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Apia is by far the most populated city in Samoa, and its capital, as well as the main port and center for services and trade for the island nation. It is located on a natural harbor at the mouth of the Vaisigano River. Apia is on a coastal plain, with the heights of Mount Vaea to the south. About one-fifth of the population of Samoa resides in Apia. Before Europeans arrived in Samoa in the 1800s, Apia was a small village; its population was 304 in 1800. A foreign settlement developed around Apia Harbor by the 1850s. The harbor was the site of a naval standoff in 1889 when seven American, British, and German ships refused to leave the harbor in the face of an approaching typhoon, as all three nations were vying for control of Samoa. Six of the seven ships were sunk, the exception being a British ship that left port at the last minute, and managed to survive the storm. When Germany ruled the islands from 1900 to 1914, the city was the capital of German Samoa.

After New Zealand displaced Germany from West Samoa, that country governed the islands, which they named the Western Samoa Trust Territory, from 1920 to 1962. From the early 1900s until Samoa finally won independence in 1962, the streets of Apia were the site of several mostly non-violent protests by the Mau movement.

Today, Apia actually consists of more than forty individual and largely independent villages. The actual village of Apia still exists as a small village between the mouth of the Vaisigano River and the Mulivai River. Along with the village of Mulivai, it forms what is known as downtown Apia.

Apia is not a renowned tourist destination, but it does provide some accommodations, nightlife, and dining facilities. Many festivals and events are held in Apia throughout the year, some of which go on for several days. Fishing tours generally leave from Apia Harbor. Faleolo International Airport, in Apia, is the chief gateway to Samoa. About twenty-five miles from the center of the capital, flights arrive daily from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, and Port Moresby. With only one terminal, the airport is smaller than other international airports, but it offers plenty of facilities to keep passengers comfortable while they await their flight. Offering passage to American Samoa, as well as charter flights, Fagalii Airport is also in Apia. Many visitors choose to tour the islands by traveling around the archipelago by boat, and the busiest boating route is between Apia and Saleloga, the largest settlement on Savai'i.

The National University of Samoa, the only university in Samoa, is in Apia. The University of the South Pacific, with its main campus in Fiji, has a campus in Apia. The Robert Louis Stevenson School, an upper-class primary and secondary school, is also in Apia. The writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, lived the last four years of his life in Apia and is buried on Mount Vaea. His home is now a museum, open to visitors.

 

 

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