Destination: Tokelau Islands

By Sonja Gregurek

Born in Orange, California, Sonja fell in love with travel at age 5 through cross-country trips throughout the lower 48 states with her grandparents, parents, and siblings. Tokelau was #301 on the TCC list.

Map courtesy of Lonely Planet

First Things First: You’ll Need a Permit

Permit fee $100NZD per person and items 1-4 listed below.

Boat fare $286NZD per person (return fare), including food and cabins on the boat. Vegetarian options are available.

  1. Permit application to complete
  2. Police and Medical Reports (not less than 6 months validity) from original country of birth/residence
  3. Statement of Interest/Purpose of visit
  4. Copy of valid passport

Once all necessary documents are submitted, expect 30 days to process.

Submit to: Government of Tokelau, P.O. Box 3298 Apia, Samoa

Helpful Contacts

The Vessel

The vessel is the Mataliki. Annual sailing schedule on Web site can change without notice, so be in Apia three days before and tjree days after scheduled departure/arrival times. Departure time of the boat depends on its schedule. Return dates are mentioned on the annual sailing schedule.

How to Do It

Go to the website for ship schedules; the vessel Mataliki, takes 24 hours to reach first island, consisting of three in total; Atafu, Nukunonu, and Fakaofo. Once you identify the schedule you prefer, email Margaret Pedro ( and Mikaele Perez ( to start the permit process, which can take approximately 30 days once they receive all necessary documents. The permit fee 100 NZD will need to be wire transferred in advance.

Starting in Apia, Samoa, we arrived three days before the scheduled departure date. The boat takes off from Apia Harbor next to the Palolo Deep Marine Reserve, so we stayed at a local hotel in downtown Apia to be close to the harbor. Once you arrive in Apia, you will need to visit the Government of Tokelau office to pay the boat fare. There are three offices in Apia: two are located on the second floor of the SNPF Plaza. The one you need to go to is Tokelau Apia Liaison Office/Embassy located on Fugalei Street nd Savalalo Road.

Bring a bed sheet, as the berths on the boat have none. The mattresses are covered in vinyl. There are three sleeping areas: two sections that are air conditioned located on the 2nd floor, and an outdoor sleeping area on the upper deck.The boat bathrooms are clean, with shower facilities with hot water. A passenger brought a selection of movies and local TV shows in the media room/dining area.

We departed at 8 a.m., two days after the scheduled departure time. The ship’s captain was from New Zealand, and the crew was very nice and accommodating and saw to passenger safety. On our return to Apia we practiced a fire drill on the boat. Bring sea sick pills as the boat seemed to do little to tame the oceans swell.

What to Do and See

Once you reach each island, passengers and cargo are unloaded by the island tender boats. The Mataliki remains offshore for the duration of each island visit. The order of the islands visited changes, and the schedule can vary depending on the trip, but typically one will have 3-6 hours ashore per island, which is enough time to have a walking or driving tour and lunch with the locals. On Nukunonu, we were greeted by locals offering fresh coconut water and did a walking tour. On Atafu, we did a walking tour and were given a short tour by the local doctor in his vehicle. If you choose to stay on the island, you need to stay awhile until the next rotation of the boat schedule. You will be there two weeks before the boat will pass back through again. Nukunonu is the only island that has a hotel. Tourists typically stay with locals in their homes. There is no WiFi on the boat or islands.

The islands are beautiful and the people are friendly. Tokelau is the first country to be 100% solar powered.

Sonja Gregurek during her visit to the remote Tokelau Islands