If you can't get into to the hotel or government guesthouse, and you can't get permission to stay with a host family, or if you just want to save money, you can stay on board the MV Tokelau each night.
This cargo ship is the only way to get to and from Tokelau and your ticket price includes the right to sleep on it each night of your nine-day round-trip.
There are only two cabin spaces, though, so unless you book well in advance, you will have to stay on deck.
In this case, be sure to bring something to sleep on. I didn't, and had no choice but to lie on the metal floor, with my towel for a pillow, and look on enviously as others folded out mats etc.
On the outward-bound trip, the ship will be packed and there will be bodies lying all around you. The numbers decrease after each island call, and in the days before embarking for the return trip, you will have a lot more space and the crew can supply sleeping materials. The return trip isn't so busy, either, plus there is more space after the cargo has been offloaded at Tokelau.
Speaking of which, if you are sleeping on deck, make sure you go upstairs. The cargo, including fresh fruit and vegetables, is stored on the lower deck and can get a bit smelly under the hot sun. Also, the weight of the cargo means the ship sits lower in the sea, so sometimes the floor gets washed by bigger waves, which wouldn't be much fun if you were trying to sleep!
It doesn't sound very comfortable, and it isn't, but what an experience! There's a real sense of adventure as you set sail from Samoa across the high seas of the Pacific Ocean.
There is a real community feel on the boat. Numbers are limited to about 50, so it's easy to get to know people. Tokelauans are typical Pacific islanders in that they are very friendly, and any foreigners on board are, by definition of the trip they are undertaking, adventurous, intrepid and interesting.
Food is provided, but I'd be kind if I said it was disgusting! It is invariably some form of tinned, gristly meat with rice. Better to take some of your own snacks and fruit. There is plenty of drinking water.
There is a hot shower on board.
The highlight of the trip is the approach to the first atoll, Fakaofo. While this is the least attractive of Tokelau's three atolls, they look beautiful when they pop up on the horizon, and utterly exotic. You also get quite a sense of achievement upon first sighting these specks of land - you've made it to one of the world's most isolated places!
If you decide to stay on the boat for the whole trip, you can easily get to and from the islands during the days on the metal dinghy which runs regularly between the ship and shore. When the ship is anchored, the dinghy runs back and forth from about 6am to 6pm, giving you plenty of time to explore before returning for dinner and bed.
There is only one hotel in Tokelau, the Luana Liki in Nukunonu, although it is also possible to arrange accommodation at the government building on the same atoll.
The Luana Liki is run by Tokelau's sole capitalist, Mr Luciano Perez. His personality and business attract mixed feelings in socialist Tokelau. Society there is entirely communal, so the idea of one man trying to make a profit to benefit himself and his family is frowned upon by some.
The hotel is perfectly acceptable, although basic. Prices vary depending on the size of the room, starting at NZ$35 for a single and going up to NZ$75 for a triple. The rooms are sparse but clean and comfortable. There is no air con, but the rooms directly face the lagoon, from which a cooling breeze blows at night. Bathroom facilities are shared.
You will get three meals a day included in the price of your room, which is just as well since there are no restaurants elsewhere and shopping is very limited. Mr Perez is a raconteur who will love to tell you stories and hear yours, and there is a huge National Geographic library to help pass the time on this sleepy island.
There is a bar and a couple of pool tables open to the public, but alcohol stocks are strictly limited in Nukunonu to the purchase of three small bottles of beer per person per week, which includes the hotel, so Mr Perez cannot buy above this limit even for sale to his guests.
Your fellow guests are very unlikely to be tourists, since almost no tourists visit Tokelau. If anybody else is staying in the Luana Liki, they will likely be foreign workers from Samoa or Tuvalu, or delegates from New Zealand. Kiwi prime minister Helen Clark has stayed here - surely the most basic accommodation she has stayed in during her time as premier.
Mr Perez is one of the characteristics of the Luana Liki - very friendly, full of stories and brimming with enthusiasm. He can also arrange fishing trips and excursions to Sydney Island, an uninhabited islet on the other side of the Nukunonu chain owned by his family. You can either go for lunch and a swim there, or even arrange to stay overnight, for as long as you like. Mr Perez will provide you with fresh water and a radio and teach you how to catch lobster.
At the foot of the hotel is the gorgeous lagoon, offering great swimming and snorkelling amid coral and tropical fish. Armed with a knife, you can harvest your own clams, which are bountiful.
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