Down Under in Savai’i

This is part of a series of illustrated articles taken from ‘A Visitor’s Field Guide to Savaii’ by geologist, Tuapou Warren Jopling. Tuapou takes tour groups around Savaii and his knowledge is legendary!




Today, your tour will take you to Fagafau and then learn the story about the horrible child-eating giant Moso who left a footprint and compare it to the natural explanation   



Look at your Savai’i map. The abrupt 45 degree change in coastline direction at Taga is caused by faulting - faulting that has not been dated but postulated to have been within the past 15,000 years. 

A large section of western Savai’i has collapsed into the ocean leaving a vertical fault scarp of black basalt (now partly lined with narrow strips of fringing reef).

On leaving Satuiatua you soon pass Foailalo where the scarp is 30 m high them Faia’ai where it is higher. 

Stop at Fagafau (Lovers Leap) to look over the 65 m drop into the ocean and note the untidy heap of young basalt that has dropped over the scarp to pile up on a flat rock platform. 

While you’re waiting to see a shark and a turtle read the placard relating the local legend of an old lady and child who jumped over the cliff. 

Queensland’s east coast is said to have been hit by a massive tsunami - Savai’i collapsing??? 

Drive on from Fagafau, stop at the Devil’s Archway then circuit the Falealupo peninsula entering by the Tufutafoe road. 

You will pass a quarried cinder cone - cinders being volcanic ejecta with iron content oxidised red by gases - then drive around Savai’i’s most westerly point on Tafagamanu sand. 

It is beautiful; coral sand beaches between black basalt outcrops, coconut palms everywhere but sparsely inhabited. Category 5 cyclones of 1990 and 1991 devastated the once thriving villages. 

You might visit the House of Rocks, a collapsed lava tube in Falealupo village before proceeding to Fagalele bay, home of Moso.


There’s a good story here but not much geology. 

Moso was a giant, a horrible child-eating giant, who made nightly one-step crossings to Fiji to visit his girlfriend. 

On returning one morning he left a footprint on the shore of Fagalele Bay. 

This 2m long depression is a bit small for a giant who must have been 1500 km tall but there’s a natural explanation. 

The surface outcrop is a thin bed of heavily jointed basalt . A tree has spread roots over the surface with rootlets penetrating joints. 

When the tree toppled during a cyclone the roots dislodged surface blocks. There are other ‘footprints’ in Savai’i - and maybe



Tuapou Warren Jopling is an Australian geologist who retired to Savai’i to grow coffee after a career in oil exploration in Australia, Canada, Brazil and Indonesia. 

Travels through Central America, the Andes and Iceland followed by 17 years in Indonesia gave him a good understanding of volcanology, a boon to later educational tourism when explaining Savai’i to overseas visitors and student groups.

This article is the fourth part of a series and is taken from ‘A Visitor’s Field Guide to Savai’i’. 

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