Samoa Flag

Samoa Travel Guide

The East Coast

Picturesque villages and intermittent white beaches run all along the route south from Pu'apu'a to the wharf. Lano is a favorite surfing beach in summer (December to March), and there's good snorkeling at Faga.

In front of the large Congregational Christian Church at Sapapali'i, eight km north of Salelologa wharf, is a stone monument to John Williams. This marks the site where the missionary arrived in 1830 and converted the local chiefs to Christianity in a couple of days. Several hotels are found around here.

Reverend John Williams

Credit for converting the Samoans to Christianity and establishing the Congregational Church in both Samoas goes to Rev. John Williams (1796-1839) of the London Missionary Society. In 1817 the young missionary and his wife Mary arrived at Tahiti, but the next year they shifted to Raiatea in the Leeward Islands, and this served as Williams' base for many years.

With the help of native teachers, Williams spread his faith to Aitutaki (1821) and Rarotonga (1823) in the Cook Islands. At Rarotonga his converts constructed a ship, the Messenger of Peace, which Williams sailed to Samoa in 1830, landing at Sapapali'i on Savai'i. He happened to arrive at an auspicious moment, as a female prophet named Nafanua had predicted the coming of strangers bringing a new faith. The chief of Savai'i, Malietoa Vainu'upo, was receptive, and in 1832 Williams returned from Raiatea with Polynesian missionaries who stayed to teach the meaning of the new doctrine.

This westward penetration of Williams' Tahiti-based London Missionary Society, or Lotu Ta'iti, was resented by the Tongans, who looked upon Samoa as their sphere of interest, and thus best evangelized by Wesleyanism or the Lotu Toga. A "gentlemen's agreement" between the parent churches in England led to several Wesleyan (or Methodist) missionaries—who had first visited Samoa two years before Williams—being recalled, much to the displeasure of the King of Tonga.

Williams, meanwhile, had himself returned to England where he wrote a book, raised funds for his mission, and had a new ship constructed, the Camden. In 1838 he was back, setting up a fresh base at Malie on northern Upolu. In 1839 he sailed west again on what was to be his last voyage, for in 1839 he was killed and eaten by cannibals as he attempted to land on Erromango Island in the New Hebrides, today Vanuatu. Local tradition holds that his bones were later collected and reburied below the porch of the Congregational Church in Apia.