visiting apolima island in samoa is not a particularly easy undertaking.
apolima is a collapsed volcanic cone which is home to just one or two families and a priest (because it’s samoa ;) ). the island is surrounded by steep cliff walls with a single, narrow, turbulent gap that allows boat access in good weather.
our lonely planet travel guide (*see end of article) put the island “on the map” for us, and we were already excited by the end of the first sentence:
Few travellers make the trip out to the minuscule but marvellous Apolima. From a distance, its steep walls look completely inaccessible; when you get closer you can spy the narrow gap in the northern cliffs, through which small boats can enter the crater and land on a sandy beach.
this “narrow gap” turned out to be a little adventure of itself, explaining why there aren’t more boats going to the island: the captain waited patiently outside the entrance while waves would come clashing in from all sides, until we could catch just the right wave that would carry our boat safely past the rocks and into the little bay.
here’s how we visited apolima island:
- make your way to the jetty at manono-uta on upolu (western samoa’s main island). in all of samoa, we found that public busses were an extremely cheap, entertaining, and authentic way of traveling (also see: upolu bus schedules and fares).
- take a boat over to manono island, which is itself a little gem between samoa’s two main islands. boats to manono island leave “when there are enough people”, or your accommodation on manono island can arrange (more expensive) transport.
- on manono, stay with sunset view fales (mobile phone: +685-7753143), who can arrange the boat and visit to apolima island. be sure to make arrangements in advance.
- we were able to join a small group who was also planning on going to the island, and paid 50 WST per person for the half day trip, including a coconut refreshment. for a boat charter, expect to pay around 400-500 WST.
- don’t be surprised if you and your camera get sprayed with sea water on your way to/from the island.
once on the island, we walked up to the small lighthouse tower for a good view of the island and settlement, enjoyed a dip in the little bay (some coral, but not much), and explored the rock shelves during low tide. apparently, sometimes there’s also a small introduction by one of the locals, but unfortunately no one was available at the time.
if you want to see more of manono island before or after going to apolima, additional accommodation options are manono island retreat (please comment if you have a phone number!) and sweet escape (phone +685-7280914 or +685-7596207), but neither can arrange an apolima trip.
a note on the lonely planet travel guide for rarotonga, samoa and tonga: if you list a $900 per night luxury resort as one of your “country’s top picks”, are you still catering to your original target audience of independent travelers on a budget?