Tourism, Travel, & Information Guide to
Introduction to Tokelau:
Tokelau is a non-self-governing territory of New Zealand consisting of three coral atolls in the South Pacific: Atafu, Nukunonu, and Fakaofo.
These atolls lie approximately mid-way between Hawaii and New Zealand and about 500 km north of Samoa.
Formerly known as the Union Islands, the name 'Tokelau Islands' was adopted in 1946 and then shortened to 'Tokelau' in 1976.
The roughly 1500 hardy inhabitants of Tokelau, unofficially known as Tokelauans, are thought to have settled the islands more than a thousand years ago- thus, they are generically recognized as being Polynesians (and darn proud of it) - and this pride fits well with their culture...
Simply put, Tokelau culture IS Polynesian culture.
According to archaeological evidence, the islands were settled about 1000 years ago. Several hundred years of oral history remain, showing a belief in Polynesian mythology and the worship of the god Tui Tokelau.
Tokelauan society was ruled by clans. Each atoll was independent until the 18th century, when Fakaofo conquered Atafu and Nukunonu and united the three atolls. Inhabitants lived a subsistence lifestyle, relying on fish and coconuts for sustenance.
Vice-Admiral John Byron of England found Atafu on his 1765 voyage but saw no signs of inhabitants. In 1791, Captain Edward Edwards found Nukunonu while searching for mutineers from the HMS Bounty. The US whaling ship General Jackson reached the island of Fakaofo in 1835.
In 1889, the islands were claimed by Britain. They became part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (Kiribati and Tuvalu) in 1916, which was then renamed the Union Group.
Government & Politics
In 1925, the islands came under the administration of New Zealand. They became a New Zealand territory in 1948. Today, more Tokelauans live outside Tokelau than on the islands. About 6,800 live in New Zealand.
Since 1996, Tokelau has also had a legislative body, called the General Fono council, which deals with national issues.
In addition, every three years, a Village Head is elected. Daily activities in the villages are managed by elected mayors. New Zealand statutory laws do not apply to Tokelau except when they are expressly extended to the territory.
In 2006, and 2007, Tokelauans held referenda to decide whether to move to self government in free association with New Zealand. In both referenda, the citizens failed to achieve the required two thirds majority.
Tokelau is a full or associate member of many international organizations, including South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme, the Forum Fisheries Agency, the World Health Organization, and UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
Tokelau culture is Polynesian culture. Sharing of resources according to need and respect for elders are integral characteristics of this culture. Age typically determines the level of employment; the older Tokelauans holding managerial positions.
The division of labor has men involved mostly in fishing, farming, and construction and women in maintaining the villages. However, many Tokelauans are employed in public service, and such divisions of labor are blurred in these occupations.
Most of the land is managed by kin groups. Many Tokelauans are members of more than one kin group. Essentially all Tokelauans have rights to land and to a share of the produce of the land. Although land can be transferred to other Tokelauans, it cannot be transferred to foreigners.
Each atoll consists of one village. The villages have a small-town, rural character, although, as a result of the small amount of inhabitable land, they are densely populated.
Traditional foods include fish, sweet potato, taro root, breadfruit, pork, poultry, and coconuts. A fermented drink, Kaleva, is made from coconut milk. Imported foods are available in the village cooperative stores.
Homes historically were made of local timber with thatch rooves; however, in the 1970's, imported wood and concrete were used to construct sturdier homes. Still, many residences are one-room dwellings with carpets consisting of mats made with leaves, sleeping mats, various chairs, tables, and other furnishings. Cook houses are typically separate. Satellite TV and internet are recent arrivals to Tokelau.
Tokelauans produce fine woven handicrafts, such as mats, bags, hats, and fans. Tokelau stamps and coins are also sold as collectibles.
Traditional Tokelauan music starts with choral elements and adds percussion with log drums, wooden boxes, and biscuit tins.
Tokelau celebrates both religious and secular holidays with feasts, athletic competitions, and parades.
There is little tourism on the atolls of Tokelau. Thus there are few tourist attractions... which means that a visit to Tokelau affords a quiet getaway, far off the beaten path.
What to Do & See
The main recreational activities are swimming and snorkeling in the lagoons and coral reefs. During a special event, such as a holiday or pageant, tourists may be treated to performances such as traditional singing and dancing.
Where to Stay
There is one hotel in Tokelau, the Luanaliki. This hotel is located on Nukunonu. There is one resort, Fale Fa, also on Nukunonu. There is also a guest house on Atafu, the Feliti Lopa.
Getting There & Away
The best way for tourists and travelers to get to Tokelau is from Apia, Samoa, by ship.
There is also a larger ship that makes the trip once a month. The only other ways to get to Tokelau are by private boat or private helicopter.
The distances around the atolls are short, so one can travel on foot within an atoll. Tourists can travel between atolls on a dinghy or traditional outrigger canoe.
TRAVEL to TOKELAU!
Use Apia, Samoa as your destination and compare the travel services.