As I gingerly approached the ledge and peered down at the rickety wooden ladder that delved into the 100 foot deep lava hole, I wondered if this latest life choice was one of my less considered ones. The ladder was wet, covered in slippery green moss and had no side railings. Hardly the ideal tool to descend into the To Sua Ocean Trench.
I’d first seen an advert for the To Sua Ocean Trench, what is probably Samoa’s biggest tourist attraction, back home when doing my standard pre-trip ‘intelligence gathering’. In pictures, I swear the ladder looked far more stable and the hole into which it plunges a lot less deep. Yet, as I peered over the edge of the cliff face that surrounds the To Sua, I realised the only way down was backwards. I don’t regard myself as being afraid of heights, although my wife might disagree, but the construction quality of the ladder seemed like something more suited to an Ikea bunk bed. Trying to turn myself around and feeling for the first rung of the ladder with an outstretched foot, the thought of slipping and landing on the wooden platform far below sent a shiver down my spine despite the hot humidity of the afternoon.
To Sua (Samoan for ‘big hole’- an ingenious title) is located on the Southern shores of Upolu about an hour’s drive from Samoa’s capital, Apia, in tiny Lotofaga village. Following volcanic eruptions on the pacific-island nation, the resultant lava fields were gradually eroded over the millennia leaving gaping blow-holes. These then were filled by ocean water which had made its way through underground tunnels and now connect the new trench to the ocean. The result is a cave-like structure filled with crystal clear waters surrounded by lush tropical greenery that looks almost otherworldly. It provides an almost magical setting for an afternoon swim – for those brave enough to descend via ladder that is.
Once you’ve negotiated the ladder (perhaps with some helpful peer pressure from your mates) and dropped down from a small platform into the turquoise waters, your feet meet soft sand and your eyes immediately spot numerous tropical fish darting around beneath the surface. Pulling yourself along a guide rope (presumably installed to help less capable swimmers), one can follow the fish deeper in to the crater which leads you underneath the rock face. For the brave amongst you, I was told that it’s possible to swim from the trench through the underwater tunnels towards the South Pacific Ocean…although it isn’t exactly advisable for obvious reasons.
If you’re searching for paradise then this could well be it!
Now to climb back up that ladder…………..
To Sua lies on Upolu’s main southern coastal road just west of the Sea Breeze Resort and sits within a small lush garden with an entrance fee of around US$15 (well worth it, trust me). If you’re staying in Apia, then To Sua is approximately a 50km drive away, which shouldn’t take much longer than 1 hour 15m on the cross-island road. If you take this route, then make sure to stop at one of the various waterfalls on the way – the lookout points are fairly well signposted along the main road. Once you’ve experienced the trench, climbed the perilous ladder and had a good swim, make sure you explore the wider park area including the gardens, views over the South Pacific from the cliff side, blow holes, sea arches and rock pools.
The easiest way to get around Samoa is to rent a car (there are plenty of rental car companies and hotels are happy to help you). Although there are also plenty of taxis in Apia, you’re likely going to struggle to find one to take you back at the end of the day unless you pay for the taxi to wait for you.
There aren’t really any options when it comes to buying food, so I suggest you take a picnic with you. There are a number of small fales (wooden, open-sided beach huts) within the gardens where you can shelter from the sun and set up your food.
The park is open seven days a week from 7am – 6pm.