A bikepacking trip around Samoa was supposed to be an adventure lasting a few days. It turned into a 13-year-long business opportunity. By Ross Bidmead
We first cycled around Savaii 13 years ago and were captivated by the beaches, swimming and friendly village accommodation.
Cycling on a quiet sealed road beside the lagoon, our riding was constantly interrupted by the need to wave back and reply with a friendly “Talofa” to the many people who greeted us. When we stopped, we would always be asked, “Where are you going?” by people genuinely interested in us and why we were bikepacking.
Savaii is Samoa’s biggest island. It’s sparsely populated and only an hour from Upolu and the international airport. But it’s a world away in pace and culture.
On the first afternoon, we stopped at Beach Fales in Lano. These basic beach huts, with corrugated iron or thatched roofs and matting sides are built on the white sand beach beside a shimmering lagoon. We leapt into the water to cool off and our swim turned into a long snorkel through the coral, chasing a turtle.
The next morning, the sun peeking through the matting sides of the fale woke us and we dived back into the water for another swim before breakfast. This was how we imagined camping holidays at the beach should be. Only warmer.
Nearly every night of our ride around Savaii was similar, with fales beside a lagoon and excellent snorkelling and swimming. But the days were always different. We stopped by a large fale where women were weaving and we were invited to watch. The fine ie toga mats are woven from pandanus and are an important source of revenue for village women. Making them is also a social occasion with cocoa and conversation. We would meet this group regularly over the next few years and our tour groups would be invited to dance. If there were unattached men, there would be much raucous laughter that didn’t need interpretation.
We were so taken with our time on that first trip that we subsequently brought our friends back and then started organising commercial tours. It was only going to be one or two tours a year, but before Covid struck we had 100 bikes, 20 kayaks and a much bigger business than we had intended.
Samoa reopens to tourists on August 1. After a two-and-a-half-year break, we are looking forward to sharing the experience once again.
www.outdoorsamoa.com. Open for bike and kayak hire and tours