Special treat awaits visitors today at Ocean Center’s “Festival of Sites”
The Pacific Princess Cruise Ship is set to dock at the main port in Fagatogo at 7 a.m. today and in addition to the different sites the tourists will be visiting around the territory, a special treat awaits them at the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center in Utulei where the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, in conjunction with the Department of Commerce, will be hosting the “Festival of Sites” from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
The Festival of Sites “allows each village community to showcase unique traditions and cultural values that make it a special underwater treasure as a unit of the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa,” said Isabel Gaoteote, NMSAS communication and outreach coordinator.
“Embracing the Samoan spirit, sanctuary communities provide cruise ship visitors with a glimpse of life on our island,” she added.
The Festival of Sites features traditional performances by students from the American Samoa Community College, coconut husking demonstrations, Sanctuary booth bonanzas of local food and crafts, and an educational tour of the Ocean Center to view the new film — “Penina Tutasi o Amerika Samoa”.
Visitors will have the chance to check out the Science On a Sphere (SOS) which is a room-sized global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six-foot-diameter sphere, likened to a giant animated globe.
According to the NMSAS, NOAA researchers developed the SOS “as an educational tool to help illustrate Earth System science to people of all ages”. The SOS serves to educate visitors “about the importance of ocean conservation in American Samoa and across the world”. Tourists are usually taken aback by the picture and sound quality, as well as the important information they get from presentations displayed on the SOS.
In addition to the SOS, which is located in the Rotunda Room, the Ocean Center also has a Sanctuary Room that showcases the six marine protected areas that make up the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. This particular area of the Ocean Center is always a favorite amongst visitors, as well as local youngsters who go there for field trips.
The NMSAS is the largest and most remote site within the National Marine Sanctuary System. Earlier this year, during the first ever media coffee chat held at the Ocean Center, it was revealed that since 2012, with the exception of the outreach efforts and wellness program, the Ocean Center visitor count had already reached 12,000 people, 14% of which were attributed to “cruise ship” visitors.
(The numbers are based only on the count from the visitor log-in sheet; some people don’t sign-in).
NMSAS Education, Outreach, and Community Coordinator, Apulu Veronika Molio’o Mortenson explained during an initial interview that the Festival of Sites is a way for us to “bring the destination to the tourists.”
She said, “Instead of telling them to go to the different sanctuaries and ride around the island, we can bring the island to them.”
Representatives from three of the six sanctuary sites (Fagatele, Fagalua/Fogama’a, and Aunu’u) have been selected and they will be manning different booths today, selling handicrafts and goods from their own little part of the world, in addition to providing valuable information to the tourists.
According to Apulu, the Festival of Sites is sort of an outreach program, where tourists can enjoy local food, local music, local crafts, and background information that can make their visit both a pleasant and informative one.
All the money collected from the sale of goods during the Festival of Sites goes back to the vendors. “This is a good way for them to generate income and we encourage them to bring what they can, things that represent where they’re from, local items that can only be found here,” Apulu said.
More information on the Festival of Sites and the NMSAS can be obtained by calling 633-6500.