July 3, 2020: Last weekend, a production team for the upcoming “Tafaoga: Experience Beautiful Samoa” TV series completed a two-month filming project with a spectacular grand finale at the summit of Mt Silisili on Savaii, Samoa’s highest mountain peak.
Mt. Silisili is about 1,858 metres above sea level. For those who frequent the Robert Louis Stevenson trail on Upolu Island, Mount Vaea is a mere 472 metres above sea level – making the Mt Silisili climb 4 times higher that elevation.
The group of fourteen from Samoa Tourism Authority (STA), Vanu Studios, Savaii Samoa Tourism Association (SSTA) were assisted by the Mt Silisili Guide group of Aopo village, led by Mailata Iosia Leau.
The two-day expedition commenced Saturday morning after it had it been postponed from the day before due to severe weather warnings.
Following strict Mt Silisili Hiking Rules, each guest was assigned their own tour guide to assist them during the challenging trek, while also carrying shelter and food supplies.
Nive Gidlow from SSTA participated in the hike and filming as part of her role as host of the show’s Savaii segment.
The entire experience has been a life changing one for the Savaii resident who not only conquered the most daunting mountain in Samoa but also a number of her biggest personal fears.
“The whole experience was like a roller coaster of emotions,” she said.
“This entire week was about facing all my fears like being in front of a camera, staying somewhere where there was no proper toilet, camping outdoors and most of all, my fear of heights.”
The Mt Silisili trail begins in the village of Aopo and involves an hour drive to the end of the road before making the 6 hour hike to the camping site.
“Gosh it was challenging. This hike is not for the faint hearted,” laughs Nive.
“There were so many unpredictable variables along the way, like deep ascends at 80 degree angles and you literally have to climb or slide down when descending the mountain.”
The mountain scenery was described as wild and Jurassic with magnificent banyans, fern trees and white moss dominating the higher landscapes.
Reaching the campsite after 6 hours was a highlight for Nive and the rest of her fellow adventurers and there, they were officially welcomed with an Ava ceremony by the guide group.
The exhausted group settled in for a night under the stars but not without first enjoying the stunning views, a game of volleyball and watching the performance of a first siva afi on Mt Silisili,
“The hike itself was 80 percent challenging and tiring but we got our second wind when we arrived at the campsite because we were so happy we made it,” Nive said.
“The Vanu boys performed a fire dance with a sunset backdrop – it was so beautiful, the views were incredible.”
After spending the night in very cold temperatures being lulled to sleep with the strumming of guitars and singing, the group embarked on the final leg of their journey up to the summit.
According to Nive it was even more challenging as the temperatures dropped and the wind picked up the closer they got to the top.
Despite the physically demanding and mentally challenging hike, the views and feeling of accomplishment when they reached the summit was all worth it.
“You’re simply speechless when you get to the peak;
“I didn’t have the words to describe the moment while we were filming. Our heads were literally in the clouds and we could see them moving so fast- it’s like another realm, it was too amazing.”
Conquering Mt Silisili will go down as one of the most profound experiences and an unforgettable achievement for Nive Gidlow, who faced her fears and lived to tell the story.
“We did a prayer at the campsite before we hiked to the summit and for me that was the most treasured moment of the whole journey.” said Nive.
“Regardless of our differences, we came together to move that mountain! We did it as one family and we couldn’t have don’t it without each other.”
Honestly we all felt like superheroes after we conquered the mountain. It was an imagination-defying experience and now I feel like I can do anything and overcome any challenge.”
“Tafaoga: Experience Beautiful Samoa” is commissioned by the Samoa Tourism Authority and is expected to air on television in Samoa at the end of July. The programme will showcase Samoa’s historical, cultural, natural, and iconic sites by local tour guide and tour operator professionals
For enquiries about tours to Mt Silisili, contact: Mailata Iosia Leau +685 727 8521