Official name: Independent State of Samoa
Area: 2,860 square kilometers (1,104 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mauga Silisili (1,857 meters/6,093 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Southern and Western
Time zone: 1 A.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 150 kilometers (93 miles) from east-southeast to west-northwest; 39 kilometers (24 miles) from north-northeast to south-southwest
Land boundaries: None
Coastline: 403 kilometers (250 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) is located almost centrally in the Polynesian region of the South Pacific. It consists of the two main islands of Upolu and Savai'i and seven small islets, of which only Manono and Apolima are inhabited. At 2,860 square kilometers (1,104 square miles), the total land area of Samoa is almost as large as the state of Rhode Island.
Samoa has no territories or dependencies.
Samoa has a tropical marine climate. The hottest month is December and the coldest is July. Due to the oceanic surroundings, the temperature ranges on the islands are not appreciable. The mean daily temperature is about 27°C (81°F) year-round. The dry season runs from May to October; the wet season extends from November to April. Rainfall averages 287 centimeters (113 inches) annually, and the average yearly relative humidity is 83 percent. Because the interior of the islands is mountainous, there is also a considerable difference between the rainfall on the coast and that of the inland jungle. Average annual rainfall varies from 500 to 700 centimeters (200 to 280 inches) on the southern windward side to 250 to 300 centimeters (100 to 120 inches) on the leeward side. Trade winds from the southeast are fairly constant throughout the dry season.
Samoa's islands are volcanic, with coral reefs surrounding most of them. They have narrow coastal plains with rocky volcanic mountains in the interior.
Samoa lies in the central Pacific Ocean.
Coral reefs nearly surround the Samoan island, broken in only a few places by constant wave action or by lava flow. The total reef area is 1,269 square kilometers (490 square miles). The southern coast of Savai'i island is known for its blow holes, places where ocean waves create geyser-like spouts as they crash through underground lava tubes (hollow tubes left by the flow of molten lava).
The Apolima Strait separates Upolu and Savai'i.
The Fagaloa and Safata Bays are located on the north and south coasts of Upolu, respectively. There are ports and harbors at Apia and Mulifanua on Upolu, and at Asau and Salelologa on Savai'i. The southern shore of Upolu has a series of beaches. Toward the eastern end of the island are Aganoa Black Sand Beach and Salamuma Beach, both of which draw snorkelers to their coves and shallow waters. At the extreme eastern end of Upolu are spectacular turquoise reefs.
Crater lakes are fed by rainfall that averages 300 centimeters (118 inches) annually at Apia. On Upolu, there is a very deep lake, Lake Lanoto'o (Goldfish Lake), in the center of a volcanic crater. There is also a freshwater pool at Piula that extends from a cave nearly all the way to the shore.
Both islands have numerous, swiftly flowing rivers with plenty of rapids and waterfalls. most of the rivers, however, flow only during the wet season. Sinaloa Falls on Savai'i is 183 meters (600 feet) high.
There are no deserts in Samoa.
Both Savai'i and Upolu have narrow coastal plains. Upolu's central volcanic range slopes down on both sides to hills and coastal plains. The island's south coast is particularly known for its scenic beaches, which have picturesque coves, rock pools, and palm trees.
Rugged ranges are prevalent on both major islands, reaching 1,100 meters (3,608 feet) on Upolu and 1,857 meters (6,093 feet) on Savai'i. The significant peaks are Mauga Silisili—at 1,857 meters (6,093 feet) the highest point in Samoa—Mauga Loa (1,176 meters/3,857 feet), and Mauga Fito (Va'aifetu) (1,116 meters/ 3,660 feet). The islands are in an area of active volcanism that has recently progressed westward. Savai'i, geologically the youngest island, last experienced eruptions from Matavanu from 1905 through 1910 and Mauga Mu in 1902. Other volcanoes on Savai'i are Mauga Afi and Mauga Silisili. The volcanoes on Upolu are Mauga Ali'i and Mauga-o-Savai'i.
The numerous caves on the Samoan islands are located within lava tubes, places where molten lava flowed under existing fields of solidified lava.
Savai'i's central volcanoes are surrounded by lava plateaus that descend to hills and coastal plains.
A unique star-shaped formation on Savai'i, called the Pulemelei Mound, is thought to be the oldest man-made structure in Polynesia. It consists of a central pyramid 12 meters (39 feet) high, surrounded by four smaller mounds.
Vailima, a house built by Robert Louis Stevenson, author of the classic adventure tale Treasure Island , is located on Upolu at Apia. He named the place Vailima, meaning "five waters," for the small streams that ran across the property. Stevenson is buried on the island, and tourists often visit his gravesite.
Dahl, Arthur L. Regional Ecosystems Survey of the South Pacific Area. Noumea, New Caledonia: South Pacific Commission, 1980.
Tamua, Evotia. Samoa. Auckland, New Zealand: Pasifika Press, 2000.
Vaai, Saleimoa. Samoa Faamatai and the Rule of Law. Western Samoa: National University of Samoa, 1999.