American Samoa is located in the Pacific Ocean, half way between Hawaii and New Zealand with the geographic coordinates of 14 16 S, 170 42 W. We are five hours flying time direct from Honolulu, Hawaii and 35 minutes by air from Apia, Samoa.
American Samoa is made up of five volcanic islands – Tutuila, Anu’u, Ofu, Olosega and Ta’ū – with rugged mountainous peaks and two coral atolls – Rose and Swains Islands with a total land area of 76 square miles. Including our marine waters and 200 mile exclusive economic zone, the Territory’s total area is 117,500 square miles, about the size of the State of Oregon or New Zealand.
The Territory’s tallest peak is Mount Lata on Ta’ū Island 3170 feet, while the highest peak on the main island of Tutuila is Mount Matafao standing at 2142 feet. Pago Pago Harbor on Tutuila Island is regarded as the best natural deep harbor in the South Pacific, surrounded and sheltered by sheer mountain walls and the peaks of Mount Alava, Mount Matafao and Rainmaker Mountain on three sides.
The National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa is one of 14 federally designated underwater areas protected by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Of all the areas in the National Marine Sanctuary System, the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa is the most remote, is the only true tropical reef, and is thought to support the greatest diversity of marine life.
The sanctuary is comprised of six protected areas, covering 13,581 square miles of nearshore coral reef and offshore open ocean waters across the Samoan Archipelago. NOAA originally established the sanctuary in 1986 to protect and preserve the 0.25 square miles of coral reef ecosystem within Fagatele Bay. In 2012, NOAA expanded the sanctuary to include Fagalua/Fogama’a (the next bay east of Fagatele) on Tutuila Island, as well as areas at Aunu’u, Ta’u and Swains islands, and a marine protected area at Rose Atoll (which was named Muliāva as known by the Manu’a residents) including nearby Vailulu’u Seamount. It is now the largest marine sanctuary in the system.
Over 150 species of coral makeup the centerpiece of sanctuary marine life, which also includes over 1,400 species of other invertebrates and a wide variety of algae, several seagrasses, humpback whales, hundreds of fish species, and hawksbill and green sea turtles. Fagatele and Fagalua/Fogama’a bays are part of a distinct biogeographic region that is a hotspot for coral cover, coral and fish species richness, and Fagatele Bay has the highest percentage of live coral cover around Tutuila Island. These bays are also home to schools of damselfish, surgeonfish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, grouper and snapper
Visitors are welcome to explore the sanctuary. Please visit the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa website or come to the Ocean Center for a tour and receive a map of the trail leading to Fagatele Bay. This trail is located on private land. Travel west on Route 001 to Futiga Village and turn left just before the US Mart. Follow the road past the landfill until you reach a locked gate. Ask for permission from the family at the end of the road to hike past the gate. The family might charge a fee. Follow the trail to the small beach to explore or snorkel at your own risk. It is suggested to call the Marine Sanctuary staff a day in advance at +1 (684) 633-6500 so arrangements can be made with the family.
Rose Atoll, known to Samoans as Muliāva, is approximately 150 miles (240 km) east-southeast of Tutuila Island’s Pago Pago Harbor. It is the easternmost Samoan island, the southernmost point of the United States, the only atoll in the Samoan archipelago, and one of the smallest atolls in the world. The Muliāva sanctuary area encompasses 13,507.8 square miles (34,985.04 square km) of marine waters of the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument and waters surrounding the Vailulu’u Seamount, the only hydrothermally active seamount within the EEZ. The inner sanctuary boundary is adjacent to the seaward boundary of the Rose Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Hence, the sanctuary does not include the land or lagoon waters that make up the refuge.
The atoll is home to 270 species of reef fish as well unique plant life and bird life only found on this atoll. Access to Rose Atoll is only for scientific and research purposes and permission must be sought from the US Fish & Wildlife Service. To contact them, visit the Rose Atoll National Wildlife Refuge website.
The National Park of American Samoa is one of the most remote national parks in the United States. Also one of the newest, it was authorized by the US Congress in 1988 and officially established in 1993 when a 50 year lease was signed with villages and the American Samoa Government.
The 10,500 acre park is spread over three sectors on three islands – Tutuila, Ta’ū and Ofu. Almost all the land area of these volcanic islands – from the mountain tops to the coast – is rainforest. About 2,500 acres of the park is underwater, offshore from all three islands.
The National Park Visitor Center is located in Pago Pago across from the yellow Pago Way gas station, phone (1 684) 633-7082 or visit their website www.nps.gov
Home Stay Program Rangers at the Visitors Center will take you on guide walks and hikes through the National Park and have a Home Stay Program with a number of families in the villages the surround the Park which they can also arrange for you.