Terisa Nihongi, from Gold Coast Australia, is kicking herself for not coming to Samoa sooner.
Her and her cousin, Frances, were more than happy to share their experience with Dear Tourist.
“I’m half Samoan, my Mum is Samoan and my Dad is Tongan,” says Terisa. “They’re both here with us on this holiday and it took us thirty something years to come, this is our first visit. So we have been going back to my mum’s village to visit in Nofoali’i.
“I’m loving it. It was just a humbling experience, I’ve met some cousins, aunties, nieces we’ve never met. Seeing how they live in the actual villages has been such an eye opener. They were just so warm and welcoming and we bonded straight away.”
Before coming to Samoa and meeting her extended family for the first time, Terisa did some research.
“I did the tourist thing by googling itineraries for us to do in Samoa, but then that just went out the window when we came because we connected with family and they came and picked us up and took us around to do all the things we wanted to do as tourists, so we have had our own personal tour guides here.
“Yesterday we went for a five hour trip stopping at the trench, going to the caves, visiting all the beaches, shopping.”
Both have visited many islands, including Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and Bali, and there is no comparison in their eyes. Terisa immediately fell in love with Samoa and all that the land, sea, people and food had to offer. She shares reasons why she thinks Samoa is the friendliest of all the islands she has been too.
“I think that Samoan Tourism is way more advanced from what I see. This is up there with Fiji and it’s so advanced, from the shops and the roads, to the people and the food. It’s clean, like, I haven’t seen any dirty or any gross parts, even in the rural villages their house are clean and tidy. I think tourism is so important to Samoa and I think that the people here want others to come back and have a good experience.”
If you thought maybe Terisa was biased, she said to ask her husband who is New Zealander Maori who has been a big fan of the seafood dishes here in Samoa.
“My husband is Maori and for him this has been the best island as well. He’s loving it here. Being married to a Maori who loves seafood but can’t make oka, so he’s learning how its done here.
“We’re definitely coming back - if not every year - and bringing our other friends. We can’t wait to go back home and tell them, ‘Don’t worry about Bali!’, because we always go to Bali living in Australia. It’s really cheap to get there, but honestly it’s so dry and hot there, it’s too busy. Nah, we’re coming here from now on.”
Terisa’s cousin Frances, who is Tongan, was a little quiet as Terisa raved about their holiday, but that’s because Frances has been here before, visiting during her teen years many moons ago.
She admits that her memories are a bit hazy due to how long ago it was and perhaps also due to the amount of Vailimas and cocktails consumed.
But one thing that hasn’t changed for her, she tells us, “It’s beautiful, it really is. People are friendly compared to other islands.”
She was really happy that her cousin Terisa was having such a positive experience considering it was her first time here.
Terisa continued: “The first day, I couldn’t stop saying good things about Samoa. The weather is a tick for me. The hotel is not busy, I like where we are, it’s affordable. Some hotels we go to when we travel to other places - the pools are packed. The waiters and the service and food have been on point here. I don’t even have to get up to get a towel.”
Dear Tourist asked Terisa what she will miss most about Samoa when they leave this weekend to return to the Gold Coast and its safe to say, just about everything.
“We love island food, we don’t get that in Aussie and that’s why we came here. We are going to Pinatis for lunch. I want sapa sui, I want all that stuff, this is why I came. We had a fiafia night and it was so good, the sivas, the fire dancing and the food - I didn’t even get bored, it was that good. I’ve had better chicken but the oka was on point.”
Since their holiday so far has been absolutely fabulous, there was no doubt that Terisa’s family would return so Dear Tourist asked them what they would do differently next time.
“Next time, we want to try out another resort and make it to Savai’i. Our kids have loved it here (at Tanoa). They’ve been to lots of other islands on holiday with us but this is their favourite so far and Tanoa has a been a great place because its kid friendly.”
We could have stayed all day with Terisa - who had more to share about her Samoan holiday - but unfortunately we had to wind it up, leaving Terisa with one final thing to say.
“If you want an island experience, come to Samoa, they are the most friendly of all the islands and this is coming from an Islander who has never even visited their own island. This is my culture, this my background, come and see it. I can’t wait to go home and tell everyone about here and next time we come, we’re going to bring our friends; I want them to come here!”