Also known as the Union Islands, Tokelau is a New Zealand territory located in the Pacific Ocean approximately midway between Hawaii and New Zealand and about 500 km north of Samoa.
It comprises of three tropical atolls, Nukunonu, Atafu and Fakaofo, measuring a total of just ten square kilometres.
These low-lying coral islands consist of a lagoon surrounded by a ring of islets that rise, at the most, just five metres above sea level. Subsequently,
the future of these islands that are home to around 1,300 people, will depend on the impact that climate change has on rising sea levels.
Tokelau has a typical tropical climate with year round temperatures moderated by trade winds and heavy rainfall especially in the summer (November to April).
Lying as it does in the Pacific typhoon belt, it suffers tropical storms and cyclones. Cyclone Percy hit the island hard in 2005 with tidal waves sweeping over the island, destroying crops and damaging property.
Global warming is a major concern for Tokelau with a high chance of the islands being below water by the end of the 21st century.
How to get there
There are no airports or harbours on Tokelau so consequently it is not the easiest or quickest place to get to.
It is possible for amphibious aircraft to land in the lagoons, but there is no regular service. So getting there involves travelling on one of the regular provision ships.
The MV Tokelau from Apia in Samoa visits every two to three weeks with a one way trip taking a day and a half. You will not be able to make a reservation and places available for passage are limited with priority given to the islanders. The trip is no cruise as it is essentially a cargo ship.
The ship anchors offshore and awaits small rowing boats to come to transfer the cargo and occupants.
The entrances through the reefs to the islands are narrow and even with small boats it can be a hair raising experience.
Where to stay
The islands are not set up for tourism so there is only one hotel - the nine bedroom Luanaliki Hotel on the island of Nukunonu.
The Tokelau Apia Liaison Office can help you to organise
a stay in the home of a local family. This obviously must be organised well in advance.
What to see
A trip to Tokelau is a trip to a different world. The people are genuinely friendly and the pace of life is extremely relaxed.
There is sand, sun and the lagoons are ideal for swimming and snorkelling in. The Polynesian culture is strong here and you'll enjoy watching artisans working on dug out canoes or learning how to cook Polynesian style.
There are no malls, banks, cars, fancy restaurants or hotel chains, making it an excellent place to get away from it all.
However, be warned. This is truly at the ends of the earth and there is no quick escape by aeroplane if you don't like it.
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