American Samoa: Pola Island and Tuafauna Trail

Our homestay was in the town of Vatia, which geographically, is on the northeastern side of the island. Vatia is one of the more rural parts of the island, as we learned when one of the people we met in Pago Pago mentioned that they had never been to that side of the island. In addition to being more rural, Vatia was also very close to many of the hiking trails in the National Park.

Less than a mile from our homestay we walked through Vatia to the beach where we could see Pola Island. Pola Island is not only a great nesting place for sea birds it was also a place that ancient Samoan’s demonstrated their manliness. It features 300-foot sheer cliffs, so ones manliness was demonstrated by climbing to the top. I was perfectly fine standing at the bottom and looking up, and being judged for my lack of manliness. 

After taking some photographs of Pola Island we headed out on the Tuafauna Trail. After wandering around and unsuccessfully finding the trail we finally came upon the trail that led through a banana grove. After just starting our climb we ran into several nets that were placed next to the trail, after that we ran into two researchers who had set up the nets. They were surveying bird populations and were walking through and checking the nets every 40 minutes. They looked like they were sweating a great deal, so we hurried on our hike as we knew that a beach and the ocean would be at the end. We got to the top of a zig zagging trail and came across some incredibly step steps that were paired with ropes to help hikers descend. As we hiked I noticed that the ground seemed to be moving in some places. I looked closer and saw all manner of hermit crabs crawling around. There were big ones, small ones, ones in shells, ones without shells, and one even holed up in a piece of trash. They were everywhere!

Several minutes after discovering all of the hermit crabs we made it to our beach. The surf was pretty strong and the rocks looked less than friendly, so we opted to stay on the shore. While the beach was covered with beautiful shells and innumerable hermit crabs it was also covered with innumerable pieces of trash, most shocking was the number of flips flops. There were dozens and dozens of flip-flops on the beach. It felt like you couldn’t walk 10-feet without seeing several stray shoes without a foot, or a coordinate slop. We gathered some for a mini art installation and walked down the beach to see what else we could find.

Besides being a National Park that is a 5-hour flight from Hawai’i, which is a 5-hour flight from California it is also one that is not frequently visited. Throw in the fact that we were on the most secluded part of the island and we were not surprised that we didn’t run into anyone.  We hiked back up the steps, learned how to cut down coconuts, enjoyed some fresh coconut water and checked off our first full day at American Samoa.