Supplies being unloaded from a ship.
The seaplane service to Tokelau was suspended in 1983, but there's been talk of building an airstrip on Fenuafala (Fakaofo). Meanwhile, the only way to get there is on the 19-meter, 65-passenger monohull MV Tokelau, also known as the MV Tutolu, which leaves Apia, Samoa, for the three atolls about twice a month. It takes just under two days to reach the first island and seven to nine days to complete the roundtrip. The ship often runs out of food on the way back to Apia, so carry a reserve supply.
This is not a trip for the squeamish or fainthearted. On the MV Tokelau most passengers travel deck, and every available space on deck will be packed with the Tokelauans and their belongings.
Cabin space is limited. Pray that you travel with the wind because against the wind it's extremely rough and the smell of diesel pervades the air. There's merry feasting when the boat arrives, and usually time for snorkeling and picnicking on the motus. The passengers are an interesting mix.
Tokelauans and officials get first priority on these trips, and tourists are only taken if there happens to be space left over. Advance reservations are not accepted, and cabins will be confirmed only a week prior to sailing.
Check with the Tokelau Apia Liaison Office when you reach Apia—you may be lucky. The ticket price Tokelauans pay is heavily subsidized and tourists are charged around three times as much which is considered to be the real cost without any profit element built in. You pass Samoan Immigration on the wharf in Apia, a unique way of renewing your Samoan tourist visa.
UPDATE: In mid 2012 it was announced that the Tokelau would be replaced by a safer 36-seat ferry called the Victoria.