water's surface at almost every beach across the archipelago there's a glittering rainbow of tropical fish to admire.

When you've had enough of the sand and surf, head out for a walk through the rainforest and discover some awe-inspiring caves, pools and waterfalls. You can even hire a car or bike to take in more of the scenery - and find more photo opportunities.

The adventure doesn't stop with Samoa's natural attractions. Come in September and take part in parades and cultural showcasing for the Teuila Festival, the annual celebration of Samoan culture including the crowning of Miss Samoa.

The Alo Paopao Festival, which takes place at the same time, celebrates outrigging and the culture's boating history. Party on a boat, on the beach and on the pub crawl bus as you enjoy the sweet island beats of international and local entertainers.

Spotlight: TATTOO - The Samoan tatau (tattoo) is very unique, with the traditional method of application still intact in order to keep its integrity and traditions alive.

The traditional men's tatau is the Pe'a and the traditional woman's is the malu. The patterns and structure of the Pe'a goes beyond aesthetics - it's a sign of bravery and more importantly a sign of service.

Samoan sleeves and arm band tattoos have really taken off in New Zealand and worldwide, with Samoans displaying pride in their nation as well as sports stars like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Sonny Bill Williams leading the charge.

The intricate cultural motifs typically replicate the family, journey, culture and ancestors of the person being tattooed - works of art that are unique to each individual.

WHEN TO GO
The most comfortable time to travel is May-Oct, during the dry season. This is also the period when major Samoan festivals are held. In Sep there is the Teuila Festival - a week of dance, parades, sporting matches and parties. If you plan your visit around this you'll need to book early.

Book at least 2 months out from your date of travel to avoid disappointment. Note that a large number of Samoans jet in from NZ during the Dec-Jan holiday period, so get in early.

GETTING THERE
A 3.5 hour flight from Auckland flying Air New Zealand to Apia non-stop five times a week and Virgin Australia also five times a week.

International flights arrive at Faleolo International Airport, 15km west of Apia.

To find out more call 0800 838 747, visit houseoftravel.co.nz or come instore!

Source - www.stuff.co.nz (Inspire Magazine - Content provided by House of Travel)



15 OCTOBER 2013

Relaxing in Samoa


Samoa. The name alone conjures up images of tropical sunsets, fragrant frangipanis, glistening blue waters and the sounds of island drums. Samoa is a tropical destination that remains un-touristy and largely unexplored by the masses.

Kiwis have long had a love affair with a ‘fly and flop’ holiday. With the luxury of the South Pacific on our doorstep, islands such as Fiji and Rarotonga have been the staple holiday getaway for generations.

Samoa is a relative newcomer to the game of tourism. In fact, back when I made my first visit to this Island Paradise in 1989, the main places to stay were Aggie Greys in Apia or the Tusitala which at that time was a businessman’s hotels.

Nowadays, of course, Samoa is all grown up and can offer a range of accommodations to suit all needs, but still remains largely unspoilt and offers a unique and unjaded holiday to those who are over the more travelled alternatives.

Of course Aggies is still there, an institution in Apia, along with its sister resort by the airport. The Tusitala is still there also, but has morphed from a motel type option into a delightful resort with a lovely pool and bar/lobby area just perfect for a few nights in the town.

My two girlfriends and I were treating ourselves. We wanted pampering, top quality, a great beach, good food and wine – and were prepared to pay for the privilege, provided it was reasonable.

What I was interested to find out was if it was possible to get a real 4 or 5 star experience in Samoa and still get to appreciate the ‘Samoan’ way of life – can the combination be achieved without one being sacrificed for the other?

We settled on Sinalei; a high-end, luxury retreat which has a spa and specialises in honeymoons, weddings and relaxing getaways.

One thing always stands out for me when I’m in Samoa – the friendly nature of the people. You will not meet nicer locals anywhere on the planet. Friendly, smiling and always seeming to enjoy your company; I love holidaying here.

The drive to Sinalei from the airport is around 45 minutes and goes the ‘back way’ over the hills so doesn’t pass through the capital of Apia.

On arrival I could see immediately that the facilities at Sinalei were not disappointing. The main lobby, restaurant and pool area were just as I had remembered, and the waterfront bar and restaurant was rebuilt to be a new and improved version of the old.

The addition that I immediately noticed was the spa that had previously been perched at the back of the resort was now broken into individual massage treatment rooms with no windows, built right on the edge of the water – bliss.

After our lovely lunch and cold beer, we were shown to our rooms. And OH what rooms they were. We were lucky enough to have been upgraded to a suite on the water – two rooms which interconnected with a lounge/kitchenette area.

All three rooms had French doors which rolled open to expose a private deck which stepped straight down onto the sand at the waterfront.

The furnishings were amazing – definitely top quality, and the presentation and cleanliness couldn’t be faulted. We also had a bottle of bubbly wine and fruit platter to welcome us, which didn’t go wanting.

The next day dawned bright and sunny and decided to have a morning by the pool then head around the coast to Tafua Beachfront Fales for lunch.

Tafua are some amazing beachfront fale (traditional Samoan housing, which is really just a floor and roof held up by poles, located on Lalomanu beach - the best beach on the island.

Not having a rental car and with limited bus service we decided to catch a taxi. We asked reception to book for us and when we arrived in reception for our pickup there was our taxi waiting. Of course no seat belts, and the door handles didn’t work, but it seemed to drive so in we piled.

It’s about 40 minutes to Lalomanu, and 2 minutes into the trip our driver advised that he had to ‘stop at his mates’ in the next village to get petrol.

We detoured off the main road and into a small village where his mate ran out of his house with a few gallons of petrol and a rubber hose which they proceeded to siphon up and into the car. Hmmmm... in fairness we had noticed that we didn’t pass any gas stations on this side of the island!

All fuelled up and off we set – next stop Lalomanu. The restaurant at Tafua is a very casual cafe style with a menu consisting of fresh fish burgers, hamburgers, sandwiches etc.

The pricing is extremely reasonable, the food fresh and we unanimously agreed at the end of the holiday that this was the best meal of our entire trip. It goes to show that you don’t always need all the fancy trimmings to enjoy an amazing meal.

After our lunch we retired to the beach, which truly is one of the best beaches I’ve ever had the pleasure of swimming in. Crystal clear water, white, white sand speckled with bright blue star fish – it was exactly what my imagination had always pictured that a perfect tropical beach would be like.

Dinner and a quiet night, the next morning in came the rain. And more rain. And more rain. In fact until the day we left, it continued to rain.

We chose to stay close to home for the remainder of the weekend and split our dining options between Sinalei for breakfast and some local cafes or nearby Coconuts for lunch and dinner. The home made muesli with fresh Pawpaw at Sinalei became our fast favourite, with repeat order each and every day!

Nearby resort Coconuts has been through a complete rebuild and seems to be looking to challenge Sinalei for the quality of accommodations. They are priced at around the same level for meals and the food was very nice, but they have a way to go to meet the service standards and immaculate decor of our home resort!

We discovered a local restaurant/cafe at the backpackers in between Sinalei and Coconuts. For less than $10 you could get a great Samoa curry, burger and fries or similar type budget meal. It was really great quality food and filled up with English and Scottish backpackers most evenings for a fun night of dancing, singing and playing pool.

With the weekend over and our flights tomorrow in the early afternoon, our last night involved a bit of dancing on our deck and a soak in our inside ‘plunge pool’ (yes, we had one in our suite!). We all agreed that this was the most luxurious accommodations we’d ever stayed in and we couldn’t fault our room, the view and we just wouldn’t mention the weather!

Samoa seems to have that perfect combination of character, authenticity and yes, they sure know how to bring it in style.

by Jo Wedlock - Content provided by House of Travel

Source: Stuff.co.nz



29 SEPTEMBER 2013

Sensational Samoa: Off the beaten track

Are you looking for a holiday with a difference? Somewhere that offers a unique experience but is light on the pocket? Samoa is a destination that is brimming with culture and an authentic, untouched feel. The best part, it’s only a four hour flight time from New Zealand and you feel like you’re in another world.

To help you on your way, the team at Student Flights have put together some top tips for holidaying in Samoa on a budget.

Camping, Samoan Style

For a culturally enriching experience, make the most of your holiday and stay in a few different places while you’re in Samoa. For an authentic stay that is easy on the pocket, spend a few nights in a Fale - these are very traditional and similar to camping, with a mattress, blanket and mosquito net in your own little bungalow.

Hire a Car

Samoa is quite large and while there is public transport, it’s not always reliable. Hire a car to save yourself some time and frustration - you can organise this before you depart and just collect it at the airport when you arrive. If you decide to stay in Savaii, you can also just take the car over with you on the ferry. A word of warning, if you’re travelling in a ute, don’t sit on the sides of the tray. While you may see some locals doing it, you can be fined.

Stock Up on Essentials

Take advantage of the larger supermarkets when you get a chance. Pre-purchasing things like snacks and large bottles of water will save you money, particularly if you’re staying somewhere remote. If you’re really organised, you could even pack some goodies from home to take with you.

Traditional Food, Yes Please

While there isn’t a huge range of accommodation options available in Upolu and Savaii, if you work with your Student Flights consultant, you can find some real bargains. A lot of the local accommodation providers include breakfast and dinner in your room rate - a great way to front foot your costs and keep your pockets full for activities. Not to mention, it’s often delicious.

Fill ‘er Up

In Samoa, all of the natural attractions come with a price tag for entry. It’s vastly different to the land of the long white cloud and even a quick dip at an attractive looking lagoon could set you back a few Tala. Many of the sights charge either per person, or per car load which often works out to be cheaper if you’re travelling with more people.

Get There

Student Flights is on sale with Samoa holidays including return airfares flying Air New Zealand, four nights accommodation with tropical breakfast daily and return airport transfers from $669- ex Auckland, per person, twin share. Add on a four-day car hire from $99- per person.

-Price subject to availability. Valid for sales until 30 September 2013, unless sold out prior. Travel from 16 Oct - 25 Nov 13, 08 Feb - 31 Mar 14. Airfares based on Air New Zealand Seat + Bag.

For more information and great deals for Samoa, contact the team at Student Flights on 0800 255 995 or visit www.studentflights.co.nz

Source: Voxy.co.nz



18 AUGUST 2013

Life's just a sea breeze

It has a lower profile than many tropical getaway destinations, but this really is the original treasure island, writes Karen Halabi.

It was less than two years after Australians Chris Booth and his wife Wendy built their coastal resort on Samoa's main island of Upolu - in the spirit of Robert Louis Stevenson who built a home and settled here - that the 2009 tsunami hit. Chris recounts how he clung on to a door jamb as waves of water and mud washed over him, and Wendy held on desperately around his waist.

After it was all over they walked uphill, over broken glass and debris, to join incredulous guests. Staff who washed their feet found them totally unscathed. Now it's as if they can walk on water. Their survival, while the resort around them was destroyed, has given them "miracle" status on this religious island. Samoa has an abundance of waterfalls.

Samoa has an abundance of waterfalls.

That door jamb was virtually the only thing left standing, but they started rebuilding almost immediately, and the new Seabreeze Resort opened in 2011. The point where the door jamb stood is now the exquisite honeymoon villa and, with two other beachfront villas, the most deluxe accommodation in Samoa.
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Seabreeze, in the horseshoe-shape Paradise Bay, in Upolu's south-east, has just won two 2013 TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice awards, as a top romance and bargain destination in the south Pacific.

I am staying in the honeymoon villa, a private gated villa with glorious deck and 280-degree unimpeded ocean views from the bed. The bathroom has louvred windows opening out on both sides to the ocean so you can take a fresh sea-breezy shower starkers and not worry about the neighbours. Two huge day beds strewn with hibiscus petals, robes, slippers, his and hers walk-ins, an outdoor shower, and I'm on holiday.
Smiling children in Upolu

Samoa means "sacred centre" and the Samoan people are deeply religious. Churches are outnumbered only by the ubiquitous fales that line every beachfront and sit in front of every home as a kind of outdoor open-air living room. Often they are bigger than the houses.

There's a saying that explains why the weather doesn't bother the Samoans: "The rain is God watering his children." There's a sign on the back of the brightly painted buses: "Welcome to heaven." And there's a slogan (that even makes an appearance on bottles of the local beer, Sama): "God's best kept secret." The national motto is "Samoa is founded on God" and signs painted on walls tell me "Jesus is the King of Samoa". Everything here has religious significance.

One Sunday we attend church to watch the singing, which is reminiscent of a gospel gathering in the US's bible belt.

Village women leave their coconut stalls and discard their lava lava (sarongs) for fine white dresses with wide-brimmed hats. They walk miles with brightly coloured umbrellas along country roads to get to church.

Afterwards, there's an umu feast where meat and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves are cooked over coals in the earth.

God's Samoan children certainly are well-watered. The islands are lush, green and cornucopian, with swaying palms and swathes of green jungle interspersed with coconut, cacao, yam, taro and banana plantations.

Survivor: South Pacific was filmed here in this soft adventurer and surfer's paradise. Amazing Race wants to do the same, but flight schedules aren't regular enough to make it work.

Samoa's natural beauty is of the tropical volcanic kind. There are volcanic lava fields, amazing blowholes and waterfalls, stunning beaches and clear, tranquil, turquoise waters ringed by coral reefs. With its white sandy beaches and blue water, Lalomanu, on the south-east coast of Upolu, takes my breath away. Regularly rated among the best in the world, it's listed No.7 on Lonely Planet's top-10 paradises on Earth.

At To Sua Trench, I muster the courage to climb down a 30-metre ladder, a vertical drop into a crystal-clear blue ocean-water swimming hole formed by this gaping volcanic hole in the earth. Even if you're not game, the trench is worth visiting for its jaw-dropping ocean-side setting.

Daredevils used to dive off the ladder, but I choose a safer option and swim at low tide through a lava tube out to sea. Later we swim in a waterfall. They're everywhere, but the best are Papapapaitai and Togitogiga on Upolu and Afu Aau on Savai'i.

They say you haven't seen Samoa until you've seen Savai'i, Samoa's second, and biggest, island. Here we swim with turtles at the wetlands sanctuary in Satoalepai village. They are so friendly that they nudge us into the crystal-clear water for a frolic.

At Taga, on Savai'i's south coast, we watch the leathery old "coconut man" throw coconuts into the Alofaaga Blowholes that hurtle them up to 40 metres into the air.

On the western coast at Falealupo, and also at Le Lagoto Resort, we swim among the coral that comes up almost to the beach. Within metres we discover all kinds of tropical fish. Savai'i has many stunning beaches like this - shallow, calm, wave-less inside-reef white-sand beaches fringed by palm trees - as well as beaches with dark sand and volcanic rock.

Back on Upolu, we hire a car but we also take a ride on a colourful, wooden, open-sided local bus (buses stop anywhere you want and the driver will tell you how much when you get off).

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote of his love for the tropics and island life in Treasure Island and Kidnapped, but the inveterate traveller and travel writer chose Samoa to settle and build a home in 1890 after sailing through the south Pacific for three years. To him, these "treasured islands" were the unspoilt paradise he'd been writing about and searching for.

At the author's gracious colonial-style family home, Villa Vailima, I see his writing desk, library, first editions of his classics - even his medicine chest. This is where he died and it is now a museum. It is set atop a breezy hill in botanic gardens.

Samoa has no relentless hawkers, no cities, no built-up areas, and no hard "Where are we going to eat tonight?" decisions to make. There are no "restaurant strips" - you eat at your resort or fale, where breakfast and dinner are included, and until last week when global hotel operator Starwood announced it had signed a deal with Apia's historic Aggie Grey's hotel, Samoa had no chain resorts. (The new Apia Sheraton is expected to open in August 2014.)

Better still for visitors, Samoa represents value for money. Most quoted rates include breakfast, dinner and taxes. An eco "sustainable" destination, most properties have their own water supply. Sinalei Reef Resort, for instance, pumps its supply from an undersea freshwater spring (you can jump off the end of their pier and swim in it).

And, apart from the markets in Apia and Salelologa, there's no real shopping.

The Samoans make great big, beefy, strong footballers but you won't meet a gentler race of people.

Samoa may not have the high profile and the tourist numbers that lure people to other island destinations such as Bali or Fiji, but that may be about to change. Surfers already know about its surf breaks, divers and snorkellers about its underwater wonderland, and backpackers know how cheap a beachfront fale stay can be.

However, until recently, mainstream Australian travellers have largely overlooked Samoa. They eschew this part of Polynesia in favour of the some of the more glamorous, highly promoted, big-budget destinations, parts of which are becoming so overdeveloped and Westernised that sometimes it feels as if you haven't left home. You find yourself yearning for the good old days before shopping malls, bitumen roads and staged cultural shows arrived.

By contrast, on the Samoan islands, there are almost no foreign properties. Land is tightly held by families and considered a part of the village, and development is tightly controlled.

However, Samoa has a whole range of resorts, covering the gamut from budget to luxury, and can be the perfect family, honeymoon or couples' destination. Some (such as Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa) cater exclusively to couples (children under 12 aren't allowed); others cater to families and children (such as Le Lagoto).

There are a few luxury villa properties (such as the boutique Seabreeze and the newly opened 18-room Aga Reef Resort) and for the quintessential Samoan experience, I would highly recommend staying in a fale for at least a night or two and listening to the waves crashing on the reef.

The writer travelled as a guest of the Samoa Tourism Authority.

FIVE MORE THINGS TO DO IN SAMOA
VISIT AN ISLAND
Take a day trip to Namu'a. A 10-minute trip by boat off the coast of the south-eastern most point of Upolu Island, this Robinson Crusoe-style island is uninhabited except for 11 traditional beach fales. There's no power, but you get a bed and a mosquito net, breakfast, dinner and the boat transfer.

EAT UP
Eat umu-style (meat and vegetables are wrapped in banana leaves then cooked over coals in the earth) or revel in the bounty of fresh seafood — often caught just hours before you eat it. Try fresh tuna, mahi-mahi and lobster. Samoa's three most popular dishes are oka (raw fish marinated in lime and coconut milk), palusami (taro leaves baked in coconut milk) and the umu feast.

WATCH AND LEARN
Witness a traditional tattooing ceremony called the Pe'a. Horrifically painful, it can take months to do — intricate geometrical patterns go from the knees to the ribs. Girls have it done from the knees to upper thighs.

CATCH YOUR LUNCH
Go game fishing. Catch your own lunch and have it cooked for you at your fale. Fish available all year round include marlin, yellowfin tuna, wahoo, giant trevally and masi masi.

MEET THE WILDLIFE
Swim with turtles at the wetlands sanctuary in Satoalepai village on Savai'i — so friendly they'll nudge you into the crystal-clear water, where they'll frolic with you.

TRIP NOTES
GETTING THERE
Virgin Samoa has direct overnight flights to Samoa three times a week (less than six hours) getting you there in time for a day of fun. 13 67 89,virginaustralia.com

STAYING THERE
Seabreeze Resort, +685 41 391, seabreezesamoa.com; Sinalei Reef Resort and Spa, +685 25 191, sinalei.com; Le Lagoto Beach Resort, +685 58 189, lelagoto.ws. Stay in a breezy beachfront open-air fale. Open-sided with mosquito nets, some have electricity and ceiling fans; rates from 70 tale (about $32) a night, with breakfast and dinner. Litia Sini and Taufua Beach Fales on Lalomanu Beach, samoabeach fales.com. On Savai'i, Vacations Beach Fales at Manase Beach and Falealupo Beach Fales. For an island escape, take a day trip to Namu'a. Just a 10-minute trip by boat off the main island, it is uninhabited, except for the 11 traditional beach fales, which don't have any power.

EATING THERE
Check out the fusion cuisine at Seabreeze or dive into seafood often caught just hours before you eat it.

MORE INFORMATION
samoa.travel

Source: Sydney Morning Herald



17 AUGUST 2013

Samoa resorts and hotels bounce back

IT'S been a tough few years for tourism in Samoa.

Just as the island nation was starting to get back on its feet after the devastating 2009 tsunami, it was hit by tropical Cyclone Evan last December.

Many resorts, which were nearing completion, were badly damaged in the cyclone and work had to start afresh. But with the fourth anniversary of the tsunami next month, Samoa has plenty to look forward to with several new resorts and refurbishments planned.

Last week Starwood Hotels and Resorts signed a deal to rebrand the iconic Aggie Grey's Hotel in the capital, Apia, and Aggie Grey's Beach Resort and Spa, near the airport. The properties will be renamed Sheraton and upgraded to bring them in line with the hotel group's standards.

"It's big news and everyone is very excited about it," Samoa Tourism Authority spokesman Peter Sereno says. "For us it shows that these guys have got their eyes on Samoa as an emerging destination."

Much of the original Aggie Grey's, which was the first hotel in Samoa, was bulldozed after the river burst its banks during the cyclone. It is being rebuilt in a similar colonial style and due to reopen in August next year.

As well as plans for the $60 million Taumeasina Island Resort, which is being built on a man-made island near Apia, several resorts are in the pipeline for the south coast of the largest island, Upolu.

Aga Reef Resort, which caters mostly to couples, opened in July and the family- friendly Saletoga Sands Resort is scheduled to open in April. The latter is a 30-minute drive from the beautiful Lalomanu Beach (often voted one of the world's best) which was one of the worst-hit areas in the tsunami.

Another resort is set to open at Lefaga next year on the site where the 1953 Gary Cooper film Return to Paradise was filmed. It will, naturally, be called Return to Paradise Resort and Spa.

"Nothing has been built on that beach for generations," Mr Sereno says. "It will be one of the biggest resorts on that side of the island with 60 to 70 rooms."

The popular Coconuts Beach Club Resort and Spa also reopened in July, seven months late due to the cyclone.

Mr Sereno says Samoa is a great destination for travellers who want a quieter alternative to Fiji with pristine beaches, rock waterslides, swimming holes, great surfing, Polynesian culture and history.

"There are some really good deals out there in the market at the moment," he says. "You can get seven-day land and flight packages for as low as $1100.

"If people want to try a traditional Samoan experience, they can stay at a fale and pay as little as $35 a night for a bed with dinner and breakfast included."

By Angela Saurine



11 AUGUST 2013

Seeking Savai'i's sunsets

Savai'i is not only Samoa's largest island, it's one of the biggest in all Polynesia. Densely clad in impenetrable jungle, it boasts the highest peak, (Mt Silisili at 1866m), spectacularly rugged beaches and plenty of sheltered sandy coves. Being a volcanic creation, the island is pockmarked with close to 450 volcanic cones, a testament to its many baptisms by fire.

These days, you'll find Savai'i a peaceful place. There's only one set of traffic lights and loads of places to kick back and unwind. If you prefer a more active holiday this popular patch of paradise offers excellent hiking, cycling, fishing and diving.

Getting there is easy. Either fly from Upolu or take the ferry. It's said the bus service on Savai'i is erratic, although the buses themselves, with names like Bon Jovi, Queen Maggie or In Jesus I Trust, are gorgeous. But if you're here for only a short time and don't have all day to sit waiting for a bus that may never come, rent a car.

Straight off the ferry, we nipped into Salelologa Market where you can buy fruit and veges, snacks, toothpaste, enamel mugs, undies, souvenirs, toys and much more. You can never have too many sarongs.

All shopped out, our next port of call was one of the island's best-known attractions, the Alofaaga Blowholes at Taga.

Follow the signposts from Main South Rd, pay the small fee and continue along the rutted track. This natural wonder, created by holes in hardened lava, sees water shoot 60m into the air. If you pay a little extra, the nice man will toss a coconut into the mouth of the hole. Next thing you know the coconut shoots into the sky like a cannonball.

With the mercury at 33C we needed to chill out before calling it a day so took a detour to the Afu Aau Waterfall, a swimming spot with cool water and movie-set surrounds.

Heading along the coastal road to Lagoto Resort, the sky was the most extreme blue. It's a cliche, but I'll call it azure, and the sea looked as if it had been through Photoshop.

Arriving at our digs we were told Lagoto is Samoan for sunset and sure enough we were treated to a spectacular twilight sky of crazy colours. Our room was a treat, with a balcony on the water and, beyond that, a little jetty we could swim off if we wanted a break from the pool.

That first night, all cosy in our fale, we were roused by booming thunder and lightening. The next day we woke to a very different palette - the sky a gunmetal gray, the sea cut from RAF cloth. Undaunted, we struck out for the westernmost village in the island to the Canopy Walkway, which is part of the Falealupo Rainforest Preserve. Assuming you have a head for heights, pay the modest entrance fee and head into the jungle to a sturdy 9m spiral steel stairway. The atmosphere at the top was uplifting, compromised only when we realised we had to cross a rickety 24m swing bridge, one at a time.

Safely on the other side, we climbed even higher into an ancient banyan tree. This is the tree house a giant might build.

What is it about fear that stimulates the appetite? Happily the Va-i-moana Seaside Lodge was open for lunch - a heavenly spot on the beach. You'd be silly not to have fish so fresh that it may as well have been flapping. Our appetites were whetted to do some angling of our own.

It was easy to organise a fishing charter through Va-i-moana Lodge. You can go out all day or just for a few hours, and we were quickly hooked up with a boat and skipper. For the first hour I was sure we'd return empty-handed, but no, we caught a couple of decent barracuda, but the one that got away had to have been the biggest beast of all time.

Talking of beasts, I am so glad we made time to visit the turtles at Saleapaga Village. Lured with the promise of pawpaw, they arrived snorting water from their nostrils. They were at least 1m long, with beaks like parrots. Their flippers were silky and leathery, reptilian and meaty - although don't go there, to ensure their survival these creatures are off the menu for good.

Savai'i is heaven on Earth and I appreciate its charms all the more, writing this at home amid a polar blast, hail peppering the roof.


The Lagoto Resort is for families, couples or independent travellers. Be sure to have a massage, they are seriously amazing.
www.lelagoto.ws

Va-i-moana Seaside Lodge offers food, fishing trips, snorkelling and accommodation.
www.vaimoana.ws

Elisabeth Easther and her son were guests of the Samoa Tourism Authority.

- Herald on Sunday
By Elisabeth Easther



08 AUGUST 2013

First global chain arrives in Samoa

Starwood Hotels and Resorts will become the first major global hotel chain to enter the Samoan accommodation market after it was revealed the country’s most iconic hotel brand, Aggie Grey’s, would be rebranding its two properties as Sheraton hotels.

The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Starwood and Aggie Grey’s in Apia on Wednesday, will see both properties – Aggie Grey’s Hotel and Aggie Grey’s Beach Resort and Spa – become part of the world’s largest luxury hotel family from next year.

Speaking at the gathering, Samoan Prime Minister Honorable Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Dr Sailele Malielegaoi said the arrangement marked “a milestone in the journey of Samoa’s tourism industry”.

“Having the presence of a luxury hotel chain will make a vast difference to the development of the tourism industry,” he remarked.

As well as gaining from Starwood’s extensive marketing networks, highly developed reservation systems and a loyalty program which would drive return visits and greater spending, the PM said the new deal would have “significant spin-off benefits through improved status in the hospitality and service sectors”.

But perhaps most importantly, the move represented “a clear demonstration of foreign investment and confidence in Samoa”.

Signing the MoU for Aggie Grey’s Beach Resort and Spa, chief executive Lupesina Frederick Grey said the deal would take Samoan tourism to “a whole new level”.

“Samoa is at that stage now where it needs a lift in terms of its next growth area in tourism,” he told reporters after the announcement, which was made at the Samoa Conference Centre.

“We believe that having a global chain partner with us in Samoa will take the destination to that level.”

Representing Starwood at the event was Starwood chief executive North America Robert Hermany and Vice President North America Global Acquisitions and Development Siddharth Narang.

Stay tuned for more news from Samoa, where e-Travel Blackboard was on location.

Source = ETB News: Mark Harada



30 JULY 2013

Taumeasina Island resort being built in Samoa

An artist impression of Taumeasina Resort which is being built on a man-made island in Samoa. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

A $60 million resort is being built on a man-made island in Samoa.

When complete, Taumeasina Island will have 80 rooms and 25 villas, shops, restaurants, a bar, water sports pavilion, day spa, gym, beach and wedding chapel.

Construction on the island resort, near the capital Apia, began last month and the resort is expected to open in early 2016.

The project is being funded by Papua New Guinea company The Lamana Group, which also operates the Heritage Park Hotel in the Solomon Islands and is renovating the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, Fiji, and designed by architectural firm Thomson Adsett.

It will be a huge drawcard for the South Pacific nation, which was devastated by a tsunami in 2009 and a cyclone in December.

Source: The Australian