Sunday, March 12, 2006


The Apolima Strait between the two large islands of Savaii and 'Upolu is home to the small islands of Manono and Apolima. Apolima is quite difficult to reach. Manono however, is much easier to reach and well worth visiting. It is, by choice of its residents, a very traditional island. Dogs are not allowed on the island nor are any vehicles (there aren't any roads anyway). It is the third largest island in Samoa yet only 3 sq km in size, with four villages and a population between 1000-2000.

There are two places open to visitors who wish to stay on Manono, one on the east coast, the other on the west. I just spent two nights staying at the latter, with Leota, his wife Sau and his several children (including young Aneti, pictured here "fishing" with his older brother Mose).

There's not a great deal one can do whilst on Manono except relax. Walking around the perimeter of the island takes somewhere between one and two hours. There are a couple of sites of interest, most notable of which (at least in theory) is the ancient star mound that is found on the top of Mt. Tulimanuiva. Sadly, the reward for making it to the top of the mountain is the sight of a mobile phone tower stretching some 50 metres into the sky. What remains of the 12-pointed star mound itself is obscured by vines and other foliage.

According to Leota, the family that owns the customary land on which the mountain lies made a deal with a telecommunications company to have a mobile phone tower installed. I got the impression that they did this without any broader consultation on Manono, nor indeed within their own village. It was only after the tower itself was installed that the rest of the island was able to bring a stop to things. Yet the tower remains.

The only upside of there being a huge tower on top of Manono is that climbing it affords you a spectacular 360° view. The other picture is the view from the tower back towards the side of the coast near where I stayed (the white specks are a couple of seabirds). Manono is completely surrounded by reefs so the water all around it is a magnificent cyan colour.

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