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Upolu island, the smaller of the two main Samoan islands and host to the capital Apia, this volcanic peak in the south Pacific has a multitude of varied attractions throughout. The island is only about the size of Japan's Okinawa, and is easily accessed by car with any location only about an hour or so away.

Upolu and Samoa in general is one of the closest places to paradise that I've visited - unspoiled beaches, fantastical carved lava scenery, and not in the least bit overrun by tourists. It was a joy to explore all the points of interest, and discover the next beautiful vista just around the corner. I had been spoiled by the time I arrived at my next destination, Fiji.

Lalomanu beach

Lalomanu beach is one of the most picturesque on Upolu, the elements of the picture-postcard scene are all there. In the distance is the island of Nu'utele, once a leper colony. This wasn't always paradise.

I knew the instant I saw To Sua ocean trench on a postcard that I had to visit - what could be more serene than a sapphire pool cut into the jungle. To Sua was formed when a lava tube collapsed, creating this and another "skylight".

To Sua ocean trench

To Sua ocean trench

The trench is connected to the sea by an underwater tunnel, by swimming down I could see the light straight through to the open water. There is a strong pull as the water moves in and out, but very relaxing to float around in the middle. It is shallow enough to stand in places.

An archway carved into lava by the sea, near To Sua ocean trench.

Lava sea arch

Sheraton Samoa pool

My lodging for my time in Upolu was the Sheraton Aggie Grey's Resort, recently purchased by the international chain and previously an independent hotel. Not too shabby.

The resort even had a causeway out into the south Pacific, presumably used for weddings as well as photo opportunities.

Wedding pier

Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey's Resort

Another view of the pool at Aggie Grey's, if only I'd had more time to spend here. Aggie Grey founded her original hotel in Apia in 1933, but at the time of my visit in late 2015 it was being refurbished.

One of the many stunning waterfalls of Upolu, this one is called Fuipisia and is in the east of the island.


Typical Samoan house

A typical Samoan house - with temperatures sticking close to thirty Celsius all year round, why bother with walls when all you need is a roof?

Quite the opposite here, walls but no roof. This church was damaged in the tsunami of 2009, and remained derelict six years later when I visited.

Tsunami ruined church

Bahai temple, Samoa

Samoa boasts its own Baha'i temple, one of only ten standing around the world, the first one having been badly damaged in the Ashgabat earthquake of 1948, and ultimately demolished. This one was built in 1984.

There was no shortage of these curious black lizards while I was tramping about the forests of Upolu. It was difficult to photograph them before they scurried away.

Samoan lizard

Lalomanu beach

A closing shot of Lalomanu beach, I spent some time lolling about in a cabana and listening to the crashing of the waves.

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2018