American Samoa

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Capital Pago Pago
Currency US dollar (USD)
Population 57,794 (July 2006 est.)
Electricity 120V/60Hz (North American plug)
Country code +1 684
Time zone UTC -11
Emergencies Dial 911

American Samoa is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean that lie about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand and about 100 km (60 mi) east of its neighboring country of Samoa, which is part of the same archipelago and ethnicity.

American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States of America. The citizens of American Samoa are US "nationals" and not US "citizens," but they are allowed to travel freely between American Samoa and the US mainland. They are not required to obtain green cards or visas to stay or work in the United States, and they are allowed to serve in the US armed forces (and often do). There are some ways that American Samoa's special status as an unincorporated territory has interesting legal consequences. The US Constitution is not necessarily the supreme law of the land in American Samoa, and Samoan cultural norms, in particular those related to the ownership of property and public displays of religion, actually trump certain well-settled US constitutional rights in American Samoa.

The main city is Pago Pago and the smaller Fagatogo is constitutionally designated seat of government. The governor's office is located in the village of Utulei, located on the opposite side of Fagatogo from Pago Pago.

Regions[edit]

American Samoa regions map.svg
Tutuila
The main island.
Ofu
Widely regarded as one of the most stunning beaches in the South Pacific, with its high peaks dropping dramatically to sparkling white sand beaches, where the only other footsteps apart from your own are those of crabs.
Olosega
Connected by a narrow bridge to neighboring Ofu.
Ta'u
Rose Atoll
The Rose Atoll Marine National Monument/Rose Atoll NWR [1] is the southernmost point in United States territory and is not open to tourists. The only legal way to get there is as a scientist.
Swain's Island
A privately owned island far to the north of the other portions of American Samoa. No tourist facilities.

Cities[edit]

Pago Pago (pronounced "Pango Pango") - capital city

Other destinations[edit]

  • Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary - a tropical reef, filled with all sorts of brightly-colored tropical fish including parrot fish, damselfish and butterfly fish, as well as other sea creatures like lobster, crabs, sharks and octopus
  • National Park of American Samoa - The Samoan village leaders and the U.S. Congress have set aside the finest samples of the islands' land and seascapes as a national park

Understand[edit]

The islands are frequently referred to as Samoa, which is the name of a separate island, and independent country, that used to be known as Western Samoa, that lies about 100 km west of American Samoa. Also the whole island group, including Samoa, are often identified as the Samoan islands.

Settled as early as 1000 BCE by Polynesian navigators, Samoa was reached by European explorers in the 18th century. International rivalries in the latter half of the 19th century were settled by an 1899 treaty in which Germany (later Britain) and the US divided the Samoan archipelago. The US formally occupied its portion, a smaller group of eastern islands with the excellent harbor of Pago Pago in the following year.

American Samoa is warm, humid and rainy year-round, but there is a long, wet summer season (October - May) and a slightly cooler and drier season (June - September). Total annual rainfall is 125 inches at the Tafuna airport and 200+ inches in mountainous areas. Such rainfall gave the English writer Somerset Maugham the name for his short story "Rain", based in Pago Pago, which was subsequently turned into a play and movie.

90% of the land in the group of islands is communally owned. Economic activity is strongly linked to the US and the greater part of its foreign trade is with the US. The private sector is dominated by tuna fishing and the tuna processing plants, canned tuna being the primary export. Monetary transfers from the US Government also add substantially to American Samoa's economic well-being. Since the emergence of US influence and control the government of the United States of America has put up resistance to the emergence of local independence movements. In the early 20th century the American Samoa Mau movement was actively suppressed by the U.S. Navy.

The Governor of American Samoa is the head of government and exercises executive power. American Samoa is an unincorporated and unorganized territory of the United States, administered by the Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior. Its constitution was ratified in 1966 and came into effect in 1967.

In both American Samoa and (independent) Samoa there is traditional village political system common to all of the Samoa Islands, the "fa'amatai" and the "fa'asamoa" interacts across the current international boundaries. The Fa'asamoa represents language and customs, and the Fa'amatai the protocols of the "fono" (council) and the chief system. The Fa'amatai and the Fono take place at all levels of the Samoan body politic, from the family, to the village and include regional and national matters.

Get in[edit]

Dock at Fagatogo, Pago Pago Harbor

Visas[edit]

American Samoa lies outside federal U.S. immigration and customs jurisdiction. All visitors (except U.S. citizens and green card holders) to American Samoa require a passport valid for six months or more, a return ticket or onward ticket and enough funds to support their stay. US citizens and green card holders traveling from the US may enter without ID, though it is still recommended.

Passports Not Requiring Visas[edit]

Entry is allowed for 30 days for tourism with a valid passport and proof of onward travel or local employment. Citizens of countries under the federal Visa Waiver Program plus Canada, Palau, the Marshall Islands, and F.S. Micronesia are allowed visa-free entry. To obtain a business or residence visa or to extend your stay to 60 days, you must visit the Attorney General's office after arrival.

Passports Requiring Visas[edit]

All other international passport holders intending to visit American Samoa for business or holiday are required to apply for an entry visa.

To apply for a visa please contact the Attorney General’s Office, phone +1 684 633-4163, fax +1 684 633-1838 or American Samoa Immigration +1 684 633-4203 or +1 684 633-4204. At this time there is no email address or on-line application submission, so one must contact the Attorney General's or Immigration office by telephone or fax.

By plane[edit]

There is one international airport, Pago Pago International Airport (IATA: PPG), with a runway length of 2,750 m (9,000 ft). This is also referred to as Tafuna Airport (or Tafuna International Airport) and is located at Tafuna 5 km (3 ml) southwest of the central business district of Pago Pago on the island of Tutuila

  • Polynesian Airlines operates services to Pago Pago from Maota airport (IATA: MXS) on Savaii Island in (independent) Samoa.
  • Inter Island Airways operates services to Pago Pago and Ta‘ū island Fitiuta Airport (IATA: FTI) from Faleolo International Airport (IATA: APW) in (independent) Samoa. The airline has announced it will begin flights from American Samoa to Tonga and Fiji in 2011.

Faleolo International Airport (IATA: APW) also serves as an international gateway to the region. That airport is 40 km (25 mi) west of Apia, the capital of (independent) Samoa. Daily inter-island flights between the Samoas are operated by Inter Island Airways and Polynesian Airlines. Samoa is in the western part of the Samoan islands archipelago.

The Faleolo airport in nearby Samoa has wider international connections including Air New Zealand to Auckland in New Zealand, Fiji Airways to Honolulu USA and Nadi in Fiji, Inter Island Airways to Ofu, Pago Pago, Tau in American Samoa, Polynesian Airlines to Maota in Samoa and Pago Pago in American Samoa, Tongatapu in Tonga, Polynesian Blue (operated by Pacific Blue) to Auckland in New Zealand, Brisbane and Sydney in Australia.

The 2 airlines operating international services between Pago Pago and Apia, Samoa provide scheduled daily flights.

By boat[edit]

The island of Tutuila has the international seaport of Pago Pago. This port is served by a number of passenger carrying cruise ships and cargo ships.

Get around[edit]

By plane[edit]

Inter Island Airways is the only airline providing daily domestic air services between Pago Pago and the Manu'a Island of Tau.

  • Flight time between Pago Pago and the Manu'a Islands is approximately 30-40 min. Inter Island Airways will generally add additional flights as needed. Inter Island Vacations [2] provides reservations and bookings on Inter Island Airways flights.

Fitiuta Airport (IATA: FTI), (FAA:FAQ), 975 x 23 m (3,200 x 75 ft) is a public use airport located in the village of Fiti‘uta on the northeast portion of Ta‘ū island.

  • Inter Island Airways operates flights between Fitiuta Airport on Ta‘ū island and Apia (Faleolo International Airport (IATA|APW) in (independent) Samoa. Upon arrival at Ta'u airport, locals with boats are available to take visitors to Ofu and Olosega islands.

Ofu Airport (IATA: OFU) has a public airport located one 2 km (1.2 mi) southeast of the village of Ofu on the island of Ofu which is not currently served by a commercial airline.

  • Inter Island Airways operates flights to Ta‘ū island

Tau Airport (IATA: TAV) 661 x 30 m (2,170 x 100 ft) is a privately owned, private-use airport 2 km (1 mi) southeast of the village of Ta‘ū in the northwest corner of Ta‘ū island. It is not normally utilised for scheduled services.

Rose Island (Rose Atoll) and Swains Island do not have an airport.

By car[edit]

Several car rental facilities are available at or near the Tutuila airport. On Tutuila taxis are available at the airport, and near the market in Fagatogo.

By bus[edit]

The island of Tutuila has good public transportation (frequent, but unscheduled) via “aiga” or “family” buses. For 50 cents to a dollar you can be taken around Pago Pago Harbor, and to the more remote parts of the island. Buses originate and terminate at the market in Fagatogo, the village next to Pago Pago. The roads are generally too narrow and the traffic too busy for bicycles.

Hail an aiga bus with a wave of your hand. Many Samoans carry a quarter or two in their ears for bus fare as the wraparound skirts (lavalava) don't have pockets. When you want off, tap the window a few times and the bus will stop and pay the driver by tossing your fare (a quarter up to a dollar depending on the route and distance traveled) onto the dashboard on your way out.

By boat[edit]

A weekly ferry service from Pago Pago to the Manu’a Islands is provided government operated excursion boat. This service travels around Tutuila, calling at the north coast villages of Afono, Vatia and Fagasa.

Talk[edit]

The native language is Samoan, a Polynesian language related to Hawaiian and other Pacific island languages. English is widely spoken, and most people can at least understand it. Most people are bilingual to some degree.

Some common words/phrases:

Hello - Talofa (tah-low-fah)

Please - Fa'amolemole (fah-ah-moh-lay-moh-lay)

Thank you - Fa'afetai (fah-ah-feh-tie)

See[edit]

  • Fatu ma Futi or flower pot, located about 275 m (900 ft) out in the ocean stands a tall mini island. It is home to many exotic birds and fruit bats.
  • Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary (requires a steep, moderately difficult hike)

Do[edit]

  • To'aga Beach on the south side of Ofu. Bring your snorkel to explore the pristine coral reef that fringes its shore.
  • Tisa's Barefoot Bar & Grill on the northern end of the island. Beach access but no shower.

Buy[edit]

American Samoa features a lot of locally run shops and kiosks with products ranging from handmade clothing to traditional wooden weapons.

Eat[edit]

Tutuila has a wide variety of places to eat—from familiar fast food stops to fine restaurants. The outer islands have far less variety. Restaurants offer a variety of cuisines, including American, Chinese, Japanese, Italian and Polynesian.

Signature/national dishes

  • Palusami
  • Lu'au
  • Supoesi

Drink[edit]

Kava is often considered to be the national drink. The beverage is made from the roots of the pepper plant (Piper methysticum). Kava is known for its mellow and relaxing effects. Many people drink kava because it is a natural alternative to alcohol and anti-anxiety/anti-depressant medication.

Sleep[edit]

There is hotel-style lodging on the main islands, but not Olosega, Swains, or Rose (uninhabited).

Work[edit]

The tuna industry is very prominent, but about 30% of the population is unemployed.

Stay healthy[edit]

American Samoa has few health risks of concern for normally healthy persons visiting the islands. There are, however, a significant number of cases of dengue fever each year, spread by mosquitoes, so don't forget your insect repellent (containing DEET).

Another common danger, in or near residential areas, are packs of stray dogs. Most dogs, while they may nominally belong to someone, are left to fend and forage for themselves. They are territorial, and will often bite. The most common response by locals is to pretend to bend down and pick up a rock. This will often scare the dogs away because they are used to being abused and hit with thrown rocks.

Bring necessary medications with you, for supplies may not be available. Medical care is limited and there is none available on the Manu’a Islands. The LBJ Tropical Medical Center is on Tutuila island in the village of Faga'alu. It was once a highly regarded regional health center; however, it has fallen on hard times. It has staffing problems and only provides marginal (though inexpensive) service. A serious illness or injury will generally be evacuated to a hospital in Hawaii, Fiji, or New Zealand. When traveling in the region, carry some basic medications such as aspirin or paracetamol (acetaminophen/Tylenol), cold capsules, band-aids, sun screen, vitamins, anti-diarrhea pills, and a good insect repellant.

In many areas of Tutuila, the tap water is not safe for drinking or washing dishes due to E. coli contamination. Check with the American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency for details or drink bottled water.

Stay safe[edit]

American Samoa has low crime rates, though it's best to stay where the crowds are while on the beach. While swimming, don't go too far out, as rip tides are common.

Respect[edit]

Except for perhaps a few thousand individuals nearly all inhabitants of American Samoa are indigenous Samoans of Polynesian ancestry. More than any other U.S. or Polynesian peoples, Samoans are oriented toward traditional customs and lifestyles. They closely follow the social customs and hierarchies developed prior to the arrival of the first Europeans in the region. This Samoan way, or fa'asamoa is still deeply ingrained in American Samoa culture.

The most apparent character is the Samoan matai system of organization and philosophy. In general, each village is made up of a group of aiga, or extended families, which include as many relatives as can be claimed. Each aiga is headed by a chief, or matai, who represents the family on all matters including the village council, or fono. Matais hold title to all assets of the aigas, or families; they represent and are responsible for law enforcement and punishment of infractions occurring in their villages.

The fono consists of the matais of all the aiga associated with the village. The highest chief of the matais of all the village aigas is the highest chief, or the ali’i, and heads the fono. Also, each village has a pulenu’u (somewhat like a police chief or mayor), and one or more talking chiefs, tulafale.

Over the centuries, distinct cultural traits emerged that we now call fa'asamoa (fah-ah-SAH-mo-ah). Whether you are a guest or simply passing through a village, please observe these customs as a sign of respect.

Follow the Samoan Way:

  • Always ask villagers for permission before taking photographs, using the beach, or engaging in other activities, however unobtrusive your actions may seem. Permission will almost certainly be granted.
  • In a traditional home, called a fale (fah-LAY), sit down on the floor before talking, eating, or drinking. Cross your legs or pull a mat over them; it is impolite to stretch out your legs uncovered.
  • Sunday is the day for church, for rest, and especially for quiet around the villages. Activities that are acceptable on other days, such as swimming, may not be permitted on Sunday.
  • Each evening around dusk, villagers observe a time for prayers called Sa. If you are entering a village during Sa, stop and wait quietly until Sa ends. You may even be invited to join in a family prayer. It is not necessary to stop for Sa on the main roads.
  • It is considered an honor to be asked to share kava (a local drink made from the root of the pepper plant). To show respect, spill a few drops on the ground or mat in front of you, then raise your cup and say "manuia" (mahn-ooh-WE-ah) before drinking.
  • Do not eat or drink while walking through a village.
  • It is very disrespectful to walk in a village when a sacred ritual is in progress.

Connect[edit]

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