Treading lightly on treasured islands

By Australian Geographic 18 June 2019
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Samoa: protecting and preserving a South Pacific paradise.

Loved for their pristine beaches, lush gardens, majestic rainforest-covered mountains, beautiful waterfalls and stunning seascapes, the South Pacific islands of Samoa have protected the gifts bestowed upon them by Mother Nature for millennia.

More recently, these precious tropical baubles have been protected by a 3000-year-old tradition called Fa’a Samoa, or The Samoan Way.

A living culture passed on and enforced in every generation, Fa’a Samoa is, in essence, a respect for the island’s pristine environment and a duty to protect and preserve it.

It’s a natural extension of this then, for the small island nation to embrace environmental practices in all walks of life.

From a fale – the traditional dwelling for many Samoans, built from locally cut timber and coconut sennit (hand-harvested and made cord) and perched on the sand just a few metres from the water’s edge – to fruit and vegetables pulled straight from the garden, the carbon footprint here is minimal.

You’ll find this low-impact living across the islands and adopted by tourist destinations and resorts. The focus is firmly set on Fa’a Samoa.

So much so that Sustainable Travel International (STI), whose vision “improving lives and protecting places through travel and tourism” has established the Samoa Travel Philanthrophy Fund.

“As a small island nation, Samoa’s ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to environmental challenges brought on by climate change, unplanned development and natural disasters,” says a spokesperson.

“Impacts from mass tourism can also threaten traditional knowledge and cultural expression, which play an integral role in the Samoan way of life.

“Sustainably managed tourism has the potential to address these threats by enhancing climate-change adaptation, strengthening community resilience, and funding environmental conservation. In addition to environmental protection, tourism also represents an opportunity to conserve the island’s cultural heritage, improve community well-being, and create career options for the Samoan youth.”

To this end, visitors are encouraged to explore Samoa in all its wild beauty, from the refreshing rivers and waterfalls to the white-sand beaches and rolling waves of the coast. There’s the freshest of food, cooked traditionally; the coolest of accommodation, try an over-water fale; and illuminating traditional festivals to enjoy.

But in order to truly appreciate the myriad gifts Samoa offers, you must tap in to the Samoan way of living – to slow down and to ‘fai fai lemu’, which literally means ‘take it easy’.

Find out more about treading lightly at Samoa Tourism.