The Independent State of Samoa, commonly known as Samoa and, until 1997, known as Western Samoa, is a Unitary parliamentary democracy with eleven administrative divisions. The two main islands are Savai'i and Upolu with four smaller islands surrounding the landmasses. The capital city is Apia. The Lapita people discovered and settled the Samoan islands around 3,500 years ago. They developed a unique language and cultural identity.
Western Samoa was admitted to the United Nations on 15 December 1976. The entire island group, which includes American Samoa, was called "Navigator Islands" by European explorers before the 20th century because of the Samoans' seafaring skills.
Official languages are English and Samoan(Gagana Fa'asāmoa), which is also spoken in American Samoa.
The main islands are the result of countless volcanic eruptions, leaving easily visible volcanic cones all over both islands. None of the volcanoes are currently active, but small earthquakes often rock the island, reminding people of the volcanoes' presence. In September 2009 the south coast of Upolu Island was hit by a devastating tsunami, with much loss of life.
The last volcanic eruption was in 1911, on Savaii. The eerie, lifeless lava fields that remain from this event can be visited easily, since the only sealed road on Savai'i goes right through the middle.
Both islands are almost entirely covered by lush vegetation, although almost none of it is the original rainforest that covered the island before humans arrived. Most of the land area is given over to farms or semi-cultivated forest, providing food and cash crops for the locals. Since Samoa has been inhabited for over three thousand years, the cultivated lands around villages can often seem like deepest, darkest jungle.
The Samoa Tourism Authority manages information centres offering maps, brochures and other information for tourists.
- STA Visitor Information Fale, Beach Rd, Matafele (next to the government building on the harbour), , , fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. 9-5pm Monday to Friday and 8am-12pm Saturday morning.
- Faleolo International Airport Information Booth, Faleolo International Airport (On the left when exiting quarantine). open for all international flight arrivals into Samoa.
- STA New Zealand Office, Level 1, Samoa House, 283 Karangahape Road, Auckland, , fax: , e-mail: [email protected].
Samoa is located south of the equator, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean. The total land area is 2,842 km² (1,097 sq mi), consisting of the two large islands of Upolu and Savai'iwhich account for 99% of the total land area, and eight small islets.
These are the three islets in the Apolima Strait (Manono Island, Apolima and Nu'ulopa), the four Aleipata Islands off the eastern end of Upolu (Nu'utele, Nu'ulua, Namua, and Fanuatapu), and Nu'usafe'e(less than 0.01 km² – 2½ acres – in area and about 1.4 km (0.9 mi) off the south coast of Upolu at the village of Vaovai). The main island of Upolu is home to nearly three-quarters of Samoa's population, and its capital city is Apia.
The Samoan islands have been produced by vulcanism, the source of which is the Samoa hotspot which is probably the result of a mantle plume. While all of the islands have volcanic origins, only Savai'i, the western most island in Samoa, is volcanically active with the most recent eruptions in Mt Matavanu (1905–1911), Mata o le Afi (1902) and Mauga Afi (1725). The highest point in Samoa is Mt Silisili, at 1858 m (6,096 ft). The Saleaula lava fields situated on the central north coast of Savai'i are the result of the Mt Matavanu eruptions which left 50 km² (20 sq mi) of solidified lava.
The climate is equatorial/monsoonal, with an average annual temperature of 26.5 °C (79.7 °F), and a rainy season from November to April. Savai'i is the largest of the Samoan islands and the sixth largest Polynesian island after New Zealand's North, South and Stewart Islands and the Hawaiian islands of Hawaiʻi and Maui. The population of Savai'i is 42,000 people.
|Climate data for Apia|
|Average high °C (°F)||30.4|
|Average low °C (°F)||23.9|
|Source: World Meteorological Organization (UN)|
Samoa has a population of 194,320. About three-quarters of the population live on the main island of Upolu.
92.6% of the population are Samoans, 7% Euronesians (people of mixed European and Polynesian ancestry) and 0.4% are Europeans, per the CIA World Factbook. Only the Māori of New Zealand outnumber Samoans among Polynesian groups.
The economy of Samoa is dependent on family remittances from overseas, development aid, and exports, in that order. Agriculture employs two-thirds of the labour force, and furnishes 90% of exports, featuring nonu fruit, coconut cream, coconut oil, and copra. The manufacturing sector mainly processes agricultural products. Attempts to develop agriculture have been affected by cyclones and by a major blight disease to the country's staple root crop, taro, which is only now being overcome.
The decline of fish stocks in the area is a continuing problem, due to both local overfishing and severe overfishing by Japanese factory trawlers. Tourism is an expanding sector, accounting for 16% of GDP; about 85,000 tourists visited the islands in 2000. The 19th season of Survivor was filmed on the island of Upolu in mid 2009. The 20th season will also be filmed in Samoa.
The Samoan Government has called for deregulation of the financial sector, encouragement of investment, and continued fiscal discipline. Observers point to the flexibility of the labor market as a basic strength for future economic advances. Foreign reserves are in a relatively healthy state, foreign debt is stable, and inflation is low.