Around this time in the southern hemisphere and specifically New Zealand many young travelers and families head off to the Pacific islands to escape the brisk winters and restore vitamin D supply. After doing my research and asking the local kiwis where the most culturally interesting and inexpensive islands would be, I decided to take a 4-hour flight to Apia, Samoa. While its a no-brainer to me to bring a paddle board while visiting an island surrounded by majestic coral reef, I was surprised to see many people’s reactions in thinking otherwise. As someone who had spent the past 6 months working 6 days a week or in backcountry huts, I thought “What else will I do with my time on an island?”
I started my travels on the main island, Upolu, where I quickly realized that Samoa was my happy place. Sunshine, tropical rainstorms, colorful gardens, unlimited coconuts, combined with a simple and friendly culture was my idea of paradise I woke up the first morning in my beach fale to the sound of the Pacific ocean and pigs grunting freely along the beach in Lalomanu. The locals prepared us the local breakfast of cocoa samoa (a combination of ground cacao, coconut cream, and rice), fresh papaya and coconut nectar. This provided great energy for my upcoming paddle out to Namua Island. I blew up my board, packed the snorkel gear, water, and an anchor and headed out through the reef channels towards some of the most amazing and pristine snorkeling I have seen.
The next morning I started hitchhiking with my Hala board in tow, towards FiaFia (happy) beach fales in Maninoa. Here there was a beautiful calm bay surrounded by reef. Because it was protected, I managed to go out for full moon and sunrise paddles each evening and morning and spent my days snorkeling with friendly sea turtles and paddling out to different surf breaks.
Next stop was to ferry across to Savai’i but it turns out because of the influence of missionaries in the 1800s, Sunday is actually a rest day or what some would say, “no surf Sunday,” and this meant there were very few cars out except for the locals traveling to and from church. After many hours navigating and melting in the heat of the sun we got across to Savai’i to Lano. The beach fales we landed at were owned by a Czech couple who had made a typical Sunday meal including palosami (taro leaves in coconut cream) fresh fish, and roasted breadfruit and taro.
Again, in this area, my paddleboard was my best friend as the reef was nearly 500 meters out so paddling boarding was the more efficient way to explore.
Last but certainly not least I spent my last few days in Faleolupo on the northwest coast of Savai’i. The tide had aligned perfectly with the early morning sea glass, so I surfed the reef break straight out from the beach fales each morning. During the day I paddled in and out of the tidal pools and estuary through the village and even took some local kids on paddle board cruises to and from the reef.
Overall, as much work as it was to hitchhike and ferry across two islands with my board I would say it’s Hala gear that made my trip the most worthwhile. Having my board with me took me to some amazing snorkeling, underwater caves for free diving, and built a playful connection between myself and the local children. My doubts of not knowing what to do with all my island time were proven wrong because I always had my board to hop on. Talofa Lava HALA!