Scenes around Vaoto Lodge: Ofu Photo Journal

Scenes around Vaoto Lodge: Ofu Photo Journal

Welcome to Scenes around Vaoto Lodge – a photo journal that depicts my experience at Vaoto Lodge.

Vaoto Lodge was, up until recently, the only establishment that offered accommodations in the tiny island of Ofu, American Samoa.  There is now one other spot, but we opted for Vaoto Lodge because of word of mouth and it’s ideal location right across the Ofu Airport runway, next to the NPS Ranger Station, and just a few minutes from (my favorite beach ever) the To’aga lagoon.

Right: NPS Ofu Ranger Station

Left: Vaoto Lodge

The Ofu Airport runway is literally a stone throw’s away from the Lodge and within earshot of the NPS Ranger Station – not a bad thing at all because there’s only one flight a week and the hubbub lasts a total of half an hour (which is actually an exciting time for the otherwise quiet village).

One of my favorite visual aspects of Vaoto Lodge is the herbage that surrounds the property, especially after a bout of rain.

You can tell that lot of thought, diligence, and patience was involved in making the landscape what it is.

The rooms are simple but have everything you need and more (yesss to comfy beds and hot showers!). This was our room, and right across we had a garden vignette of the ocean.

This bookcase is filled with history, nature, and pieces of people who travel.

This particular evening was really cool. Deborah and Ben, who own and manage the Lodge, had some leftover fish and tied it to a rock to see what would eat it. Over the next couple of hours, we watched six black tip reef sharks swim into the shallows, but only two actually took a bite. It was interesting to observe their behavior.

Alice and Marley (Deb and Ben’s dog).

We sat in the little drifter’s fale, on the beachfront of Vaoto Lodge, and watched the sky desaturate and darken.

Here, another soft evening glow surrounds us at Vaoto Lodge. Ian biked around the runway, and I hung out by the beach to snap photos of Olosega and Ta’ū in the distance; the sun hiding behind the clouds not wanting to say goodnight.

There is so much more to Vaoto Lodge… I didn’t originally plan on blogging about the place so I didn’t get photos of the main house/interior rooms, the spacious utilitarian kitchen, and oh man the mozzies! This is just a compilation of bits and pieces from my two weeks at Vaoto Lodge.

Between family, friends, and strangers, Vaoto Lodge is a home away from home.


Check out their website here:

Snorkeling in Ofu – Part 2

Snorkeling in Ofu – Part 2

More underwater living treasures photographed while snorkeling in the shallows of To’aga lagoon during low tide.

I’ll do my best to ID what I can at some point, but comment below if you see any you know!

Ichthyologists, please chime in!

Photos from January 7, 2019.

Thanks to Mareike S. for letting me borrow your Canon G7X and housing, and Rick M. for shooting with me!

View more Ofu underwater pics here.

Reading on vacation | Ofu Photo Journal

Reading on vacation | Ofu Photo Journal

I love feeling like I have all the time in the world on vacations.

Reading is one of those things that I love to do but can be difficult to make time for in between a full day at work, social life, and (let’s be honest) eating and pooping. In fact, I used to do a lot of reading whilst sitting on that throne hahaha – but I digress.

I’m a slow reader so it took me all of 2 weeks to read “Coming of Age in Samoa” by Margaret Mead. I love it for its account of Samoan daily life in Manu’a, American Samoa back in the 1920s. She paints a vivid picture that I (having grown up in American Samoa in the 90s) can actually sort of relate to. Here we are lounging and reading in hammocks at To’aga beach on New Years Day.

26th. Always Grateful.

26th. Always Grateful.

Before today ends, I just want to share how incredibly grateful I am for these 26 years of living. From the sweet treats by my coworkers, to scuba diving a new site and getting buzzed by a turtle, hammocking on the beach with friends, listening to live music, getting gifted with pearls, a donation to my fave nonprofit, and the adventure fund, and a super rad Earth Day Everyday shirt from Ian (and designed by his talented coworker Valentine), all the back rubs and TLC from my main squeeze, ahhh and eating way too much good food… This weekend has been absolutely exceptional!

Plus, we officially booked our Puerto Rico leg of our May trip and got confirmation from our great friends that they’ll be meeting us there!! I’m thrilled for a new year of growth, learnings, and adventures!

Photo credit: Ian M – My boo, my babe. The best boyfriend and support system in the whole dang world. I’m blessed to have such a cutie pizzle. ❤️

Why I started Moments

Why I started Moments

To bring back the good old Tumblr vibes.

To record the little snippets of life.

To keep me writing candidly (without feeling the need to edit myself so much).

To keep my blog more active.

To share my favorite little memories.

To get photos off my camera roll.

To express myself.

To revisit later on.

To remember.

PS- I made a new section on my site called Moments.

might change the name of the page later on but this is where I’ll be posting more frequently and casually.

Expect a lot of throwbacks on there!

Travel Diary: New Years in Samoa

Travel Diary: New Years in Samoa

Adulting is hard. I only got Christmas Day and New Years Day off, and I sorely miss the days when winter holidays meant 3 weeks of vacation. So to maximize the feel of vacation this time around, I started my New Year 2018 with…

A trip to Samoa

It was really my day 24 advent Christmas gift to Ian. Booked our tickets and planned it with our friends, Paolo and Mareike. It would be a surf trip for the boys, and a girls trip for the ladies.

30 DEC 2017


Landed at Fagali’i Airport and met up with Mareike and Paolo who were already there waiting for us. There’s nothing quite like seeing familiar faces when you’re traveling. We filled up on brunch at Home Cafè, topped up the gas on the Rav4 rental, and headed for the eastern coast to scout waves and find a beach fale to stay the night. We kept driving south until we found a spot that met our basic needs. A cheap beach fale accommodation called Sina PJs and nearby, waves for days.

High five brotha man!

The air was warm wet and completely still… great conditions for surf. The spot was called Salas (or Jaws – I’m not sure which is which). Ian and Paolo started paddling out from the beach and got lucky. A boat came out to pick them up and took them right up to the waves. A couple of hours later the tide receded into the evening and they stayed out just a little longer hoping for more waves. They were grinning ear to ear when they got back, even after the long paddle in, talking stories of getting tubed.

We grabbed a few beers at the shanty store down the road and hung out at the fale reading and swatting at mosquitoes. The book I’m reading is called “Jaguars Ripped My Flesh: Adventure is a Risky Business” by Tim Cahill, a founding editor of Outside Magazine. It seemed like an appropriate title for the trip.

Our hosts made us a delicious curry dinner which I devoured. Mareike wasn’t feeling too great, so the boys made another run to the store to pick up good ol’ Pepto Bismol. And we called it a night.

Remember that rainbow earlier on? It tricked us a little because later in the evening, the clouds got darker and we saw streaks of lightning in the cumulonimbus in the distance.

It rained hard that night, and our thatched roofs must have not been in use for a while because we woke up in the middle of the night to water droplets leaking all over. We had to move our mats and mosquito net to find a dry patch, and lightning and thunder were going off like crazy less than a mile away. It was a quite a wake up call. So needless to say we were pretty restless and slept in the next morning.

31 dec 2017


We woke up slow and enjoyed an egg on toast and koko rice breakfast from our hosts. It was New Years Eve so we decided to settle in at Matareva Beach Fales to ring in the New Year. The place was likely named after the fictional island of Matareva from the 1953 Return to Paradise film (my favorite oldie movie!!!). We swam and played cards. Drank piña coladas. The bartender convinced the guys to paddle out in the waves right there at Matareva. It was a short paddle but wasn’t that good since it was onshore and kept closing out before anyone could even take off on one. The name ‘Boneyard’ is suitable. The guys were bummed but being the awesome girlfriends that Mareike and I are, we fired their stoke and pushed them to try again back at Salas/Jaws which was a 20 minute drive away, and you’ll be happy to know it was worth it. The guys surfed until their arms gave out and Mareike and I went over to Coconuts for a little girl time and fancy drinks. The Tokelau Teaser drink was the perfect cool down.

Teaching them how to play Sweepie

We got back to Matareva just in time for a late dinner and I stuffed my face silly. Then the night began. It was New Years Eve after all. The host family invited their extended family and put on a traditional Fiafia Night, full of siva ma le pese.  My favorite was the siva afi, or fire dancing. They prefaced the performance with a lesson on making fires in a dried coconut husk, and explained how important it was for them to pass down this knowledge to their children. And then a little boy about 8 years old came out and gave a show stopping performance. It was so cool.

This kid’s face takes the cake!

The older guy shows the kid how it’s done, blue flames and all

who did it better?


The night closed off on a very grateful note. We gathered together in a “Circle of Love” and went around saying a few words to reflect back on the year and thank our hosts Tavita and Fia for their Samoan hospitality. And before we knew it, it was 10 seconds on the countdown! HAPPY NEW YEAR! We cheered, kissed and greeted each other. The moon was full and all were in good spirits. It was a good way to end the day. I took my first shower of 2018 and crawled under the mosquito net in our beach fale, and had the best sleep I’ve had in recent memory.

1 jan 2018


In the morning, music was blaring from an aiga bus that arrived chock full of day visitors. I was already awake, reading in bed while Ian snoozed on. We headed to the main fale for breakfast and played several rounds of cards. We decided that Matareva is the new Taufua so we were staying another night. The only problem was that with so many day visitors they planned to rent out the fales for the day, so we decided to pack our stuff back into the car and venture out for the day until the tide came in. 

Taking photos while Ian is passed out sleeping

Me – hanging out in the fale before breakfast

We barely spent any money except on our accommodations and a few Vailimas, so we went on a little spending spree (not really) and chowed down on some good food and ginger mojitos at Sinalei. We realized we were actually low on cash and were relieved to find out that Matareva accepted credit cards. There were no ATMs on Upolu south so this was really great news. We toasted – manuia– to good company and proceeded down to the pier. I’m not a big ‘jumper’ so I hung back (also because my bikini was back at the car; read as ‘excuse’) for a bit while everyone else kawabunga’d off over and over. We all read and napped for a bit and Ian finally got me to get up and jump off. I saw a video of myself jumping, and not gonna lie, I look like my 2 year old nephew does when he jumps into the pool. Kinda stoked but kinda terrified, hahah.

The tide was coming in so we went over to Coconuts next door and got chased out of the pool since we weren’t technically guests. Ian and Paolo went back to Salas/Jaws (can someone please clarify what the name is?!) and Mareike and I relished in another round of fancy drinks – no straw please. Tokelau Teaser again for me and Tahiti Tickler for Mareike. It’s so fun to gab about our lives over these pretty names for drinks. We lost track of time, and surprisingly the guys came back a little early. We drove back to Matareva, took photos on the beach with new friends, enjoyed dinner… and what did we do the rest of the night? We played cards like we hadn’t been playing all weekend long.

These taro fries were killaaaa

The smiling lady at the Coconuts bar. I was mostly eyeing the bananas.

New Year dips and kisses

^ Always a good idea to get jumpin’
And little Bill being the diva/rockstar he is >

2 JAN 2018


I woke up way too early. My alarm went off at 5am thinking it was a work day. Not yet. It’s our last day of vacation before we’re back to the grind tomorrow. But I didn’t go back to sleep. I meditated in the Samoan sunrise. Journaled for half an hour in the hammock under the coconut trees. And read while Ian snoozed on till breakfast. We settled our bill, packed the car back up for the last time, and said our ‘not goodbye, but see you laters’ to our hosts Tavita, Fia, and the boys Tom, Walter and Bill. On the way out, we took some film photos as souvenirs.

After about an hour of driving, we were back in town. We wanted to stop by the market and visit a couple of shops, but everything was closed. Apparently, lucky Samoa gets Jan 2 off. Only The Edge by the marina was open so we chilled out there, ordered lattes, lunch and milkshakes, and played sweepie for the last couple hours of our trip. Then it was back to the airport, crossed the international date line, and we were back at January 1 in American Samoa. Home sweet home.

MEET Amélie

MEET Amélie

We all wonder and wander in our own little way. Everybody’s got a story to tell. If you want to have a chat, I’d love to MEET you!

Meet Amélie

A curious French girl with a passion for the sea. Amelié lived in American Samoa for the last 5 months, and she shares some of her #islandlife experience, and her favorite parts of living in American Samoa.

Tell me about yourself, where you’re from, what do you do?

I’m Amélie Tagliaferro. I come from Marseille, a city in the south of France. I just turned 22 years old. I’m still in school, studying at an agriculture and environment engineering school. I picked this internship [with the National Park of American Samoa], which was awesome because I wanted to specialize in marine biology. I also want to work in the national park but in France. I love fish, and that’s about it!

How did you find yourself in American Samoa?

I knew about [this internship] through Lydia Begue who was a previous student with my school, and she interned here also. I was looking for marine biology programs in a national park, and asked Tim Clark (the former NPS Marine Ecologist), and he was like “Ok! Come!” and then he left. And I’m still here.

Describe yourself in 3 words

Funny. Respectful. Curious.

Describe your experience in 3 words

Peaceful/Relax/Chill. I’m less stressed than before.

Adventure. I found myself here. I know I want to work in this kind of ambiance, because I was in the ocean all the time! Which I loved.

Amazing. It’s the sum up of all my experiences.

What is your favorite spot in American Samoa?

Tafeu Cove!

The coral and the fish there! It’s a nice beach with a little waterfall. And the coral is just really really cool! They have giant clams, they have fish… And you can only get there with a boat because it’s pretty isolated and remote so that’s all very cool.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Long term goals?

I wanna live on an island. In the Pacific Ocean – that’s my first choice.

I don’t know if it will be in 10 years. I may be back in France, but near the ocean or near the sea, but not like a lake. Only in an ocean or sea. And tropical, or at least temperate.

Favorite kind of music?

I like chill music. The Good Vibes playlist on Spotify. Indie music… It’s totally the mood here.

Favorite beach?

So many! Fagatele Marine Sanctuary. Sailele beach. Larson’s Cove.

Favorite place to eat in American Samoa?

I love the Turkey Deluxe from Yahweh Cafe. Maybe I was really hungry… that could explain why. But it was really really good!

What’s your spirit animal?

I love all of them! It’s pretty difficult to find just one. I mean here, with my name, they called me Malie at first… so I could say sharks. But I also love turtles, and octopus, and dolphins, and whales, and moray eels, and clown fish, pipe fish, sting rays! Basically everything.

But I don’t like barracuda! I don’t know, they have a strange angry face. I don’t like those.

Speaking of sharks, how many times have you seen a shark while swimming?

Three times while snorkeling, and two baby sharks like 2 days ago.

Name one thing that you’ve learned from your time in American Samoa

Don’t drink the water!! Haha… Don’t drink the water from the sink! I did it a bunch of times, and it’s really bad. I just keep forgetting like, when I’m showering.

Yeah, it’s really bad. I got sick. It’s not usual because in France you can totally drink [the water]. Like, you’re in the shower and you can drink all the water. You can ask for a glass of water in any restaurant and they just give it to you and it’s free because it’s just from the tap.

What is your life motto?

It’s not a slogan but I think this one is so funny… it goes: I whale always love you.

But my real answer would be:

Enjoy every moment. No regrets! Follow your feelings.

Follow Amelié’s adventures on Instagram: @ameliemelofish


Meet more cool people

Sessions: The Lelauti Family

Sessions: The Lelauti Family

Monique is a Coconut Point OG. I’ve known Monique since high school, and I think the last time we saw each other was our high school graduation day. We were both considered “cool nerds” and graduated co-valedictorian. We left the island right after for college in the states. Fast forward seven years later… now Monique is married to her high school sweetheart Pae, and have two adorable little boys, with a baby girl on the way! Pae is in the military so they’ve had to move a lot (they’re currently on the move again to Alaska), but are back on island for a couple of weeks to be with family after Monique’s grandmother’s passing. As for the kids, they love “Papa’s beach” and gladly cooperated on our session once their feet touched the sand. It was a bit of a last minute thing, but I knew I wanted to take Monique’s family photos before she left. We didn’t plan out any specific details, except the location of course had to be at her family’s beach at Coconut Point. It’s an awesome spot. It was a little overcast, but otherwise a beautiful day for photos at the beach. Here are some of my favorite photos from our session.
Since 2005. I know such a moepi lol but oh well, when God blesses you better answer 😉 The first time my dad let me go bike riding in front of the village, this guy lured me with his shyness. First date at Bruno’s circus. First kiss at June’s store 🙈. And lots of sneaking behind my dad’s back 😬 love you dad. Broke his heart more than once during our dating days, yet he always remained faithful the one from the start. I was undeserving of his love and have done some things God and I are not proud of, but I’ve prayed long and hard for His mercy upon my life. It wasn’t until after I got a taste of my own karma when He finally decided to answer. Not with someone else, but another chance, a fresh new start with the very first guy I fell in love with. It was in 2011… when we thought we were better off on our own separate ways, we met up again in Hawaii. I was visiting family on college break and he was there for a rugby trip. What seemed to have completely fallen apart, fell right back in place at that moment. We were inseparable ever since. Our love grew stronger than ever… had Abelson, got married (2013), Pae joined the military, I graduated from college, and now enjoying life with our babies. We couldn’t be any happier 💕 And we owe it all to our good Lord. Ps. I share this in hopes at least one can take a lesson or two from this perfectly imperfect journey of ours… here’s to love 💕
Monique Lelauti

Abelson Paepaeoali’i Lelauti

Our firstborn. My little Cougar. Abelson was born in Pullman, WA, when I was a senior at WSU. He is our happy child. The comedian of the family. Lover of animals and everything- Cars, Dinotrux, & PJ Masks, to name a few. Bold, daring, adventurous, very hyper, picky-eater, fia fa’ali’i at times. With a lot of learning to do. His first name is a combination of my father, Apelu, and my only brother, Emerson’s names. And to my surprise, one of the main buildings where I used to take classes when I was pregnant with him, is named Abelson as well. Middle name after his dad and uncle from his Lavata’i side. Now 4 years old and is an amazing big brother to Tau and a daddy’s boy to the fullest! 😏 He is impatiently awaiting the arrival of his baby sister “Mia” (idek where he got that name from 🤣 and trust, that will not be her name 😆). He’s even gone through tutorials on how to carry baby sister 101 haha He lights up our day with the silly things he does/says. Definitely takes after his dad. We love you, Abelson. May God bless and guide you in all the days of your life!

Monique Lelauti

Ali’itau IronMike Lelauti

Our second baby boy. My VBAC baby. Baby Maui lol. Tau was born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, our very first military duty station. Lord knew Abelson was annoying to other kids so He blessed him with Tau. 😂 Following my emergency c-section with Abelson, to be honest, I was scared to have another child, but God’s blessing through Tau I held on to my faith and finally got to experience the gift of natural birth. Tau is named after Pae’s brother’s son Tau, Toa’s twin brother, whom our Lord called at birth. (RIL Tau💝). We gave him the middle name, IronMike, as a reminder of his birthplace (Home of the Airborne and Special Forces) as well as his father’s service to our country as a paratrooper. Tau is different from Abelson in many ways. He looooves food, is always serious, very cranky, and has selective hearing haha! But nonetheless, he is truly a blessing! And we love everything about him. God bless you my precious little boy!

Monique Lelauti

Nerelle Que you truly have eyes for photography, thank you for the maternity shots. They all turned out beautiful! If anyone’s looking for a professional shoot of any kind, I highly recommend my talented friend Nerelle Que! She’s so much fun to work with and will not disappoint.

-Monique Lelauti