Roger Childs recently spent 12 days on the island of Upolu in Samoa and this is the first in a series of short articles on the South Pacific nation.

Climate and landscapes

Samoa is located in the tropics and as the nightly forecasts for the Pacific islands show, has diurnal temperatures which rarely rise above 29º C and never below 20º C throughout the year. There is a generally consistent weather pattern each day — the early morning is calm, fine and mild, but by midday the mercury rises to close on 30º and the breezes increase. By mid-afternoon the winds are usually strong but in the evening calm conditions return. Getting some walking, running or cycling exercise is best done in the early morning or late afternoon.

Rain, when it comes, builds up in the highlands and usually falls in the late afternoon or overnight.

The forested interior and the south coast

Upolu is most heavily populated on the north coast and this is where the capital Apia is located. As with most tropical Pacific islands there is a surrounding coral reef and a gap has been blasted to provide access to the port of Apia. Waves rolling on the reefs can be seen about a kilometre or two off-shore.

90 percent of Upolu consists of mountains, hills and valleys of volcanic origin which are covered in dense tropical forest. Rivers run down from the interior and there are a number of spectacular waterfalls. Volcanic rock has traditionally been used as a building material and walls erected in the past are similar to structures found in the Waipoua Forest in Northland.

The south coast is dotted with resorts based around individual fales where tourists can relax close to attractive safe, white sand beaches. There are three roads, about 30km long, which cross the island linking the heavily populated northern coast, and the capital, with the picturesque southern coastline with its many small villages.