1   Hiking Rainforest to Reef

2   Aunu’u Island; Hiking the Volcanic Crater

3   Kayaking Pago Pago Harbor

4   Coral Reef Snorkel in Faga’alu

5   Medicinal Plant and Rainforest Hike

6   Walking Tour of Pago Pago Harbor

7   The Bat Cave

8   Sea Terns Soar in the Currents

9   Hike to Laufuti Waterfall in Manu'a

10  Tisa's Marine Sanctuary


Hiking Rainforest to Reef in Five Hours

On Tutuila island hikers transit four rainforest regimes; cloud, ridge, littoral and strand, in a single day. No other rainforest adventure in the world compares in experience and beauty. This unique trek follows a centuries old village trail, now part of the United States National Park of American Samoa. Along the way hikers reach a maximum elevation of 1,300 feet and began the ridge descent to the village of Vatia. NPS information signs provide educational value about rainforest ecology, wildlife and topography.
The visitor experience is singular and dramatic. Under the triple canopy environment epiphitic plants, multiple varieties of orchids and ferns, prop-rooted giant hardwood trees, lianas and strangler vines, spectacular tree ferns occupy the upper cloud and ridge rainforest regimes. Closer to sea level, stunted lower canopy trees, heliotropic shrubs and, eventually, at sea level, the salt resistant creepers and sedges of the rainforest beach.
Take the hike virtually and then make plans for an only-one-place-in-the-world rainforest, reef education adventure.


American Samoa National Park Service Rainforest Hike



Aunu'u Island lies off the southern coast of Tutuila in the Samoan Archipelago. Its volcanic cinder tuff cone surrounds a small inland crater lake. A mangrove lake provides habitat for the rare Pacific Black Duck. The island is unusually diverse supporting lower canopy rainforest, micro ecosystems, vibrant beach foilage, healthy reefs and wetland taro root plantations.

Village life is traditional. Isolated from American Samoa's main island, Tutuila, Aunu'u's rhythm is steady, time lost and kept with thousands of years old customs.

Our water taxi crossing of the channel set the tone for the hike. We were with people of the Pacific, ocean voyagers of the past.

2.11 Dis



We departed Sadie's Hotel on our rented kayaks. These are not the ocean going variety but plain old kayak toys.

We had a blast. First we passed a public beach with genuine Samoan houses. Other kayakers were at a small beach ahead so we paddled across the harbor to another isolated beach.

The crossing was cool. The mouth of the harbor is huge. I couldn't help recalling that centuries of Polynesian voyagers preceded us.

We were careful to stay away from a breaking reef on both sides. Colorful tropical fish were right below us. From the beach we surveyed the caldera of the blown out volcano in front of, and behind us. Soon enough we got underway again. Outer Pago Pago harbor is an environmental playground of coral reefs, hidden beaches, ocean birds; domicile to hawksbill and green turtles.

Back at the hotel, and a couple of beers later, it was all good.

Kayak American Samoa's Pago Harbor



The brochure said we could: 1; walk to the reef snorkel site. 2; It was free. 3; Identify all five families of coral reef fish. 4; See two coral species. 5; Snorkel with the turtles. 6; Have enough cash left to enjoy a beer(s) later and retell stories of a great adventure. We were not disappointed. It all happened right here on the island of Tutuila.

American Samoa Reef Snorkel Adventure



The bus fare from the market place was one dollar. Eight hours later it was the best adventure dollar I had ever spent. Our hike took us through three regimes of rainforest. We saw medicinal plants that cured millenia of Polynesians at the Community College Botanical Garden. OK. Four bus rides,four dollars. I know more about Polynesia today than I did yesterday.

American Samoa Bus Tour with 3 Hour Rainforest Hike



Did we expect to see WWII canons? Wyland's Whaling Wall? Sit in a traditional Samoan House on a beach? A museum? Sadie Thompson's boarding house? And frigate birds gliding just overhead. Yes and yes and all yesses. Did we expect it to be all for free. Yes . . .and we were right. No money. Plenty of cash left for nite clubbing. Now that's our idea of adventure traveling. In Pago Pago.

American Samoa, Pago Pago Bay Area Walking Tour


The Bat Cave

Along Tutuila's rocky north shore we encounter fruit bats, isolated beaches, nesting boobies, strand rainforest flora, vibrant coral reef life and the bat cave. For added excitement; cliff jumping!

We parked our car and started out. Within minutes the environment became wild and uninhabited. It was exactly the wildlife experience I had dreamed of and hoped for. I was totally rejuvenated when we returned to the village.

I wasn't just an observer of nature. I was part of an ecosystem that was living and sustainable.


Sea Terns Soar in the Currents

We crossed the Pola gap in Vatia and entered a world visited mostly by village fishermen.

Sea terns glided in the air currents amidst the backdrop of one of American Samoa's most iconic natural rock formations.

The experience was both ancient and new age, which suited us just fine.  We were, for that time, solitary and alone within nature.


Hike to Laufuti Waterfall in Manu'a

According to Polynesian legend, Tagaloa, the creator god, formed the earth, heaven, oceans and humankind on the island of Ta'u in the Manu'a Islands at the eastern end of the Samoan archipelago.

This hike passes through the ancient village of Saua where Tagaloa offered the first kava ceremony marking Manu'a as the cradle of Polynesian culture.

Along the way to the great waterfall, Laufuti, I encounter a rocky volcanic seashore, a sandy beach, verdant rainforests and avian wildlife that may or may not be spirit shift shapers of the ancient voyagers guided by celestial roadmaps and astrological knowledge.

The birds provenance; the magical waters of Taisamasama where it is said to drink Laufuti's water is to become one with Tagaloa's perfect creation of immensity, space, intellect and spirit.

Near Saua on Ta'u in the Manu'a group, TaiSamasama holds
significance as a sacred place of Tagaloa and TuiManua.

Read the full account of Solo O Le Va in this 1839 edition  of the Journal of Polynesian Studies written by John Fraser from the documentation of Pratt, the early LDS missionary Samoan scholar.

Getting from Apia in Independent Samoa to Ta'u in American Samoa. Flight time Apia to Pago Pago, 20 minutes; Pago to Manu'a, 20 minutes.


Tisa's Marine Sanctuary

At Tisa's Barefoot Bar in Alega, American Samoa, the coral reef is healthy, vigorous and populated  by species of fish, mammals, coral and algae that comprise the complete food chain top to bottom.

After thirty two years of protection and enforcement, Tisa and her companion, Candyman, have brought back to life an ecosystem that had suffered from overfishing, illegal fishing and acts of reckless human intervention.

In addition to the occasional angry confrontation with speargun and scuba equipped hunters, Tisa provided a human, and culturally ancient value to the restoration. These acts of kindness and goodwill encouraged even the largest fish to return to their habitat.

The development of Tisa's Marine Sanctuary is a living lesson to environmental groups. Perseverance, determination, daily monitoring and a mother like obsession with preserving life are the keys to restoring important coral reefs back to healthy states.

No comments: