Fenuafala is an islet located on the westernmost part of the reef off the main island of Fakaofo. Fenuafala is the second settlement of Fakaofo, the main settlement is on Fale islet about three miles east of Fenuafala.
In July, a delegation tour around the islet initiated by Tourism Officer (TO) Margaret Paul as part of the activities of the annual work plan and capacity building in tourism guiding.
The tour group arrived at Te Tolotolo (literally the end of the island) to set the scene and were briefed by landowner Puka to take the tourists on a journey into the history of Te Tolotolo from the perspective of his family.
Puka is a descendant and a fifth generation of the first Antonio Pereira, a Portuguese trader. He (Puka) shared his family’s story of how Pereira, Portuguese trade came to Fakaofo via Samoa in the early 1860s, and he bought and cultivated the islet as a coconut plantation after having signed an agreement with Benjamin Hughes and Theodore Webber, agents for the German trading company Godfrey and John in Apia. Benjamin Hughes quickly returned to Samoa after the British Western High Commission in Fiji discovered he had aided the Peruvian slave trade which had nearly depleted the population of Fakaofo at the time. After Antonio Pereira’s death in 1890, his son Jose Pereira continued the legacy left by his father by tending to the coconut plantation.
The Puka family now live on Te Tolotolo and run a small shop selling basic necessities and a welding workshop. The two-story house is a holdover from the Portuguese villas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where Antonio Pereira grew up.
Nowadays, Puka cuts fresh toddy in the morning and evening for her family, using the high-value real estate. Puka shared his dream during his retelling of the rich history of Te Tolotolo which was quite reminiscent of his hardworking ancestors who worked the land of Fenuafala.
Puka intends to build a retirement home on the site and one day develop the end of the islet into an ecotourism and recreation area for locals and visitors.
The tour group mentioned that the visit was a beneficial, unique and exciting eye-opener and site visit to Te Tolotolo’s history update to hear from the local people and their aspirations for tourism and tourism. improvement of the environment.
Representatives from the Ministry of Economic Development, Natural Resources and Environment conducted a site visit around Fenuafala islet. Fenuafala is the second settlement of Fakaofo, the main settlement is on Fale islet about three miles east of Fenuafala.
The tour coincided with the visit of the Director of the Department of Economic Development, Natural Resources and Environment (EDNRE), Mika Perez. Mr. Perez is based at EDNRE’s headquarters in Atafu, alongside the director of EDNRE’s economic development division which houses the Siale Kine tourism unit, based at EDNRE’s Nukunonu station.
The team visited important local historical and contemporary sites:
The team met with Registered Nurse Laila who gave visitors a tour of the newly opened hospital facility. The hospital consists of an outpatient wing, a conference room, a radiology department, a morgue and a patient wing. It also includes three new annexes to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Historically, the new hospital replaced the old Fenuafala Hospital built in the mid-1970s. The original Fakaofo Hospital was located in Te Papa on the islet of Fale. This facility was swept away by tropical cyclone Tusi in 1987. During the relocation of Fenuafala in the 1960s, the Taupulega made the decision to move the hospital to Fenuafala.
The team then visited the school in Tialeniu. Like the hospital built on Fenuafala, the Tialeniu School was another relocation carried out by the Taupulega in 1969. The current school facility replaces the old school which was built under the supervision of New Zealand builders. School guide Fuli Alovaka led visitors while enjoying the breeze under the kanava tree, to the new Tialeniu. Today, the Tialeniu version has a double floor with 7 classrooms on each floor. The annexes include a kindergarten, preschool classrooms, a manual arts and home economics building, and a USP distance education building.
Fota or Aliki
The team then met Taupulega elder Sio Moti who explained that Te Fota a Aliki was once a highly respected fish hunting ground on the adjacent reef and about 800 meters from the Epenesa Fou Church in Fenuafala . He recited about how many catches in past years have been shared among the people of Fenuafala. If the catch was plentiful, the distribution was extended to the inhabitants of Fale islet.
Sio Moti also recorded a woman named Vae who resided on the islet of Fale and used to go to Te Fota a Aliki to fish there. Sio Moti concluded with the challenges facing fota fishers today, in a way that reflects modern times and individualistic lifestyles.
Crazy Epenesa Church
The team then stopped at the church of Epenesa Fou where elder Sio Moti explained that due to the difficulties of travel to Fale by members of the parish of Fenuafala Ekalesia Fakalapotopotoga Kerisiano Tokelau, the leadership of the church decided to facilitate this by building a church in Fenuafala to be called Epenesa Fou. The church was inaugurated in the mid-1980s.
Tokelau Telecommunications Company Center (Teletok)
The tour team then stopped at the Teletok building which was constructed in 1996 and was officially opened for business in 1997. According to Mr. Perez, who had shared some information about the business, Teletok was guided by the rules Tokelau telecommunications company from 1996. Mr. Perez mentioned that the new building replaced the original building. And Tokelau is set to install its high-tech fiber optic internet system via the upcoming South-ern Cross marine cable that stretches from Auckland and Melbourne in the southern hemisphere to San Diego in the northern hemisphere . Mr. Perez also added a memory of the days of the current Government Council in Fakaofo in 1997, where the only fax machine available on Fakaofo was to TeleTok via a PEACESat satellite dish. Government officials working in Fale settlement used to take the 10-minute boat ride to Fenuafala to send faxes overseas back then.
Tour coordinator Margaret Paul took visitors to the Fenuafala wharf where she briefly explained the start and end of the works. The project was co-funded by Tokelau and New Zealand. The Australian construction company Hall Pacific Ltd was commissioned by the Tokelau government to build the Fakaofo wharves. One in Fale and the other in Fenuafala. These two milestones in development have improved the quality of life for the people of Fakaofo.
COVID-19 Quarantine Center
Deep in the Fenuafala forest, to the west of the islet, a COVID-19 quarantine center is under construction. According to tour coordinator Margaret Paul, the facilities will help ease the burden if hospital beds are depleted by COVID-19 patients.
Fenuafala Power Plant
Energy Director Alfred explained how Tokelau is the only country in the world that is 90% dependent on renewable energy through its solar power systems. He gave a brief talk on how solar energy is captured in solar panel grids which are connected to batteries for storage. The remaining 10% of the time still depends on diesel generators. There will be an expansion of solar panel arrays in the near future to meet the growing demand for electricity which is also expected to make Tokelau 100% dependent on renewables.
The team then headed towards the south coast of Fenuafala, to the treehouse. The site is very popular with young people during the night hours. So it became clear the motivation that inspired the treehouse caretaker to build this semi-ecotourism initiative for his nocturnal activities. Tree House owner Ruevita Lotin mentioned that the establishment was created to escape the hectic life of Fenuafala and sit in the treehouse where one can relax and watch the waves of the ocean and fish on the reef.
Source: Tokelau Department of EDNRE
Photo credit: (LR) Tokelau Department of EDNRE & Map of Fenuafala Island – courtesy of Professor Eugene Rankey (Kansas University)