Watching Wildlife in American Samoa

The National Park of American Samoa is a U.S. National Park located across three islands: Tutuila, Ofu, and Ta’u. The park is known for preserving coral reefs, tropical rainforests, fruit bats, and Samoan culture. Plenty of hiking, snorkeling, and exploring await those that visit it. Covering a total of 13,500 acres with 9,000 acres of land and 4,500 acres of coral reefs, the National Park of American Samoa is the only U.S. National Park located south of the equator.

Not originally included as part of the initial network of parks championed by President Theodore Roosevelt, the National Park of American Samoa was proposed in 1984 by Congressman Fofo Iosefa Fiti Sunia on behalf of the Bat Preservers Association. The bill was introduced to protect the habitat for the flying fox as well as the historic rainforest. By July 1987, the National Park of American Samoa had been identified, and in October 1988 was established by law.

The islands were the unfortunate site of a 2009 earthquake and resulting tsunami that destroyed 200+ homes and caused 34 deaths. However, no members of the park system working the islands were harmed or injured at that time.

Due to the unique location and climate of the islands, the National Park of American Samoa has quite the array of animal wildlife within its confines. The most famous wildlife in the park include the flying fox, the fruit bat, and the coral reefs that grow and change every single day. The park is also home to 800 native fish and 200 coral species, which makes the sights and sounds here certainly something to behold.

National Park of American Samoa’s Top Animals

  • Flying fox
    • Important terrestrial pollinators, the flying fox is native to Fiji, Samoa, and American Samoa. The habitat for the bat is primary or secondary moist forest, plantation, and agroforest. The species prefers to roost alone, or in small family groups.
  • Fruit bats
    • Sac-winging bats can be found within the park as well, preferring to roost in caves during the daytime. They have been threatened by habitat loss, but are currently protected with expertise within the boundaries of the park.
  • Geckos
    • The park is known for a variety of geckos that can be found across the islands.
  • Pacific pigeon
    • The park is a great place to go birdwatching and catch different species that you cannot find within the contiguous United States.
  • Feral pigs
    • This invasive species has caused problems for the park ecosystem for some time. The staff is working on managing the amount of pigs on American Samoa, which mainly escaped from local farms and butcher plants.
  • Sea turtles
    • You can potentially encounter a sea turtle nesting or swimming off of this National Park. Consider signing up for a tour if you want a better shot at seeing one of the planet’s oldest and most respected species.
  • Humpbacks whales
    • Defined by their pectoral fins and knobby head, humpback whales are easy to spot due to their breaching and other distinctive surface behaviors. The islands are a great place to spot them in the water.

Viewing Locations

Pago Pago: Packed with nice, short hiking trails, Pago Pago is a great place to explore tide pools and take in the views. The pools can be found at Lower Sauma Trail.

Mount ‘Alava Trail: This trail is great for seeing birds, bats, and glimpses of the ocean below, and sometimes you can catch a humpback whale sighting.

Lower Sauma Ridge Trail: A great place to check out the marine life that is flourishing in and around the islands.

Pola Island Trail: Grab your camera and enjoy the spurts of mountain jutting out from the ocean’s edge.

Tumu Mountain Trail: If you want a bird’s eye view of the park, this hiking trail is the perfect place.

When Should You Go?

It is always a good time to visit the American Somoa National Park. Located just 14 degrees south of the equator, the park is hot and rainy throughout the year. There is not much variation in temperature, nor sunlight exposure, making planning logistics that much easier.

Note: Do not go seeking bats in the park by yourself. This can only be pursued with professional oversight and support.