Magic Carpet Journals

Cruising through Paradise continued: Heather and Barry sail to the Samoan Islands and Fiji aboard the Princess Cruise Ship

The Dawn Princess stops at Independent Samoa and American Samoa and the Fijian islands of  Viti Levu and Vanua Levu

Story and Pictures by Heather and Barry Minton


Our next ports of call were in Samoa. The Samoan island group consists of two main islands (and several smaller ones) with a total mass of 1,137 square miles. After the missionaries the islands were settled by Germany, Great Britain and the U.S.A. After a time of unrest the British withdrew and the islands were divided into Western Samoa for the Germans and American Samoa for the U.S.A. However at the outbreak of World War II the Germans were ousted by the U.S.A. In 1962 Western Samoa became the first independent Polynesian nation while American Samoa remains under the sovereignty of the U.S.A.


Fire dancer's greeting.

On arrival in Independent Samoa we were again greeted dockside with music, song and the novel fire dancing.  The Samoans are very friendly and welcoming and while strolling the streets of the town of Apia, we were constantly smiled at and words of welcome called to us.  People honked and waved from their cars “Welcome to Samoa” and “Thank you for visiting us”.

With fellow passengers Robin and George Reid we hired a taxi for the day and our guide Vyella drove us to all the places of interest on the island.

The Author, Robert Louis Stevenson’s former home ‘Vailima’ is now an interesting museum.

Stevenson’s home.

As the name suggests The Open Air Catholic Church of Apia takes advantage of the warm temperatures and its situation on top of a hill overlooking the town by having a very “open plan” architectural design.  Less ornate inside than some catholic churches we have seen, the stained glass windows were excellent and very unusual.  Those, in particular, depicting the missionaries in the early days were very striking.


The Open Air Catholic Church of Apia


Stained glass window



 Stained glass window


Our guide drove us across the centre of the island through some beautiful mountain scenery visiting a number of waterfalls along the way, the most spectacular being Sopoaga Falls.


 Sopoaga Falls



On the 29th September 2009, there was an earthquake in the South Pacific Ocean and at 6.48 am a 46 ft high wall of water struck the south coast of Independant Samoa, American Samoa and parts of Tonga. It was explained to us that this part of the Island was the most scenic with beautiful white sandy beaches so that most of the tourist resorts were clustered there. The results were devastating, 183 people died (plus 34 on American Samoa and 3 in Tonga) and the resorts (the life blood of the island) were completely destroyed.


Tsunami damage


To date only one small resort has been rebuilt (for backpackers).



American Samoa consists of six islands with a total land mass of only 77 sq. mile and is an unincorporated territory under U.S. sovereignty however, the American influence is not strong. They have their own flag, but we did sight an occasional U.S. flag and of course the inevitable McDonalds! Also we were told that American television is available even on the remotest islands. We were afforded a similar enthusiastic Samoan welcome and took another scenic tour to more beautiful beaches.


Flower pot rock.

During our tour of the island we drove through the village of Vaitogi and stopped at imposing black lava cliffs, gathering at the edge with the blue sea boiling below us.

In Samoa there is a famous legend about a turtle and a shark.  There are many versions of the story but the one we were told by our guide was the story of a blind lady and her granddaughter. During a time of extreme hardship and famine, and after being turned away by the other villagers, the two women leapt from the cliffs into the ocean in order to avoid starvation.  Magically, the gods turned them into a turtle and a shark. It is said that if the Samoans chant on the cliffs near the village of Vaitogi, the turtle and the shark will appear.


Lava cliffs.


A group of the villagers stood on the edge of the cliff with us and chanted. A large turtle and a sand shark did swim towards us to the base of the cliff! NO they weren’t mechanical ones bought from Movie World, and NO there was nobody standing at the base of the cliff with bait! Believe it or not – here is the photo!!

Turtle and shark.

Throughout the Pacific we found that the people were very family and community conscious and each village has its own meeting house, mostly consisting of a paved area and a roof supported by poles.  However, in Samoa the meeting houses or ‘fales’ were often more ornate with carved poles and an unusual shaped roof.

Fale or meeting house

Our last ports of call were two islands in the Fiji archipelago, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, the largest in the group of 300 islands.  Fiji is part of the British Commonwealth and has close ties with Australia and New Zealand as their young people travel there for higher education and work. Once again we were greeted with an enthusiastic welcome with constant calls of “Bula” (“Hello” or “welcome”).   Because of its closeness to our shores and its high quality tourist amenities, a vacation in Fiji and their many island resorts is a very popular and affordable choice.


The people are believed to be of South East Asian descent rather than Polynesian, and at the time of Captain Cook’s visit were reported to be very warlike and even cannibals. Also, on Beqa Island the members of the Sawau tribe still practice the ritual of fire walking. We very much enjoyed a display of the Fijian men’s war dances as well as the girls more gentle and refined singing and dancing.


Fijian dancers.

The young warrior threatening Heather with a club was less than warlike…

Heather and warrior.

…and the local policeman was much more interested in chatting than arresting her!

 Heather and policeman

Captain Bligh, charted some of this area during his epic voyage across the Pacific in an open boat after the “Mutiny on the ‘Bounty”.  He was attacked by cannibals in an area now called Bligh Water.  We found the rudder from ‘HMS Bounty’ on display in the Fiji Museum in Suva.

Heather stops by the ‘Bounty’ rudder in the Fiji Museum


We then had a restful three days of ocean cruising before arriving back in Sydney. We thoroughly enjoyed every moment of our time on this beautiful ship, and the islands we visited each interestingly different and uniquely enchanting, in their own ways.  Our cruise to paradise became a collection of delightful memories.


Story and Pictures by Heather and Barry Minton


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Last Updated on November 04, 2011 by M. Maxine George editor.

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