With 40 years of experience under her belt, Betty Cavanagh arranged a fantastic 6 hour tour of American Samaoa’s Pago Pago and Tuitila Island. We were picked up dockside in a large, late model, air-conditioned SUV. Our very capable tour guide/driver was the 2008 Miss American Samoa, Netty. She was born and raised near the Rainmaker Mountain, but had spent several years attending school in Hawaii.
Betty planned the following itinerary:
• The U. S. National Park of American Samoa – Betty arranged this stop since neither the cruise line nor any Pago Pago tour operators offered a visit to the only U.S. National Park south of the equator.
• Fatu Ma Futi - Flower Pot Rocks
• The Village – Umu demonstration. Samoan Village Life
• Leone Missionary – First Missionary 1830
• Golf Course – scenic island and water views
• Maliu Mai Beach
• Tauese Museum – Private Museum of the late Governor’s memorabilia
• Tia Seu Lupe – Pigeon Mound
The National Park Service authorized the American Samoa National Park in 1988 as the 50th park (current number = 57) in the NPS. The entire park covers parts of 3 islands within American Samoa - Tutuila, Ofu, and Ta’u Islands. The land is leased from 10 Samoan village families and the national park has built no infrastructure. Park admission is free.
The Samoa Village and the activities were demonstrated by Netty’s family members. The extended family demonstrated how they cook dinner in an outdoor umu; foods they eat – taro, copra (dried coconut meat), pineapple, papaya; dressed – colorful sarongs for women AND men; and how they live off the land (making coconut cream, weaving palm frond baskets and hats in American Samoa. Samples of the food were passed around for us to taste. Samoan design sarongs, striking shell jewelry, carved wooden bowls, and traditional woven placemats and palm hats, fresh coconuts, cold local beer and sodas were offered for sale. We spent quality time meeting and conversing with Netty and her in-laws, cousins, and aunties and uncles. We left as a dozen of Le Truck buses, cruise ship shore excursion tours, pulled into the village and began to discharge people. Betty arranges all the shore excursions for the cruise lines (on this day, HAL and Princess each had a ship docked in Pago Pago harbor) so Netty was aware of their tour schedules, and she made sure we were always ahead of the crowds.
The private van tour included scenic drives around the island. We viewed destruction of the September 2009 tsunami. American Samoa is still recovering from the devastation - 20 lives were lost on Tutuila Island. We watched as residents fished and dug for clams at low tide. American Samoa’s natural beauty is breathtaking and the Samoan people are so kind and friendly.
The highlight of the tour was the stately, former Governor Tauese’s home. In the Samoas, public cemeteries do not exist. Traditionally, individuals are buried in the front yard of the family home. The more elaborate the grave site reflects the status and respect accorded to the deceased. The popular governor’s burial site is made from massive stones of granite and stands over 10 feet high. A permanent gated fale covers and protects the grave site from the elements. It is lovingly adorned with floral arrangements, Holy Scriptures, and photographs of the former governor. His widow personally welcomed us and invited us into her home to view the extensive memorabilia collection of his political career. True to form, as a politician’s wife, she shook our hands, greeted us warmly, offered refreshments, and inquired how far we each had traveled to American Samoa. She proudly spoke of her husband’s accomplishments and long term vision for American Samoa. The group was touched beyond words of her gracious hospitality. Betty Cavanagh had personally arranged the opportunity to tour the home and meet Mrs. Tauese.
Pago Pago, American Samoa port is just like being on the U.S. Mainland. $USD currency is the method of payment. The U.S. Post Office is located across from the docks where cruise passengers mailed heavy flat rate boxes back to the USA. Popular American fast food restaurants are found – in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, south of the equator.
Thank you, Betty Cavanagh of Pago Pago Trade Winds Tours, for arranging a perfect day in Paradise for our group.