A Week in Samoa

Subject: A Week in Samoa
From: Laurie Knight <>
Date: Sat, 14 Oct 2023 14:51:14 +1000
My son and I spent a week at the end of September (late dry season) on the 
Island of Upolu.  Matt wanted to go to a less-visited island in the Pacific and 
Samoa fitted the bill - mountains, rainforest, beaches, waterfalls, direct 
flights to and from Brisbane, and a friendly population with plenty of English 
speaking people.
The downside of Samoa is that there aren’t any current travel guides, regional 
birding field guides are out of print (there doesn’t seem to be any phone 
apps), you can’t buy any printed maps and there is limited info in the 
I downloaded a Samoan file from Apple Maps on my phone, which when linked to 
the GPS on the phone enabled offline navigation.  I also printed some 
screenshots from Google maps.
Samoa has a sealed road network, widespread electricity, and good mobile phone 
coverage.  The only limitation was that the network my phone connected with via 
international roaming only supplied data when I had 3G coverage.  Voice and 
text worked on 4G, but not data.
Our flight arrived a bit after 5 am, I collected a hire car (Toyota Rush) and 
Samoan driver’s licence from Budget at the new terminal, and we followed our 
noses into Apia.  Given the national speed limit is 50 km/h, it was a slow trip 
and some drivers were really really slow.
After a morning poking around town, we headed up the hill to the Dave Parker 
Ecolodge, our base for the next six nights.  We made our reservation via 
Booking.Com - the room and breakfast for two people cost about $100 per day.
The lodge is possibly the best place for a birdwatcher to hang out on Upolu.  
There are million dollar views from the balconies outside the bedrooms and 
dining area, and there is a nice swimming hole with small waterfall on the 
creek flowing through the property.  The lodge is surrounded by rainforest, 
banana palms and other small crops. Both Dave and his daughter Lolita were 
helpful, and the staff and pets were friendly.  Good WiFi was available for 
times when I couldn’t access data on my phone.
The lounge area had an old school field guide on the birds of the Western 
Pacific from the 1990s (the sort with limited illustrations on 15 plates).  
While this wasn’t particularly user friendly, it was sufficient to identify the 
local birds (I photographed the relevant plates).
Basically I picked up two thirds of the species seen on the island at the 
lodge.  These were:
White Tern
White-tailed Tropicbird
Brown Noddy
Buff-banded Rail
Pacific Pigeon
Crimson-crowned Fruit-dove
Many-coloured Fruit dove
Flat-billed Kingfisher
White-rumped Swiftlet
Red vented Bulbul
Polynesian Starling
Samoan Starling
Samoan Fantail
Wattled Honeyeater
Cardinal Myzomela (honeyeater)
Jungle Mynah
It was nice being able to soak up the views from the deck with plenty of birds 
flying above the canopy.  Watching the terns and tropicbirds wheeling about was 
reminiscent of Norfolk Island.
You could also watch the resident Samoan Flying Foxes circling about.  These 
golden headed chaps seemed to be quite diurnal, happily flapping about 
throughout the day.
The fantails weren’t as obvious as I have expected.  On the second last 
morning, I heard a fantail like call and two birds popped out of the banana 
plantation in response to the Grey Fantail call on my phone.
Buff-banded Rails were common all over the island, as were Common Mynahs in 
cleared areas.  One paddock near the ferry terminal had close to 200 mynahs.
The beaches were very quiet, with just the occasional dark morph Reef Egret and 
Wandering Tattler working the rocks, and periodic Noddies paralleling the coast.
Interestingly Golden Plovers were almost exclusively lawn birds - from memory, 
there were more than half a dozen on the lawn of the Piula Theological College 
(on the way into the sea cave).
We had a few cruisebys from Great Frigatebirds. The first was at the To Sua 
Ocean Trench.  (It is worth climbing down into the linked sinkholes or cenote, 
where you can swim with the fish in crystal clear water - best visited earlier 
in the morning before tourist numbers build up).
Waterfalls are a key feature of Samoa, and I had a flash sighting of a pair of 
Samoan Parrot-finches at the Sauniatu Waterfall.
Mt Vaea has one of the few easily accessible bushwalking tracks on the island.  
You can start at the Vailima Botanical Gardens or at the Robert Louis Stevenson 
Museam and stroll up to RLS’s grave near the summit.  I had nice views of 
White-rumped Swiftlets, Polynesian Trillers and Samoan Whistlers along the way.
The Tiapapata Art Centre (near the Baha’i House of Worship) had a very nice 
cafe on its verandah. The expressos there were the best coffee we came across 
on the island (Samoans only have UHT milk which affects the flavour of milk 
based coffee).  Matt had a nice view of a Blue-crowned Lorikeet while we were 
lunching there (on a Sunday when most places are closed).
Overall Samoa was a nice place to visit.  The cost of many things were 
comparable to Australia, fuel was a bit cheaper.  There were plenty of grocery 
stores, but not many eating establishments away from Apia.
There a lots of dogs running around the place. Most appear to be a generic 
breed and can be quite territorial around their homes.  There are a few pigs 
wandering around some villages and lots of chickens (generally smaller than 
Aussie chooks).  Some of the roosters looked like Red Junglefowl.  Most of the 
omelettes I had were quite tasty.
The main difference with the road rules is that you can turn left on red 
lights, which can make things hazardous for pedestrians.  
Some people are very house proud and sweep leaves off their stony yards (some 
villages are on bare rock).  In other (often scenic) places there is a litter 
Country driving is quite pleasant, particularly on the cross-island roads.  The 
mountainous parts are a bit like the Atherton Tableland,  Some places have 
impressive hedges. …
The bottom line is that if you want to spend a bit of time on a Pacific Island 
that isn’t too hard to get to, the Dave Parker Ecolodge on Upolu isn’t a bad 
place to hangout.

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