National Park of American Samoa

Ofu, Manu‘a Islands, American Samoa seen from Olosega

National Park of American Samoa is in the US territory of American Samoa. The Samoan village leaders and the US Congress have set aside the finest samples of these islands' land and seascapes as a national park.

Understand

The National Park samples the best of American Samoa scenery, shorelines, reefs, and rainforest. In essence, it is really “three parks” on four separate islands. All the units have fine scenery and tropical rainforests. Lata Mountain on Ta’u excels in its wild and remote forests, free-flowing streams, and rugged coastline. Ofu and Olosega have the most accessible coral reefs and miles of breathtakingly beautiful beaches. Tutuila has road accessible forests, native wildlife, and scenic coastline.

All the four islands are extinct volcanoes heavily eroded to rugged peaks. They were formed as the "Pacific plate" moved across a stationary "hot spot" where eruptions from the Earth's mantle pierced the lithosphere forming a line of volcanic islands.

It is the only US National Park south of the Equator.

History

The National Park was established by Congress in Public Law 100-571 on 31 Oct 1988. Public Law 107-336 added the lands on the islands of Ofu and Olosega.

Landscape

Afono Village

The Samoan Archipelago is a typical Pacific Ocean volcanic island arc. As the Pacific Ocean plate moves across a stationary hot spot (a place where molten rock from the Earth's mantle pierces the lithosphere plate) it forms a line of volcanoes, some of which reach the ocean surface to form a string of islands.

The park in American Samoa adds a unique scenic and ecological dimension to the U. S. National Park System. From ocean depths beyond the reefs to cloud forests on island summits the park has outstanding coral reefs, littoral strand and tropical rainforests on four beautiful, tropical island landscapes.

Fringing coral reefs on the islands of Ofu, Olosega and Ta'u are outstanding marine environments. Their character is crystal clear, warm waters and a bewildering tropical sea biodiversity.

Though the rainforests have long been occupied by humans (the To'aga archaeological sequence on the Ofu section of the park documents 3,000 years of human occupation) the native tropical rainforest is the finest left in the US possessions. Littoral strand, tropical rainforest (montane, ridge top, mountain-top scrub, and cloud forest) are well represented on the Ta'u and Tutuila park segments. With its mid-ocean, Southern hemisphere location the park offers a unique opportunity to sample the renown beauty of the South Pacific.

Flora and fauna

Over 950 species of fish and 250 species of coral live in the reefs surrounding the islands. The animal life of National Park of American Samoa is unique among the US national parks. Key animal forms (from the flying foxes, or fruit bats, in the mountains to the massive coral reefs along the shorelines) shape all natural ecosystems here. Flying foxes are important terrestrial pollinators and thus, not surprisingly, this rain forest is dominated by fruit-bearing species--in contrast to Hawaii where the native forests are pollinated largely by nectar seeking birds and insects. The coral fringing reefs of the park shelter the greatest marine biodiversity in the U.S. and its possessions. The more than 800 native fish and 200 coral species of the park are bewildering and awesome.

Plant communities of the park, from the mountaintops down to the ocean, are largely tropical rainforest. It is an evergreen forest and the climax vegetation of the equatorial climate. Unlike the temperate forests of North America dominated by one, or only a few tree species, tropical rainforests have high species diversity and the climax forest is dominated by many species.

Samoa, as a geologically young ocean island, lacks any earlier land connection to continental land masses. Because its native species got here by chance its species diversity is not as rich as Southeast Asia, the source of the islands' plant dispersals.

Climate

American Samoa is in the South Pacific Ocean, between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn. A tropical climate prevails. Temperatures are warm or hot year-round (high 70's to low 90's F) with high humidity. Rain showers are frequent. Rain showers may last only for a few minutes, or last all day. The average annual rainfall in the drier portions of the island is 90 inches up to 300 inches in the mountains. Tropical storms are more prevalent during the rainy season (November to May).

Get in

Pola Islands

The park is in a remote part of the South Pacific and has limited access opportunities, unless you live in Samoa. Therefore, it is likely that more than casual planning is required to visit the park. The only airport is Pago Pago International Airport on Tutuila. Currently two flights a week round trip serve here from Honolulu, from Hawaiian Airliines with a connecting flight in Honolulu, Hawaii. The International Airport at Upolo in nearby (Western) Samoa is served by several flights weekly from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Connecting flights serve Tutuila from Upolo by twin-otter aircraft nearly daily.

Irregularly scheduled flights (small planes) serve park areas of Ofu. Currently Inter Island Vacations fly whenever passenger load warrants. Ofu Island is difficult to travel to. Visitors travel by small plane from Tutuila to Ta'u. Then hire a local fisherman and boat to travel to Ofu. The park is open year-round. The visitor center in Pago Pago is open 8:00am-4:30pm, closed weekends and federal holidays.

Fees/Permits

There are no fees. Reservations are not required.

Get around

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. 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 to busy for bicycles.

Two easy access points exist. 1) Drive from Pago Pago Village towards Fagasa on the paved road to the top of the ridge (Fagasa Pass), where a small parking area and NPS sign mark the trail head for a trail that goes along the ridge above Pago Pago to Alava Mountain. 2) The eastern side of the park can be reached by crossing over the ridge above the north side of Pago Pago Harbor from the village of Aua over to Afono. From Afono, continue along the paved road towards the west, entering the park boundary on the ridge above Afono Bay. The road continues on through the park to the village of Vatia. Beyond the school at the far western end of Vatia is an NPS sign marking a trail out towards Pola Tai.

See

Do

Paradise

Eat

Cocoa Rice, pankeke, pisupo

Drink

The main "clubbing scene", if you will, is located mainly on the island of Tutuila. Don't be afraid to ask around the community.

Sleep

Lodging

There is no lodging within the park.

The Home Stay program provides an opportunity for visitors to become acquainted with Samoan people and culture in a village setting. Residents of villages associated with the National Park offer accommodations and the opportunity to learn local customs, crafts and the south Pacific lifestyle. Imagine staying in a village with the sights and sounds of the rainforest around you. Sleep in a Samoan house (fale), live with a Samoan family and start the day participating with village activities. Some may be familiar. Others, like cutting the Pandanus (laufala) tree leaves and drying them to weave mats, may not. Add to your weaving knowledge by learning simple methods, like weaving fans from palm leaves.

Camping

Camping is prohibited here

Stay safe

The park's remote location, its lack of search and rescue capability, and the distance from expert medical care require extra precautions:

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, March 16, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.