Never heard of Samoa? Sadly, you’re not the only one. Apparently, great rugby teams and a claim as the birthplace of the Polynesian people isn’t enough to truly be on the map. This Pacific country has been mostly overlooked in guidebooks and geography lessons, but I’m here to tell you everything you need to know about The Independent State of Samoa.
1. Where is it?
First thing first: Samoa is located in the South Pacific, halfway between Hawai’i and New Zealand. It’s north of Tonga, Northeast of Fiji and Northwest of Tahiti.
Not helping? It’s far, far away from Europe. 13 hours ahead of London far away.
2. A string of islands
Like most Pacific states, Samoa isn’t just one big mass of land. It’s comprised of two large islands – Upolu and Savai’i – and eight small ones. All of the islands are volcanic in origin but your chances of getting caught up in an eruption are pretty much non-existent.
3. Sunshine all round
Pacific islands nation means sunshine all the time right? Well, no. It might look dreamy in pictures, but November to April is cyclone season in this part of the world. You’ll be warm all year though, so that’s something.
4. Independent state of…
There are two Samoas: Independent State and American Samoa, which is the only US territory south of the equator.
Having been discovered by Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen in 1722, Samoa got its original name, “The Navigator Islands,” courtesy of French admiral Louis de Bougainville. German from 1899 to 1914, New Zealand governed from the end of the war until 1962. With a history like that, it’s no wonder Western Samoa decided to proclaim to the world it was independent when it finally could.
From Western Samoa, it changed its name to Samoa in 1997. Furthering the confusion with American Samoa and making tourists the world over scratch their heads when booking flights. FYI: you want to fly to Apia, the capital and largest city.
5. The cradle of Polynesia
Many people believe that Samoa was the birthplace of Polynesia. What it means is that all those thousand-years ago – it’s accepted that the islands were first settled 3,500 years ago -, it was an inhabitant of what we now call Samoa who got the nerves to jump into his canoe and paddle to other lands.
The problem with this theory, of course, is that many other islands also claim to be where it all started. Most prominent of these is Tonga.
There might be as many claims as there are islands, so everyone can decide for himself where they want to believe the first boat really took to the water. Only one thing is certain: New Zealand was the last to be inhabited.
Is Savai’i Island really Hawaiki, the original home of the Polynesian people? Maybe you should go and find out for yourself! Make sure you check out 20 pictures that will make you want to go to Samoa before you book your flight.