An Australian’s Perspective of the National Parks
A recent visit in March to the National Park of American Samoa by Australian landscape photographer Andrew Thomas and his partner Debbie, enabled them to add this park to their list of United States National Park visits. They have been on a quest since December 2007, to visit and photograph each of the 59 parks in the National Parks System, and visiting American Samoa gave them their 51st national park site! And its also the closest to home for them in Australia!
With help from local tour guide who was especially generous in looking after the couple and inviting them into his home at Afono village, they spent 8 days in the island, focusing on the national park. A couple of highlights on the main island of Tuitila was hiking the Mt. Alava trail from Fagasa Pass on the west side of the park, up to the top of Mt Alava for the magnificent views across Pago Pago harbor, and then down to Vatia Village on the north shore, which involved the 768 steps down the jungle trail. Another hike they enjoyed was the Tuafanua trail that leaves from the village of Vatia and heads up an over the pass to the magnificent beach on the north side of the park.
Their main plans for their visit was to visit the remote Ofu island, part of the Manu’a Islands approximately 60 miles east of Tuitila. These plans were thrown into disarray on arrival when they learned that there were no direct flights in operation. However, they were pleased to discover from an NPS maintenance crew they met on top of the Mt. Alava trail hike, that the MV Sili was in fact heading for Ofu the next morning. Realizing this was there only chance to get over to Ofu, they accepted the challenge of a 6-7 hour boat trip, even though they would only get one afternoon and evening there before the boat was scheduled to return the next morning. Due to some mechanical problems with the boat, the return trip took 12 hours, but the afternoon they got to spend on the beach at Ofu, often regarded as the jewel in the crown of the National Park, was well worth the effort. In fact they spoke very highly of their adventure on the boat, sharing the experience with the many local Samoans as one of the highlights of their trip.
Andrew and Debbie thoroughly enjoyed their American Samoa adventure, and after they visit the last 8 parks in their quest in Alaska, they hope to return for a return visit. One thing in particular they especially liked was the friendliness of the Samoan people.
Andrew has put together some galleries of his images from his visit to share with others. Andrew is also well on the way to completing his United States National Park book project that can viewed here. http://issuu.com/andrewthomas9/docs/npbook30lo