The Independent State of Samoa, which was formerly known as Western Samoa, is a group of islands located in the Pacific Ocean and makes up the western portion of the Samoan Islands. It also includes American Samoa, which is a United States Territory. Samoa has a total area of 1,093 square miles with about 179,000 residents. These islands have an interesting history involving German control for many years, until the start of World War I, when New Zealand took over until 1962. At that time, an epidemic of influenza took the lives of 20% of the Samoan population, and a ship coming from New Zealand was blamed for bringing the illness to the islands. By 1962, after a series of protests and resistance against the government, Samoa had emancipated itself as its own country with its own rulers and constitution. In 1997, the name was officially changed from Western Samoa to Samoa, although this change was fought by American Samoa.
Although these islands were ruled by European and other countries for years, they have established their own strong identity and have maintained these customs and practices throughout the years. Some examples of these customs include song and dance with use of just the body for noises, background music, and keeping a beat, as well as heavy geometric pattern body tattooing, and Samoan mythology. Visitors to Samoa can observe the native rituals among locals, as well as enjoy biking, fine dining, and water activities such as swimming, fishing, and local surfing lessons. They also have places to play golf, guided tours of the beauties of the islands, and many spas designed to pamper guests with unique treatments such as the use of nonu, papaya, bananas, coconut oil, honey, and other plants considered to be therapeutic for healing, massage, and other skin treatments.