Fakaofo Atoll Map
Fakaofo is Tokelau's southernmost atoll and the closest to Samoa. Most the atoll's 400 inhabitants live on Fale island. The administration building with the post office, police station, transportation office, and store is here. Overcrowded Fale has only 4.5 hectares of dry land and its quiet streets are well shaded by breadfruit trees.
In 1960 a second settlement was established on Fanuafala Island, three kilometers northwest of Fale. At low tide you can wade across the reef between the two. The school, hospital, and telephone office are all on Fanuafala, and there has been talk of building an airstrip as well, but as yet nothing has been done. Fanuafala has a nice lagoon beach ideal for swimming.
In the 18th century warriors from Fakaofo conquered neighbouring Nukunonu and Atafu, bringing them under the authority of the Tui Tokelau (king of Tokelau). The Fakafotu Falefono or meeting house in Fale village contains a large coral slab said to have supernatural powers and associated with the Tui Tokelau. In 1841 Horatio Hale, a member of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, spent several says on Fakaofo and wrote an account of his experience.
The swimming pigs of Fakaofo are one of the main curiousities of Tokelau. Due to a shortage of land, they're kept in pens and enclosures on the reef between Fale and Fanuafala. They forage for shellfish in reef pools and are fed coconuts by the islanders.
The anchorage off Fakaofo is poor, and in 1987 the freighter Ai Sokula was wrecked on the Ahaga Loa reef where its remains today. Aside from coconut plantations, some of the small reef islands have taro pits which are fertilized with guano (seabird dung) collected on Palea Island.