Tokelau is in Polynesia, a group of three atolls about half way between Hawaii to New Zealand.
Originally settled by Polynesian emigrants from surrounding island groups, the Tokelau Islands were made a British protectorate in 1889. They were transferred to New Zealand administration in 1925.
Tokelau's small size (three villages), isolation, and lack of resources greatly restrain economic development and confine agriculture to the subsistence level. The people rely heavily on aid from New Zealand -- about $4 million annually -- to maintain public services, annual aid being substantially greater than GDP. The principal sources of revenue come from sales of copra, domain names, postage stamps, souvenir coins, and handicrafts.
Tokelau was on the east side of the International Date Line until it joined with Samoa and skipped December 30, 2011 and jumped at midnight from UTC -11 to UTC +14 and Dec. 29 to Dec. 31st.
Tropical; moderated by trade winds (April to November)
The average temperature is about 28 degrees C annually. Rainfall is irregular but heavy. There are downpours of up to 80 mm in a single day which are possible anytime. Tokelau is at the north edge of the main hurricane belt, but tropical storms sometimes sweep through between November and March. Since 1846, Tokelau had only experienced three recorded hurricanes. Then in February 1990, waves from Hurricane Ofa broke across the atolls, washing topsoil away and contaminating the freshwater lens. Residual salt prevented new plant growth for months. Hurricane Val in 1992 and Hurricane Percy in 2005 did additional damage.
Tokelau consists of three atolls, each with a lagoon surrounded by a number of reef-bound islets of varying length and rising to over three metres above sea level.
All visitors must obtain a permit to enter Tokelau from the Tokelau Apia Liaison Office in Apia, at least 2 weeks prior to travel. A permit from the Samoan Immigration Authorities is required to leave and re-enter Samoa.
To get a Tokelau permit, you must get a police report and a medical report (30 tala and 100 tala, respectively) from the police and a doctor in Samoa. The permit costs NZ$20 and approval must be granted by the pulenuku (village chief) on each atoll wishing to be visited. The permit takes at least 2 weeks to be processed and often much longer. Additionally, the MV Tokelau is frequently full. If you're absolutely determined to visit Tokelau, your best bet is to fly to Samoa on a one-way ticket and be prepared to wait around whilst your permit is processed. Even when you have your permit, allow additional time (weeks, not days) to get a berth on the MV Tokelau. If there is a sailing, get to the boat and hope for a no-show! I cannot stress enough that it's not possible to be in Samoa for a week or two and expect to visit Tokelau.
Note that as of 2016, the MV Tokelau has been replaced by the much bigger, smoother-riding MV Mataliki. Although it is not much faster, the added capacity should alleviate the availability delays in Apia.
Tokelau has no airports. Lagoon landings are possible by amphibious aircraft But their government has been talking about having an Air Tokelau sea planes.
Tokelau has no ports or harbours; offshore anchorage only. A twice monthly service runs from Apia onboard the MV Tokelau. This is subject to change and often unreliable. Foreigners take last priority in securing a place. The fare is NZ$286, payable in either Samoan tala or NZ dollars cash only. The fare includes all meals and is really good value considering the length of the journey.
The few roads on the islands are almost entirely within the four main villages. Most people get around by walking or bicycle.
Travel between islands is by small boat or traditional outrigger canoe.
Tokelauan, a Polynesian language closely related to Tuvaluan, Pukapukan and Maori, is the native language, and nearly all people can speak and understand English.
Interesting Fact:The name Tokelau is a Polynesian word meaning "north wind"
The New Zealand dollar is used. Some Tokelauan-branded dollars have been produced but are hard to find.
The Luana Liki Hotel in Nukunonu is the only public eating place which is in the only hotel. If you are staying at the Luana Liki, you will get three meals per day included in the price.
Samoan beer is available in shops and at the Luana Like Hotel, but sale is strictly rationed in Nukunonu.
The legal drinking age is 18.
The Luana Liki Hotel in Nukunonu is Tokelau's only commercial accommodation. Homestays may be arranged in advanced through the Tokelau-Apia Liaison Office in Samoa.
Camping is possible on Sydney Island, which is privately owned.
Education in Tokelau for children between the ages of 5-18 is available and free. Each atoll has a primary and secondary school. The education system is similar to that in New Zealand.
The schools have levels or classes running from Early Childhood Education (ECE) right through to Year11. At Year11, students are required to sit a National examination. This examination is used to determine which students will continue Year12 studies under the Tokelau Scholarship Scheme. The successful students commence Year12 and 13 studies in Samoa.
Schools are under the administration of the Taupulega's (Village council). The Education department plays a supporting role in providing training and workshops for Principals and teachers, assisting in other developments with the schools, the setting and marking of the Year11 National Examinations and so forth.
Tokelau lies in the Pacific typhoon belt, and most of Tokelau is only 2 metres above sea level making it particularly vulnerable to sea level causing major flooding.
Over 96% of the population has access to safe water and just over 70% has access to adequate sanitary facilities. Health indicators are good and there is universal access to health care.
Each atoll has a hospital. The health services have a Director of Health based in Apia and a Chief Clinical Advisor who moves from atoll to atoll as required to assist the doctors attached to each hospital.
For more serious medical matters, you'll have to be evacuated to Samoa or even Australia. Travel insurance is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED!
Tokelauan society is deeply Christian and visitors are welcome to attend church on Sunday morning and afternoon. Sunday is a respectful day, a day which Tokelauan people thank the Lord for the many things they achieve in life.
In the Tokelauan culture, Tokelauan's and deeply respectful to their elderly people feeding them first, showing their manners because the elderly make the choices within the family and community. For the better future they can have, they learn from their elders.
Tokelau has a radio telephone service between the islands and to Samoa and is government regulated.