If you’ve ever ventured deep into Oceania and Australasia, you may well have come across the atolls of Tokelau. A relatively small community, it bridges the gap between New Zealand and the US, offering a curious climate and a very unique culture!
Even if you’ve heard of Tokelau before, and have visited there in the past, there are still likely to be plenty of things you might not know about these islands or its people. Here’s some interesting facts about Tokelau and its atolls to help bring you closer to the area!
Tokelau may be small, and may have a relatively select population, however, it actually has its own language – Tokelauan, funnily enough. Although people across the atolls are known to speak English and Samoan, as well as Tuvaluan.
The population of Tokelau is truly tiny – according to numbers from a few years ago, it’s thought that there are fewer than 2,000 people here.
To get fresh water, Tokelauans have had to dig deep. That’s because, despite their watery location, there is nothing fresh on the surface. Digging wells is common across the atolls. The residents will also depend on rainfall for the wells to replenish.
Tokelauans have made their way across to New Zealand, too. There are thought to be more than 6,000 living in the region, though these numbers are likely to have changed in the years since figures were derived.
Tokelau is hardly known for its high points! In fact, the tallest peak in the atolls comes to a towering five metres! That might be a nice little adventure for newbie mountaineers, at the least!
Flag of Tokelau
Tokelau is officially part of New Zealand, thanks to an act of law established in 1948. This act, funnily enough, is called the Tokelau Act.
There have been attempts to change the political situation and standing in Tokelau. However, a recent referendum found that most people preferred to keep things as-is.
The area was also previously part of the British Empire, only receiving annex in 1916.
Tokelau’s atolls are actually at risk of disappearing in the long run. That’s thanks to the relatively low ground level, and that the sea is rising thanks to global warming.
The whole of Tokelau is very small and accounts for around 4.7 square miles, or 12 square km.
Life expectancy in the region is likely to be higher than you may expect – women are expected to live longer than men to 70 years old, while men fall short at 68.
Despite New Zealand rule and oversight, Tokelau is still technically governed by Queen Elizabeth, as a result of empirical and Commonwealth links.
Tokelau has a handful of radio stations across the atolls, though these number no more than three in total.
Visiting Tokelau requires an interesting entry system. This means that you need permission to visit and stay with the right legal papers – and beyond that, you will also need permission from local leaders and elders if you want to stay there overnight.
Tokelau doesn’t produce or export anything to elsewhere – it purely imports, and purely from New Zealand.
Swains Island, which you can find within the Tokelau group, isn’t actually part of Tokelau at all. It’s technically the property of American Samoa.
It’s impossible to fly to Tokelau. Instead, you’ll normally need to charter a boat from New Zealand if you want to visit.
Despite the lack of tall peaks on the atolls, they actually sit on volcanoes which have long since died off.
There are no rocks to mine in Tokelau. In fact, the only resource resembling anything close to a rock is the local coral. This means that the locals have had to get very creative with their tools over the years. This means that they have often had to rely on shells, for example, to break things down.
There are four atolls in total which make up Tokelau. These are Fakaofo, Nukunonu, Olohega and Atafu.
The community takes part in food-sharing to ensure that everyone gets a fair cut of nutrition. This process is a ritual known as Inati, though it is likely less ritualistic nowadays than you might imagine!
Do you know any fun facts about Tokelau? Share them in the comments below!