STA and MNRE Join Forces to Upgrade Popular Visitor Sites with NZ Support

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By: Leota Marc Membrere, Government Press. Tourists and locals will be happy to know that new upgrades such as bridges, footpaths, and viewpoints have been added to popular reserve locations in Upolu.

The Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) with funding from the New Zealand Government are behind the upgrade project.

Photo by Leota Marc Membrere.

The sites launched this past week include the popular Vailima Botanical Garden/Robert Louis Stevenson Trail at Mt Vaea, as well as the Ma Tree Walk and Coastal Walk at the O le Pupu Pu’e National Park in Togitogiga.

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Chair of STA, Tauiliili Alise Stunnenberg said these reserves are popular stops for visitors looking for an adventure, a short hike or to simply immerse themselves within Samoa’s natural

“The Ma Tree and Coastal Walk at Togitogiga both offer unique experiences with breathtaking views of the south coast and sea arches and also the Ma Tree with its large wall like root structures that fan out from the main trunk.”

STA and MNRE joined forces with support from New Zealand to upgrade popular visitor sites starting with the popular Mt Vaea and Togitogiga.

The Vailima Botanical Garden and Mt Vaea reserve is one of the most visited sites on island – not only for overseas visitors but for locals alike who regularly hike Mt Vaea.

“Given the popularity of these natural sites, they were included under the Samoa Tourism Recovery and Resilience (S.T.R.R.) Programme for upgrading,” says Tauiliili.

Samoa’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Hon Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster leading the way on the Mt Vaea reserve trail. Photo: Leota Marc Membrere.

Other new features that came with the upgrades are improvements on trails to enhance the safety of the sites.

New resting areas and shelters, upgrade and replacement of the lookout deck on Mt Vaea and the Coastal Walk, new open resting fale on Mt Vaea, and a new bridge crossing and lookout point at the Mt Vaea reserve waterfall.

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Improvements were also made to the signage for tree labelling at Ma Tree and Coastal Walk as well as interpretive signage which all contribute to improving visitor experiences.

STA and MNRE have worked collaboratively to implement and deliver these projects utilising the capacity of MNRE’s Environment and Conservation and Forestry team, and their expertise in trail development to complete the upgrade works.

“The total cost of the upgrade works for the three projects was SAT$171,159.56,” says the STA Chair.

She thanked the New Zealand Government for the funding support and acknowledged the MNRE Division of Environment and Conservation, and the Forestry Division for their workmanship and successful completion of the project.

“May these sites continue to be an enjoyable stop for visitors for many years to come and also for our [Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting] delegates later on in the year.”

The High Commissioner of New Zealand to Samoa Sialei van Toor thanked the MNRE or the construction of the upgrades, saying their skills will again be required while they look into developing other national parks.

She acknowledged the work of STA and looks forward to supporting similar projects for more attraction sites.

Photos: Leota Marc Membrere