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American Samoa

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Travel Guide Oceania Polynesia American Samoa

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Introduction

Pago Pago harbour

Pago Pago harbour

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American Samoa is a modernized, somewhat dilapidated Pacific affair where anthropologists spend their days complaining about the loss of culture and the average tourist marvels at the people's traditional daily life. We recommend swallowing your intellect, ignoring the fact that the Samoan culture now presented to visitors is only marginally representative of Samoan culture half a century ago, instead choosing to enjoy the dancing and music, and the weird cultural quirks, like the painful tatooing of teenage boys.

Swimming is not possible in every square inch of the surrounding Pacific, so make sure the spot you pick is not going to see you battered by the shallow coral reef. Hiking is an activity less developed, but one which affords some rewarding adventures. Mt Alava, outside Pago Pago, has a nice hike to its summit, offering excellent vistas of the island and harbor.

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Brief History

The pre-Western history of Eastern Samoa (now American Samoa) is inextricably bound with the history of Western Samoa (now independent Samoa). The Manu'a Islands of American Samoa have one of the oldest histories of Polynesia, in connection with the Tui Manua title, connected with the histories of the archipelagos of Fiji, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Tokelau and elsewhere in the Pacific - all of which had once been under Manua's occupation.

Early Western contact included a battle in the eighteenth century between French explorers and islanders in Tutuila, for which the Samoans were blamed in the West, giving them a reputation for ferocity. Early nineteenth century Rarotongan missionaries to the Samoa islands were followed by a group of Western missionaries led by John Williams of the Congregationalist London Missionary Society in the 1830s, officially bringing Christianity to Samoa.

International rivalries in the latter half of the nineteenth century were settled by the 1899 Tripartite Convention in which Germany and the U.S. divided the Samoan archipelago. The following year, the U.S. formally occupied its portion: a smaller group of eastern islands, one of which surrounds the noted harbor of Pago Pago. Since 1962, the western islands have been an independent nation, adopting the name The Independent State of Samoa in 1997.

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Geography

American Samoa, located within the geographical region of Oceania, is one of only two possessions of the United States in the Southern Hemisphere, the other being Jarvis Island. Its total land area is 76.1 square miles (197.1 km2) – slightly larger than Washington, D.C. - consisting of five rugged, volcanic islands and two coral atolls. The five volcanic islands are: Tutuila, Aunu'u, Ofu, Olosega, Tau. The coral atolls are: Swains, and Rose Atoll. Of the seven islands, Rose Atoll is an uninhabited Marine National Monument. Due to its positioning in the South Pacific Ocean, it is frequently hit by tropical cyclones between November and April. Rose Atoll is the easternmost point of the territory. American Samoa is the southernmost part of the United States. American Samoa is home to the National Park of American Samoa.

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Islands

  • Tutuila is the main island
  • Aunu'u
  • Ofu - widely regarded as one of the most stunning beaches in the South Pacific, with its high peaks dropping dramatically to sparkling white sand beaches, where the only other footsteps apart from your own are those of crabs
  • Olosega - connected by a narrow bridge to neighboring Ofu
  • Ta'u
  • Rose Island - The Rose Atoll Marine National Monument is the southernmost point in United States territory and is not open to tourists. The only legal way to get there is as a scientist.
  • Swains Island - A privately owned island far to the north of the other portions of American Samoa. No tourist facilities.

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Towns

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Sights and Activities

American Samoa National Park

The American Samoa National Park has a lot to offer for those travellers keen on the very best of nature in the world. The shorelines, reefs and rainforest are of outstanding beauty. The park actually is actually divided into three parks on four separate islands! Lata Mountain on Ta’u has wild and remote forests, free-flowing streams, and rugged coastline. It occupies 2,160 hectares of land with highlights including a spectacular escarpment along the southern side and cliffs up to 900 metres high. The the impressive Judds Crater tops things of. To add, the lowlands and rainforests are home to fruit bats and many native birds. Islands like Ofu and Olosega have are a bit different in that they have the most accessible coral reefs and also more and longer white-sanded beaches against a dramatic background. The fourth island, Tutuila even has forests accesible by car and also great wildlife and o course a scenic coastline. Basically, all four islands are actually extinct volcanoes heavily eroded to rugged peaks when the Pacific Plate moved and eruptions from within the earth together made this gift of nature.

Ofu beach

Ofu beach is one of the highlights of this island. It is located along the southern coast and is an impressive 4 kilometres long. It boasts fine white sand, palm fringed beaches and turquoise waters as its front garden. These offshore waters are good for viewinig beautiful corals and tropical fish. There are almost 300 species of fish and an estimated 150 species of coral. Excellent for diving and snorkelling. Or just laze around a bit of coursel.

Leone

Leone is a village on the island o Tutuila. It used to serve as the Polynesian capital of the island and also was the place where the first missionary, John Williams arrived in 1832. Leone has two fine churches and one of it is actually his work and was the first in American Samoa. This church has three towers and faces the sea, which only adds to its beauty. The well maintained church has stained-glass windows and nice detailed woodwork on the ceilings. Here you will also find a monument paying tribute to the efforts of John Williams.

Other sights and activities

  • Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary - colourul reef with corals and fish, great for snorkelling and diving

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Weather

American Samoa has a hot and humid tropical climate. Temperatures hoover around 30 °C degrees Celcius throughout the year and never drop much lower than 23 °C or 24 °C at night. Temperatures are slightly higher during the wetter November to March period and slightly lower between April and October. This last period is the best season to visit as it rains less (but still significantly) and there is almost no chance of hurricanes, which can strik from December to March. Pago Pago is one of the wettest inhabitant places anywhere in the world, so be prepared to get soked sometimes.

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Getting there

Plane

Pago Pago International Airport (PPG) is located on Tutuila island and receives all international air traffic.
Polynesian Airlines, Inter-Island Airways and Hawaiian Airlines all serve American Samoa. The first two serve Samoa (Faleolo Airport and Fagalii Airport near Apia), the latter serves Honolulu.

By Boat

The only option to get to American Samoa by boat is taking the MV Lady Naomi. It operates between the capital of Samoa, Apia, and Pago Pago once a week departing Apia every Wednesday at midnight returning from Pago Pago every Thursday at 3:30pm, taking around 7 hours to complete the journey. Expect rough rides now and then. Although it costs about half compared to a plane ticket, it is rather basic and takes much much longer of course. The return deck/cabin fare from American Samoa is US$75/100 and tickets have to be purchased at least one day in advance from Polynesia Shipping Services.

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Getting Around

By Plane

Inter-Island Airways flies between Pago Pago and the Manu'a island Tau, taking about 30 to 40 minutes.

By Car

Car hire is only of use on the island of Tutuila and most international agencies have offices at the airport or Pago Pago. Although it is not the cheapest way of getting around it sure is one of the best. Allow a few days to see the main island.

By Bus

The island of Tutuila has a good public transportation system with frequent although somewhat unreliable “aiga” or “family” buses. They take you anywhere for a dollar or less. Buses originate and terminate at the market in Fagatogo, near the capital Pago Pago. You can flag one down anywhere and get of the bus anywhere as well.

By Boat

The American Samoa Inter-Island Shipping Company operates the Manu'a Tele cargo ship. It departs Pago Pago for the Manu'a Islands on Wednesday at 10:00pm and it takes eight hours. The fare is US$35 one way, plus US$5 per piece of luggage. Tickets are only sold from 8:00am on the day of departure. The MV Sili also travels between Pago Pago and the Manu'a group. It departs Tutuila every second Friday at 10:00pm and a one-way ticket is US$20, plus US$1 per piece of luggage. Tickets are sold between 8:00am and 4:00pm on the day of departure.
As there are no direct flights anymore to Ofu from Pago Pago, you have to fly to Ta'u and arrange onward boats to Ofu from there. You have to arrange this when arriving on Ta'u with local fishermen and the price can be as high as US$100 per boat load, so try to look for fellow travellers to cut costs.

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Red Tape

The same requirements as in the United States apply.

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Money

See also Money Matters

The US Dollar, or "greenback", is the national currency of American Samoa. One dollar consists of 100 cents. Frequently used coins are the penny (1¢), nickel (5¢), dime (10¢) and quarter (25¢). 50¢ and $1 coins also exist, but are rarely used. Frequently used banknotes are the $1, $5, $10 and $20 notes. $2, $50 and $100 notes can also be found, but are rarely used.

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Work

The tuna industry is very prominent, but about 30% of the population is unemployed.

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Language

English and Samoan are the two official languages in American Samoa.

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Sleep

There is hotel-style lodging on the main islands, but not Olosega, Swains, or Rose.

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Health

See also Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to American Samoa. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering American Samoa) where that disease is widely prevalent.

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to American Samoa. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid. Vaccination against hepatitis B is also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Dengue sometimes occurs as well. There is no vaccinations, so buy mosquito repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Also wear long sleeves if possible.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.

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Safety

See also Travel Safety

American Samoa has low crime rates, though it's best to stay where the crowds are while on the beach. While swimming, don't go too far out, as rip tides are common.

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Keep Connected

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to American Samoa is: 1-684
To make an international call from American Samoa, the code is: 011

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Quick Facts

American Samoa flag

Map of American Samoa

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Capital
Pago Pago
Population
67,000
Government
USA territory
Religions
Christianity (Protestant, Catholic)
Languages
Samoan, English
Calling Code
+684
Nationality
American Samoan
Local name
Amerika Sāmoa

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This is version 22. Last edited at 9:21 on May 8, 13 by Utrecht. 19 articles link to this page.

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