Manono, Samoa

Photo: yashima via flickr

No cars. (They’re forbidden.) No dogs or horses. (They’re banned, too.) Visitors are greeted by village chiefs (when they arrive by boat). Locals live in fales (open-air bungalows). Electricity was introduced in 1995 (just 22 years ago). A footpath (not a road) winds around the perimeter of the island. Plus overgrown tracks lead (inland) to ancient archaeological sites.

This step back in time is Manono. The tiny island is one of Samoa’s four inhabited islands. It sits in between the main islands of Savai’i and Upolu in the Apolima Strait. Manono is a 20-minute boat ride from the latter. Like the others, the island is the top of a small volcano. It has low-lying terrain, a single small hill, and lots of overgrown fruit trees. Four fishing villages dot the coastline. Little bays and white-sand beaches are tucked in between them. While a continuous soundtrack of songbirds and crashing waves plays in the background.

The island nation of Samoa, located south of the equator, lies halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. Its remote islands were individually ruled by chiefs for millennia. European missionaries arrived in the 18th century. They built churches and spread religion. Faith was one of the few things that changed on the islands, though.

The green-trimmed Faleu Manono Methodist Church still stands on Manono. It’s in the village of Faleu, on the south coast, where the ferry arrives from Upolu. West of Faleu, in the village of Lepuia’i, is the first glimpse of even older history. It’s where the Grave of 99 Stones, each said to represent one of Chief Vaovasa’s wives, is located. The chief lost his own life when he attempted to abduct a 100th wife from Upolu. A star mound—an ancient ceremonial platform—was placed atop Mount Tulimanuiva, Manono’s highest peak. Another chief, Afutiti, was buried standing up, so that he could forever watch over the island, nearby. While the island’s best beach is in the west coast village of Apai. The best sunsets are there, too.

Manono, we love your traditional little island. Please don’t move forward too quickly.

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