Liz Ah Hi on a Samoa Tourism Authority Famil Trip for Media to Savaii.
It started with excited murmurings over breakfast at Amoa Resort. There was talk amongst the guests of a hidden fresh water pool in the area, “Mata o le Vai” associated with the legend of Sina and the Eel.
Like most natural wonders in Samoa it came attached with a legend and judging by the many versions of the story, its location was just as obscure as the story’s many variations.
“We’ve just recently become aware of this site some time last year when Afu Aau was closed temporarily and we were looking for an alternative fresh water pool site for our guests” explained Amoa Resort Manager, Elisabeth Siaosi.
The pool is just a short bus drive from the resort to the village of Asaga and on arrival, I discovered I wasn’t the only one who was eager to check out the fresh water oasis. As we entered, I met the Rocci family from Switzerland, dubbed “the last tourists of Samoa” by staff at the Amoa Resort.
The Swiss family of 5 had found themselves stranded in Samoa when the borders closed due to the Covid 19 pandemic.
“We wanted to stay here for 6 weeks but we have been stuck here now for four months” said Marco.
“When the lockdown came, it was a bit of a strange feeling because all the tourists we met wanted to rush home and took the next available plane – except us. It was a bit stressful at the time but we are happy that we decided to stay.”
Marco, his wife and their three children had picked the Pacific region as their destination for a year long odyssey based on a specific set of criteria;
“My wife and I like warm weather and swimming,” he said.
“We also wanted to go to a place that was safe and we knew we would never travel to again because of how far away it is. Our three children are at the perfect age for travelling and we wanted to use this time to spend it together.”
Over the last four months, the Rocci family haven’t experienced any shortage of places to visit in Samoa, staying in a variety of accommodations and exploring the local attractions and even stumbling across other hidden natural wonders like the Mata ole Vai.
“This attraction is probably not on any of the tourist maps we’ve seen and if it weren’t for one of the staff at Amoa – we wouldn’t have found it. We have seen so many things here in Samoa but there is still so much to discover. We spent 2 weeks at Falealupo beach fales because we loved how much room there was for our kids to play.”
There are two ways to get to Mata o le Vai and one half of the group opted to take the watery passage via a canoe for a small charge of $5 tala. Preferring to have both my feet planted on the ground I elected to explore the forest track with the Rocci family.
The 15 minute river stone trail through the mangroves was surprisingly easy and cool. While I enjoyed a leisurely pace through the mangrove forest admiring the well kept track, the shrieks of delight heard a short distance ahead of me told me that the Rocci children had arrived at our destination and upon seeing the spring water oasis for myself – I decided their reaction was appropriate.
The large crystal clear fresh water pool was surrounded by thick lush greenery providing a natural private fence and had an air of secrecy about it. Under the glare of the hot mid afternoon sun, the cold water was very inviting and the only thing left to do was jump in!
Unlike the Piula cave pools, Mata ole Vai was surprisingly empty of any other visitors and according to our guide, the only time you might find the locals there was during the school holidays or the odd weekend.
The only thing I found more refreshing about my excursion to Mata ole Vai were the happy locals who were very welcoming and visibly proud that their natural treasure would draw visitors to their village.
In fact these folks want you to stay longer and enjoy yourself because your $5 tala entrance fee not only includes a fresh water experience but also the use of the beach fales across the road where you can have a picnic or barbeque and end your day with a dip in the warm ocean.