Blogs from Samoa, Oceania


Oceania » Samoa » American Samoa February 27th 2014

18th February Pago Pago, American Samoa Today we docked in Pago Pago, (pronounced Pango Pango) on the island of Tutuila, the largest of seven islands that make up American Samoa. It has a natural deep harbour which was shelled (only once during WWII) and is home to the Tuna cannery which employs up a third of population of the island. You knew about the cannery when the wind shifted every now and again!! It was a warm and humid morning when we docked. The islands lie in the tropics with heat & humidity highest between December and April when you have the highest rainfall, which inspired Somerset Maugham’s story of Sadie Thompson entitled ‘Rain’. There is a hotel called Sadie’s on the Beach close to the berth. There are few historic sites on the ... read more

Oceania » Samoa » Upolu » Apia October 16th 2013

Just got back from our shore excursion to Apia, Samoa - independent Samoa, not American Samoa. About 40,000 people now live here, but one it's famous residents was Robert Louis Stevenson, who came here for relief from his probable TD in the late 1800's. He built a lovely home which is now a museum. Got to see a Samoan dance/singing show there. And a tour of the downtown of Apia with a stop at the huge indoor flea market - it was hot and humid. Luckily no flies - they were all at the fish market down the street where we did not go. Leaving here in a few hours and then off to Fiji where we'll be after another day at sea. Looking forward to a longboat ride there. Tonight some of the Indonesian staff ... read more

Oceania » Samoa » American Samoa August 23rd 2013

Pago Pago (pronounced Pango Pango) - what a breath of fresh air after five days at sea. Very mountainous and lush, with lovely friendly people. While it was high 20's temp here today, the cooling trade winds made it feel not so humid. We had a long walk around the main area - then decided to catch a local bus around the bays and over the top of the mountain around the national park, it was a lovely trip with gorgeous scenery and a great way to engage with all the locals who were so friendly on the bus. When we arrived at Vatia at the end of the bus line we took a walk around the cove and through the village and then caught a bus back to Pago Pago. There were churches on every ... read more

Oceania » Samoa » Upolu May 16th 2013

At 7am I caught a free ride back to Apia with a van of school-girls. I had been planning on going back to Mt. Vaea for a last try at some of the missing birds but the winding road from Lalomanu had reminded my stomach of yesterday’s seas, the temperature was extremely hot, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my bags if I went into the forest. So I just got some breakfast in Apia then went to the bus station. I found a bus, sat in it for an hour until enough passengers had gathered, and then went to the airport where I sat slowly basting in the heat like a New Orleans plantation owner until my flight which was supposed to be at 3.30pm but turned into 4.30pm because ... read more

Oceania » Samoa » Upolu May 15th 2013

Access to Nu’utele Island is only possible from Lalomanu at high tide because the reef has no channel so the sea needs to be high enough for the boat to ride above the reef. Fortunately the high tide today was at 8am, perfect for going birding. An Austrian chap called Walter from the place I was staying was also interested in going to the island for no real reason, so in the morning Foki picked us up and we set off in his little tin boat. I’m a bit erratic when it comes to sea-sickness: sometimes I don’t get it at all, and sometimes I get it bad. It’s only about thirty minutes across to Nu’utele’s beach but I was already feeling pretty queasy by the time we got there. I was going looking for the ... read more
Foki's boat
Samoan fruit bat (Pteropus samoensis)


Oceania » Samoa » Upolu May 13th 2013

Although I was sure I had been scammed yesterday I believe that people in general are honest, so in the morning I waited in the hotel lobby just in case my ride did turn up at 9am. I had the number of another driver, Jerry, who’d said he would take me to Lalomanu for 80 Tala so I was going to hold off until 9.20 and then call him. At 9.20, just as I was about to call Jerry, the woman from yesterday walked in. I’ll call her Violet, because that’s what she said her name was. Immediately the reception lady said she’d have to give me my receipt and when I went to the desk she wrote on a bit of paper “this woman is no good, she is a thief and will steal all ... read more
Taufua Beach Fales

Oceania » Samoa » Upolu May 12th 2013

Another up and down day. I had been going to go to Lalomanu at the eastern end of Upolu today but it was Sunday and there are no buses on Sunday, so I decided on a return assault on the Vaisigano watershed. The head worker that I’d got a lift from yesterday was named Phineas and he had told me that I was on the right trail down to the valley (annoyingly!) and he arranged for one of his workers, called Alibut, to take me back there today so I could actually get to where the birds were. That’s Alibut as in the Samoan version of Albert, not the Pirate version of a large flatfish (“Arrh matey, I’ve ‘ooked meself an ‘alibut! Pieces of eight, etc”). So in the morning I arrive at Phineas’ house at ... read more
Samoan fantail (Rhipidura nebulosa)

Oceania » Samoa » Upolu May 11th 2013

I’d had a strange feeling that today was going to go badly and I was right. The bird I was going to find was the ma’o-ma’o, a giant forest-dwelling honeyeater (just called a mao in “English”) which is dependent on mature rainforest. They used to be found at Mt. Vaea until maybe a decade or so ago but no longer. Instead I was going to the Vaisigano watershed outside of Apia. I had several trip reports from other birders’ visits to Samoa but they didn’t all tally very well in their directions and name-usage so I wasn’t entirely sure I’d even be able to get there. The one thing they all did agree on was that it was easy to get a taxi to the start of the walking point, a reservoir tank at the top ... read more
Samoan whistler (Pachycephala flavifrons)
Polynesian starling (Aplonis tabuensis)

Oceania » Samoa » Upolu May 10th 2013

Today was a most excellent day for birding. Also there was a partial solar eclipse which isn’t something you see every day! I looked at it through sheets of microfiche so I’ll probably go blind. Or blinder. In the morning I took a taxi to the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, about 3km out of town. On the way I passed the hotel a friend had recently stayed at, Le Manumea. Looked a bit upmarket for me!! Especially given that the room at the place I was staying had a naked bed, a desk, a fan, and linoleum on the floor, and that was it. The Museum is set in a very nice tropical garden, but of more interest is the forest-covered Mt. Vaea Nature Reserve behind it, on the summit of which is Stevenson’s now graffiti-covered ... read more
Samoan fantail (Rhipidura nebulosa)
Pacific robin (Petroica multicolor)
Samoan skink (Emoia samoensis)

Oceania » Samoa » Upolu May 9th 2013

And now the tropical bit begins. Thirty-one degrees of tropicality to be precise. Now I’ll be honest, but I hate the tropics. That probably sounds odd given that pretty much everywhere I go is in the tropics, but I can’t stand the heat and especially the humidity, I just put up with it because that’s where all the best wildlife is. All things considered I’d rather be in Iceland. But the tropics are what call me and there’s nothing I can do about it. Samoa’s international airport is 35km from the capital Apia, and most people take a shuttle for 25 Tala or a taxi for 60 or so. The other option, the one I and exactly no-one else on the plane took, is to walk fifty metres out of the airport building onto the road ... read more
Red-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer)

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