The major islands are the consequence of many volcanic eruptions, which have left clearly visible volcanic cones on both islands. Although none of the volcanoes are presently active, minor earthquakes often shake the island, reminding residents of their existence. A catastrophic tsunami struck the south shore of Upolu Island in September 2009, killing many people.
The latest volcanic eruption occurred on Savaii in 1911. The desolate, lifeless lava fields left behind from this catastrophe are readily accessible, since the only paved road on Savai’i runs straight through the center.
Both islands are almost completely covered in lush flora, but virtually none of it is the natural rainforest that covered the island before people arrived. The majority of the land area is dedicated to farms or semi-cultivated woodland, which provides food and cash crops to the inhabitants. Because Samoa has been inhabited for almost three thousand years, the cultivated areas around communities may often seem to be the deepest, darkest forest.
The Samoa Tourism Authority maintains information centers where visitors may get maps, brochures, and other tourist-related materials.
Samoa is situated in the Polynesian area of the Pacific Ocean, south of the equator, about midway between Hawaii and New Zealand. The entire land area is 2,842 km2 (1,097 sq mi), with two major islands, Upolu and Savai’i, accounting for 99 percent of the total land area, and eight tiny islets.
These are the three islands in the Apolima Strait (Manono Island, Apolima, and Nu’ulopa), the four Aleipata Islands off the eastern end of Upolu (Nu’utele, Nu’ulua, Namua, and Fanuatapu), and Nu’usafe’e (less than 0.01 km2 – 212 acres) off the south coast of Upolu near the town of Vaovai. Apia, Samoa’s capital city, is located on the major island of Upolu, which is home to almost three-quarters of the country’s inhabitants.
The Samoan islands were formed as a consequence of vulcanism, the source of which is the Samoa hotspot, which is most likely the result of a mantle plume. While all of the islands have volcanic origins, only Savai’i, Samoa’s westernmost island, is volcanically active, with recent eruptions at Mt Matavanu (1905–1911), Mata o le Afi (1902), and Mauga Afi (1902). (1725). Mt Silisili, at 1858 m, is Samoa’s highest peak (6,096 ft). The Saleaula lava fields, located on Savai’i’s central north coast, are the consequence of Mt Matavanu eruptions that left 50 km2 (20 sq mi) of hardened lava.
With an average annual temperature of 26.5 °C (79.7 °F) and a rainy season from November to April, the climate is equatorial/monsoonal. Savai’i is the biggest of the Samoan islands and the sixth largest Polynesian island after the North, South, and Stewart Islands of New Zealand and the Hawaiian islands of Hawai’i and Maui. Savai’i has a population of 42,000 people.
The population of Samoa is 194,320 people. The main island of Upolu is home to about three-quarters of the inhabitants.
According to the CIA World Factbook, 92.6 percent of the population are Samoans, 7 percent are Euronesians (people of mixed European and Polynesian heritage), and 0.4 percent are Europeans. Among Polynesian tribes, only the Mori of New Zealand outnumber Samoans.
Samoa’s economy is based on family remittances from abroad, development assistance, and exports, in that order. Agriculture employs two-thirds of the workforce and accounts for 90% of exports, which include nonu fruit, coconut cream, coconut oil, and copra. Agricultural goods are mostly processed in the manufacturing sector. Agriculture development efforts have been hampered by storms and a severe blight disease affecting the country’s main root crop, taro, which is just now being conquered.
The area’s fish supplies are declining as a result of both local exploitation and severe overfishing by Japanese industrial trawlers. Tourism is a growing industry, contributing for 16% of GDP in 2000; about 85,000 visitors visited the islands. In mid-2009, the 19th season of Survivor was shot on the island of Upolu. Samoa will also be the location for the 20th season.
The Samoan government has advocated for banking sector liberalization, investment incentives, and sustained budgetary restraint. Observers see labor market flexibility as a fundamental asset for future economic growth. Foreign reserves are in good shape, foreign debt is steady, and inflation is low.