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Tokelau

Getting there & away

Getting to Tokelau is not something you do on a whim - planning, waiting and keeping your fingers crossed all carry equal weight. And make sure you've got sea legs - there's no airstrip on Tokelau so the only way to get there is by boat or yacht.

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Boat

Several ships service Tokelau, with one departure every 12 days or so (usually there are two or three sailings per month) from Apia in Samoa. The Tokelau Administration owns a cargo ship, the MV Tokelau, which makes the trip to Tokelau every two or three weeks. In addition, there are larger, dual-purpose passenger/cargo vessels that are hired to make the round trip every month or so. If you have a choice, and are keen on comfort (relatively speaking), go for a hired vessel - they have many more passenger bunks than the one-cabin MV Tokelau.

Bookings on these ships are made through the Tokelau Apia Liaison Office (TALO; 685-20822, 71805; zak-p@lesamoa.net; PO Box 865, Apia) in Samoa. Allow plenty of time to process your booking, and be aware that tourists are a lower priority than locals. Also remember that the sailing schedule published by TALO is not set in stone - actual departure dates can vary by more than a week from those originally announced.

The trip to Fakaofo (the closest atoll to Samoa) takes about 20 hours, and travellers have a choice between cabin fare (NZ$530 return) and deck fare (NZ$290). In either case there will be plenty of company on the voyage - you'll be travelling with a boatload of Tokelauans from Samoa and NZ returning home to see their families. The round trip from Apia to Tokelau and back takes about eight days.

There is no harbour on any of the atolls. The ship waits offshore while passengers and cargo are transferred via small boats and dinghies - a hair-raising experience if seas are heavy.

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