It’s heaven on earth.
That’s how married couple, Dale Hunter and Peter Gornall from Wellington, New Zealand describe Samoa.
Married for 27 years, the couple find themselves returning to Samoa’s unique and natural spirit every year.
The first time Dale, 63, came to Samoa was in 1977 and since then, the charm of this place led her back to her personal slice of paradise.
“The only hotel I can remember that was established then was the Aggie Grey’s Hotel (now Sheraton Aggie Grey’s Hotel and Bungalow) and the Hotel Tusitala (Tanoa Tusitala Hotel).
“I don’t think there was much those days. Aggie Grey was still alive and I remember she used to come out on a Sunday night and greet everybody and had a sing along at the bar,” Dale said.
The first time she came to Samoa was through a pilot friend who had been flying from Upolu to Savaii with only three passengers.
Over the years they’d return after Independence Day celebration to spend a few days in Samoa.
“The biggest change over the years would be sadly the influence of China. Back in 1977, I am not sure, but I only remember locals seen on the road drinking some beers and people staying in Samoa,” she said.
“The Chinese are everywhere, in New Zealand as well,” Peter added.
The couple mentioned western influence and rising commercialization would see a country losing its heritage and natural beauty in the future.
“We hope it is not going to be the same here when our children want to come to visit, that there will be just one resort after the other and no original culture anymore,” Dale said.
They also highlighted the housing condition in some parts of Samoa, which they said indicated poverty and it needed to be addressed.
“We see poverty here. Looking at some of the villages now with the houses that they live in, it is heartbreaking. Next door is a big church. Does Apia need another church?
“Every corner you turn is a church. It must cost a lot, why they did not put the money into rebuilding the lives of these people, it is sad. I look at rich people and then I look at the poor people, my heart goes out to them.
“All the people, the staff here and in the other resorts are probably getting paid poorly and what surprises me is the price in the supermarket for cat food for example $8.90 and we back home only pay $1.50, it is expensive. They need to make a living.
“The airport is lovely, so as before. You don’t spend much time on the airport. It is nice the one before, this one is okay and your plane still lands and drops off.
“As well the as Court house, I have never seen something like this, it could be like the one in America. Wouldn’t it be better to have better facilities at the prison, where we drove by.”
In 2011 and 2012, the couple got tired of travelling to Australia and decided to change their destination.
“So we decided to come to Samoa and so we did. I can’t remember how many years we actually have been here. This time we came here to Amanaki and it is absolutely beautiful. We always stay here in the Amanaki,” Dale said.
“It is such a beautiful country. There is no one around. I have a demanding job in New Zealand and for me to come here is like heaven. It is away from the phone and away from the work, just having a break.
“It is a quiet place and no traffic like what we are used to. It might be busy for Samoa, but not for us,” Peter said.
According to them, the Amanaki staff members are like their family because they know them by name.
“They know us even by name; this is just a fabulous place. And at the Bounties store, I know a faafafine lady who gives me fabrics every time. And some people would come to us and say I remember you, I stamped your passport. It is so nice because they know you,” she said.
“We love it and we keep coming back. It is about our eleventh time in Samoa. We haven’t been to other islands in this area. We know it here and when we choose we always choose Samoa over the other islands,” Dale said.