“WE are all travellers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend” — Robert Louis Stevenson. Lisa Maroun explores Samoa and discovers why this famous Scottish author fell in love with the Samoans and their island nation, so much so he requested his final resting place to be in the island nation.

It’s approaching 6am as my Samoa Airways flight makes its descent into Faleolo International Airport, and my eyes are glued to the window staring down at the turquoise blue waters beneath wondering what to expect.

Walking through the airport I am greeted with a welcoming “Talofa” by the locals and I find myself suddenly drawn to a stop. I take a moment to look around and then smile. At that moment I knew it was time for me to “faifai lemu” (meaning to “take it easy”) and start embracing the Samoan Way of life.

Samoans are proud people — proud of their villages, their religion, their families and culture, and they are excited to share this with visitors.

Driving through the small villages in the early hours, the locals are already out, dressed in their fine whites preparing for Sunday church service, waving to me as I pass by. Samoa is a Christian country and places of worship of every denomination are situated a few hundred metres along the road in Apia. For a truly uplifting experience, attend a Samoan church service and listen to the heavenly sounds of the church choir. All visitors are welcome and remember to take some spare change with you for a donation.

The Samoa Cultural Village located in Apia is an ideal stop at the beginning of your journey that will give you a taste of Samoa’s traditions. Techniques including woodcarving, basket weaving and cooking are demonstrated here, and if you’re lucky enough you may also witness someone getting a traditional Samoan tattoo.

Fiafia cultural nights are hosted here and in many hotels around the island, where visitors get a taste of the local delicacies prepared in an umu and are entertained by Samoan warriors and dancers singing and performing a fire knife dance.

The nearby Fugalei Fresh Produce & Flea Markets is a great place to engage with the locals. Aisles are filled with the vibrant colours of seasonal produce, fabrics and souvenirs. Delight in the chatter and infectious laughter between farmers and locals.

On the outskirts of Apia in Vailima is the beautifully restored homestead of Robert Louis Stevenson set within lush gardens. Take a wander through this impressive museum learning about the author’s life and why Samoa inspired his writing.

Robert Louis Stevenson continues to be Samoa’s most famous ex-patriot. The locals even gave him the Samoan name “Tusitala”, meaning “writer of tales.”

After a few days I find myself falling more in love with Samoa, with the hospitable nature and warm smiles of the Samoan people making me feel truly welcome.

I soon learn there is so much more to explore in this unspoilt island paradise, from the lush rainforests and lava fields to the majestic waterfalls and clear swimming holes.

A 30-minute drive out of Apia, located in the village of Lufilufi is the Piula Cave Pools that originated from an old lava tube.

The clear water comes from an underground spring from the coast with half the pool in a deep cave under a bluff.

On the south coast of Upolu Island is To Sua Ocean Trench, a 30m deep crater filled with crystal clear seawater. To reach its clear waters you must scramble down a long stepladder.

Holding tightly as I slowly descend I feel my legs turn to jelly, but I continued to focus on the prize at the bottom. Lying on my back in this big swimming hole, I stare high up at the sky shaped in a circle from the surrounding cliffs, simply floating and appreciating the beauty of nature.

This site also offers beautifully maintained gardens, day fales (bungalows) with cliff top views, blowholes, and rock pools, and is a popular picnic place for Samoans. To protect this serene spot there is a charge of $20 for adults and $6 for children over the age of seven to swim at To Sua Ocean Trench.

Driving further towards the south coast of Upolu you’ll reach Lalomanu Beach, a picturesque white sand beach voted by Lonely Planet as one of the top 10 beach destinations in the world.

The powerful Sapoaga Falls found at Lotofaga village also includes a picnic area that’s surrounded by lush native plants and trees. Don’t miss out on the coconut-husking demonstration and tasting the local fruit before leaving this beautiful site.

Samoa truly is an untouched paradise, making it the perfect place to unwind and experience nature at its best.

And the one thing that sticks in my mind, that Robert Louis Stevenson also discovered, is the warmth and honesty of the humble Samoan people.

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