Our flight to Pago Pago in American Samoa left from Honolulu in the afternoon on Monday December 23rd. We landed in the evening and walked outside to an extremely humid environment. We were about 7,500 miles away from home. Our lodging on this small island was at Sadie’s by the Sea. It was dark as the hotel shuttle bus took us to our room.
When we woke up the next morning and opened the fogged sliding glass door we were thrilled to see the calm water forty feet from our porch. We ate breakfast at the Goat Island Café located adjacent to us. The crab omelets and pancakes were delicious, but the prices were a little expensive. We rented a car from Sadie’s by the Sea and visited the National Park visitor center a few miles away. We spoke to a park ranger about best places to snorkel. He introduced us to an expert and the man began advising us about several wonderful places to go. The last place he mentioned was in Fagamalo bay where there was a cave.
We drove west to the Fagamalo bay. The water seemed a little rough, but we were so excited to put on our gear we quickly swam out into the rip current. Luke, Winston and Alisa went first. When Bill started just a few minutes later, Luke was already swimming back to shore stating that it was too rough. Bill did not believe him and swam out. A few minutes later he caught up to Alisa treading water and complaining. Once again, Bill an excellent swimmer, did not trust his fellow family members. Winston swam back to the beach and Bill finally agreed to do it as well. When Bill was almost out of the water and on the sand, he realized that his wife was still past the rip current treading water.
Bill screamed, “Alisa!” and raced to her. When he got there she was extremely worried and panicking. Bill was angry because she was not remaining calm. After being on so many adventures he thought that she would understand the value of not panicking during any obstacle. Since he was a life guard for many years, bringing his lovely stressed our wife to safety became the obvious top priority. He told her to calm down and kick. She lost a flipper and would not put her mask back on. After several yells and getting her flipper he once again began dragging her towards the shore.
In the meantime, the boys were quite upset on the beach. Soon several locals form the village gathered as they pushed a small boat using a rope slowly towards Alisa and Bill. The rip tide was strong, but not enough to worry Bill. It took patience, plenty of kicking, resting occasionally, and a determination to believe that this place was not going to be the end of our lives. This was our first snorkeling of the trip, but in Alisa’s mind she was worried that she was going to drown and die. As she continued to panic, sit up in the water, and not listen to her husband, Bill briefly dunked her.
A few minutes later Bill grabbed Alisa’s hand and put it on the side of the boat. As she lost the other flipper in Fagamalo bay and the boat got closer to Luke and Winston, Bill continued to kick and helped get the boat onto the beach. Alisa definitely was scared and needed help. Bill saved her life, yet was still upset about how everything happened. After the hugs, lectures and Alisa’s repeating of “I’m sorry I almost drowned”, we drove east to calmer place to see some healthy coral reef and active fish.
Bill and the boys snorkeled a few brief times in some clear water on the way back to the hotel. Along the drive Winston rinsed off in a waterfall and Luke pulled two pieces of fruit off a tree just off of the road. Sadie’s by the Sea is on Utulei bay where we saw plenty of coral, fish, a beautiful sea turtle, and a magical purple puffer fish.
Our Christmas Eve dinner was at a small place called Famous Seafood Restaurant. It had delicious Chinese food with huge portions. The prices were very reasonable and we developed a system to eat the leftovers each morning for breakfast. We learned that there were two locations within a few miles from our hotel. Every evening we had dinner with breakfast ready for the next morning until we flew back to Hawai’i.
We woke up early on Christmas Day and watched the sunrise on the bay. We drove into the national park to hike the challenging 5.6 mile Mount ‘Alava Adventure trail. It was very humid as we hiked within the mountaintops which are covered with mixed-species, paleotropical (Old World) rainforest. This is the only rainforest of its kind in the American national park system. The birds were pleasantly loud as we hiked within the wilderness. During our expedition there were a total of 56 ladders and 783 steps.
As we were finishing the hike walking along the road in the Vitia village, we wished the locals we saw a very Merry Christmas. One of them, a woman named Mau, invited us to her village for a BBQ. We relaxed as we enjoyed grilled food like chicken, peacock and hotdogs. Luke loved the banana ice-cream they gave us. He ate five servings of it. We met the chief and witness the true Samoan culture. We think Samoans are absolutely gracious, peaceful, kind and wonderful to be around. We noticed that the people in the village who were playing volleyball were truly enjoying themselves without keeping score. It was just simple fun for them! What was fun for us was more snorkeling and Chinese food.
The next day we went back into the national park section of the island and hiked the Lower Sauma Ridge trail. We reached the shoreline and the adjacent rough Pacific Ocean waves which were occasionally crashing into a tidal pool. Alisa was very concerned because the guys wanted to swim in it. After watching the tide for about ten minutes Bill jumped into the tidal pool. The water, coral and fish was pristine. It was exhilarating being in a place that was beautiful, but dangerous at the same time. The boys went in after Bill as Alisa continued to worry and watch the tide. She would warn whoever was in the tidal pool so they would not be crushed against the coral or slammed into the rocks. This ancient star mound adventure was one of our favorite places in the National Park of American Samoa.
After we hiked out we drove to the end of the road within the park. We took a short, fairly flat trail to a rocky beach. The hike is called the Pola Island trail with views of the coastline. The waves were violent against the rocks, but the view of the Vai’ava Strait National Landmark was spectacular. We had a picnic lunch and was very thankful for the solitude. During each of our three hikes within the park we saw zero people on the trails. We truly love the fact we can explore a national park alone in isolation except for our family. However, wildlife is always welcome and exciting to see or hear.
Our last quest for the day was to explore more of the island. Therefore, we drove east and snorkeled at Au’asi bay. It was very shallow so got back in the car and drove as far east as we could go. The village was Onenoa. The water was not favorable so we left and went to Aoa bay. The tranquil water was a perfect place to relax. We spent plenty of time swimming deep and far away from the beach. We could stand, enjoy the sunshine and reflect on everything that has happened to us.
Finally, we drove to our favorite restaurant, sat down, ate soup, drank tea and enjoyed Chinese food again with plenty of leftovers for breakfast. We decided to save some money and returned the rental car since our fight was the following evening and we could utilize our hotel. The location was perfect and we had permission to check out in the afternoon.
On our last day Bill heated up his shrimp and broccoli in the microwave and snorkeled alone in Utulei bay. He was the only human swimming among the active coral reef full of fish and other aquatic wildlife. Alisa, Luke and Winston soon joined him and together discovered a squid hidden in a big piece of coral. Once again, the trill of exploration was rewarded with a wonderful exotic creature we had never seen before. The sun was hot as we kicked on the water and absorbed the rays on the beach.
We treated ourselves by renting two kayaks. The cost was $5.00 each and we could use them all day. We paddled over to Faga’alu bay, got out and walked to eat ice cream for lunch. Next we paddled back taking turns snorkeling in the deepest part of the bay. After five hours of near Equator sunshine, we showered and checked out of the hotel. We walked 1 ½ miles to the visitor center and Alisa became a junior ranger.
Lastly, we walked back to Sadie’s by the Sea and played a few card games before the shuttle took us to the airport. A local band was playing soothing music about an hour before we left. Alisa and Bill danced and the boys got a little embarrassed. Bill loves to show his affection and kiss his wife in front of Luke and Winston. It is important for him that his kids see that he is in love with their mother. Especially since Alisa almost died here at the National Park of American Samoa.