No visit to Samoa would be complete without a night in a fale, catching the fragrant tropical breeze in an open-air hut as the lagoon laps at your toes. Michelle Fincke shares her tips to ensure you have a great night’s sleep.
Travelling in Samoa, you can’t really help but fall in love with fales. The distinctive round or oval-shaped open huts with the thatched roof are everywhere: in villages, dotted among taro plantations, fringing the coast.
Families gather in them for meals, there’ll be community meetings and children playing games. Simple versions – really just upright sticks topped with drying leaves – provide much-needed shade for folks selling cups of cacao paste or pineapples by the roadside. And fales slouch around major tourist attractions, like the spectacular To-Sua Ocean Trench on the main island of Upolu, providing the perfect platform for a post-sightseeing nap.
Government buildings and high-end resorts riff on the serene shape that protects from the sun while providing air and light. You can stay in a bells-and-whistles luxury version, but if you’re game for an earthier experience, try one of the simple and affordable beach fales that are found readily throughout the island nation.
Being metres from the lapping waves might just make for the best night’s sleep of your life. But if you want to avoid a fale fail, it’s worth doing some planning.
Know your season. I know this seems obvious but the wet season, from November to April, means wet. Chances of rainfall are high; stunning storms and the humidity circuit-breaker they bring are welcome, but you might wake to damp toes. At the tail-end of the 2018 wet – after a substantial cyclone had smacked Samoa and went on to crash-tackle Tonga – we had two rainy nights out of seven. Open fales will generally offer tarps/plastic wrappers/plant fibre covers but there can be chinks in the armour. If being dry all night is more important to you than adventure, consider a semi-enclosed fale or enclosed beach hut.
Modesty. An open fale is … well … open! And while that means you can see across the vivid blue of the lagoon out to the endless green of the Pacific, it also means other guests and beachgoers can see you. If modesty is an issue, use a sarong or towel as a temporary curtain. Better still, stop off at the tourist market in downtown Apia for your choice of colourful lavalavas – Samoan sarongs – for a souvenir you can put to immediate use.
Let there be light. Open fales, heavy rain and electricity are not the formula for a relaxed holiday vibe. Basic solar lighting is common but as many fale ‘resorts’ offer shared bathroom facilities, it’s smart to have a torch or flashlight phone app handy for night time strolls.
Less-is-more. What’s not to love about this? Most basic fales are just that: basic. A mattress – which may be on the floor – a mozzie net, perhaps a small table. It’s warm, you won’t need your tux or ballgown so the fewer things you take to spread all over the floor, the more you’ll appreciate the simplicity, the dark and the silence.
Bugs. This is the reason most fales have mosquito nets; if the one you’ve chosen doesn’t, find out why or look for a bed elsewhere. And as mozzies aren’t the only bugs, seal food packets or leave them in your hire car to discourage night visitors.
Village life. The social structure of Samoa is fascinating and authentic, and family and village life sacrosanct. While some collections of fales feel like resorts – entities in their own right – others nestle within villages and are subject to local rules and customs. Depending where you are, there may be a brief ‘curfew’ during early evening and you’ll be expected to be ‘home’ – that is, not wandering the village streets or hanging at the beach at this time. Talk to your fale hosts to clarify expectations and enjoy the sense of being a part, briefly, of their warm, hospitable community.
Beach fale accommodation is Samoa offers some fale ideas, as they range from luxury to extremely basic or you can find them on booking sites like Bookings.com or you could chance your hand and, if you’re driving, just stop at ones you like the look of.
*Photo credit: Michelle Fincke
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