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Australian builder Chris and his wife Wendy’s dream nearly came to an end in 2009, when a wave of earthquakes cause a devastating tsunami which decimated the island.

“We were here in the honeymoon suite when it hit,” Chris says. “We held on to trees to stop [ourselves] from washing away.”

The suite, award-winning restaurant and adjacent rooms weren’t so lucky. Standing in the newly rebuilt deluxe suite, it’s hard to imagine the extent of what happened here, but Chris says he and Wendy were determined to stay put: “Leaving didn’t cross our mind – it could be a thousand years before the next one – and we love it here.”

Further along the coast, I chat to Koroseta Legalo, the owner of family-run business Faofao Beach Fales (chalets from £19pn; wsamoa.ws), who also lost much of her livelihood.

“We didn’t have any warning… we saw the water sucked out to sea and ran,” she says. But in spite of the painful memories, today she is all smiles, the disaster far behind her.

Fales, the traditional Samoan huts, are encased only with banana leaf thatching.

I’m to spend the night in one and I can’t lie, I’m petrified about having little but foliage between me and the waves.

But despite an offer to bed down in the alternative multi-storey accommodation block, I decline. This Samoan experience can’t be passed up and so I bunker down in the open air.

It’s such a refreshing night’s sleep that with first light comes a fear conquered, a crab in my trainers and a vow to do it again.

A chance comes sooner than expected, as fale dwelling is the sole form of accommodation available on Manono Island, a tiny dot between Upolu and Samoa’s other main island Savai’i, accessible only by a 20-minute ride in a small tin boat that I catch from the Manono-uta jetty the next day.

This place is the epitome of simple, Samoan living – there are no dogs, no cars and a minimum of technology. It’s even tough to find a shop selling bottled water, but red cordial-filled plastic bags seem to generally suffice for hydration purposes.

A stroll around the island takes 90 minutes – longer if you stop and oblige the endless stream of children pleading “Pue-ata” (“capture my smile!”). As I explore, I find myself almost overwhelmed by this sleepy, remote world.

As darkness falls, three bedraggled European travellers emerge from the sea, dripping wet, with freshly caught tuna in hand.

Their boat is moored a few hundred metres out and they’ve decided to swim ashore. Islanders welcome them without hesitation, and we all sit around a star-lit table to dine together.

Generosity seems to come naturally to the Samoans we’re eating with and, when it comes to physique, big is beautiful here, so there’s no option but to abandon concerns about your girth and go with it.

We all dig into a feast of fresh lobster, battered tuna steaks and local delicacy oka (raw fish in lemon and coconut milk), which everyone shares.

Maybe it’s the stunningly fresh food, the cheerful company or just the picturesque island setting, but this is definitely one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had.

I return to the mainland the next morning to catch my flight home, feeling a little heartbroken to have to say goodbye.

As the plane takes off, a pair of fishermen abandon their hooks, look up and wave at my plane.

By this stage, such a farewell doesn’t even seem remarkable.

Genuinely enthusiastic from “talofa” to “tofa soifua” (Gagana Samoan for hello and goodbye), these people are beyond welcoming and happy to share their world with the rest of the globe.

I look forward to my next chance to revel in its simplicity.

When to go: It’s best to visit Samoa between May and October’s dry season – this is also when most of the major festivals are. Christmas and New Year gets busy as many Samoans who live abroad return home for the festivities.

Currency
: £1 = WST3.67 (Samoan Tala)

Accommodation
: Find modest, closed beachfront fales at Taufua Beach Fales, or an open option for a night with the breeze in your hair (samoabeachfales.com).

From £18pppn based on three or four sharing. Overnight stays include dinner and breakfast.

See
: samoa.travel.com

Getting there

Virgin Atlantic flies from London Heathrow to Sydney from £1270 return. Catch a connecting flight from Sydney to Apia with Virgin Samoa from £192 return.

Looking to plan a trip? Head to TNT Tour Search where you will find some incredible deals. What are you waiting for?!

 

Photos: Katie Spain,Samoa Tourism, Thinkstock, Getty


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