It was October and I was a world away in Morocco when the message first arrived from beautiful Tess. “Quick question darling, when are you home, and would you be interested in a 6 day trip to Samoa at the end of November?” It was one of those moments when your breath catches in your throat and life freeze-frames still for a few moments as the world spontaneously opens right up. Suddenly, you need to fit some kind of unfathomable magic into a new reality that felt much smaller just moments ago.

Fast forward one month, and there I found myself flying headlong into a grizzly night sky from Sydney direct to Apia, Samoa. The air felt heavy; our plane rocking and tumbling in darkness through an early summer storm. I sat in the last row of the plane staring out into utter blackness, dog-eared passport in lap and three seats to myself, bound for an untapped paradise. A cluster of ten islands make up Samoa – and our itinerary included both the main island Upolu (home to the capital of Apia, and Faleolo International Airport) and Savai’i, the largest island but much more rugged and mountainous.

Samoa was just like that first surreal moment of invitation, but divinely extended across six days and nights of constant wonderment. I knew that there would be coconuts, sun, salt, and breathtaking beauty, but what I did not expect to find was such a sense of soul belonging – a deep connection and love for the Fa’a Samoa {Samoan way} so evocatively alive and deeply woven into the spirit of this country. I did not expect to be veiled in a fresh flower lei and welcomed by a five piece band at 5.30am as we exited the plane into the humid predawn, or to be greeted by Sinalei Resort staff with frangipani decorated coconuts and embracing hugs like long lost family. I did not imagine we would be serenaded with acoustic guitar strums and sweet melodies each evening as the sun slipped into the sea, or be immediately known by our first names and to share hilariously in-jokes with kitchen staff, solidified within moments of introductory conversation.

Over those six days, we lived inside magic. I saw fresh coconut milk squeezed with two bare hands before me, and the whitest sand I have ever laid my eyes on when we found ourselves anchoring for the day at a private island all to ourselves. I ate lime cured Tuna caught locally by resort staff, discovered a treehouse fit for faeries and frolicked in water so warm and clear that I could not help but sink in and immerse myself, fully clothed. I lay still in complete darkness on the hardwood floor of my villa, with waves crashing a metre from my deck, trying to process how I ended up living in such a vivid daydream, when my phone buzzed with news of the terror and devastation in Paris. On that night, I stayed there on the floor in disbelief for hours until the sun rose, trying to visualise pouring all of my love through the tiny Parisian back streets I had wandered with camera in hand merely weeks earlier. Helplessness, emptiness and unimaginable, utter gratitude all juxtaposed and mixed at once and palpable. I danced with the locals at Fia Fia night with far too many mojitos consumed and a spirit so sunbeaten and wild and free. I found tears streaming down my face, hearing the heartbreaking story of the 2009 tsunami, which washed away lives and livelihood with ferocity. And I sat utterly awestruck by the grace, and courage, and rising above of these beautiful people from such a disaster – rebuilding resorts, homes and livelihoods literally by hand. I did not expect to discover such coastlines and valleys and waterfalls and trenches and sunrise skyshows which all somehow felt like finding hidden treasure. Samoa was so many things – but more than anything, it was a place so exquisitely alive, and abundant in sheer beauty, generosity and spirit.

Here is a visual photo journal of our wanderings, and an address book of my favourite experiences, eats, places to rest your travelling head and highlights…. which, was basically every little moment. And do scroll right to the bottom of the post, where I have a special offer for YOU, lovely reader, if you wish to experience this paradise too.

Fa’afetai Samoa, you will forever and always be imprinted on my heart. x






SEE

To Sua Ocean Trench (Upolu) :: Main South Coast Road, Samoa
Proof that magic is real. A giant swimming hole, thirty metres deep, connected to the sea. The turquoise water can be accessed by a {very} steep ladder.

Lalomanu Beach (Upolu)
One of Samoa’s most pristine beaches, on the southeastern tip of Upolu. Here you can hire a beachside fale (hut), swim, snorkle, eat and soak up sunshine.

Sopoaga Falls, In Lotofaga Village (Upolu) and Afu A’au Waterfall (Savai’i)

Alofa’aga Blowholes (Savai’i)

Experience a Fia Fia cultural night

Samoa Cultural Village (Upolu)

Treehouse – Lupe Sina Treesort :: Tiavi, Upolu

 

EAT + DRINK

Everything seafood. But I especially loved Tuna Poke (raw tuna marinated in lime, chilli and sesame oil) and Island fries (made from the root vegetable taro, and banana instead of potato fries)

Drinks – hello freshly cracked coconuts, and (thrice) daily Coconut Mojitos and Pina Coladas.

STAY

Sinalee Reef Resort (Upolu)

Our incredible home away from home for 3 nights – for which I will ever struggle to find fitting words. This family-run establishment is without a doubt, absolute and unequivocal paradise. I left my heart here.

Le Lagoto Resort & Spa (Savai’i)

An exquisite boutique, family run resort with tenprivate bungalows set right on the waterfront…and complimentary breakfast. Le Lagato is Samoan for ‘sunsets’ – and the title could not be more fitting.

In wrapping up, a love note to the five kindred beauties I had the joy of spending this precious week with:

Tess :: the warmth and love that you give us so freely is such a beautiful thing to be in the presence of alone. Right from your first email, I’ve felt like our spirits have been connected for many lifetimes. Complimentary breakfast sisters by spirit always.

Lex :: divine free spirit, thank you for constantly filling our adventure with sweet tunes and strums on your ukulele. Thank you for our photo adventures by day and readings by night, and the lessons of trusting in my strength and owning my power that I took home with me and affirm every day.

Pip :: gin sister (let’s call it even) your heart is as big as your fins are long, and your view through the underwater lens offers a perception of the world I’ve never known. So completely in awe of your work and your vision.

Sera :: you, my dear, are exquisite. Your dedication to capturing every sunrise + sunset, honing your craft and understanding of light play is incredible and I hope we can shoot many sunrises on adventures in 2016 together.

Laura :: your spirit is in equal parts joy and luminous. You made every moment something bright (and your sunscreen almostsaved me too). So grateful for the laughter, silly moments and for those shared twisties in the back of the ute.

I {gratefully} travelled to Samoa in November as a guest of Samoa TourismHashtag Travel Society, Sinalei Resort and Le Lagoto Resort. All opinions are always – authentically and completely – my own.

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