Transport to Niuatoputapu and Niuafo’ou
Tonga’s farflung islands in the northern reaches of the archipelago are the final frontier for adventurous travellers. With very few flights and ferry services, those heading to the islands need to be willing to stay there for as long as it takes. Most visitors lucky enough to experience these islands with traditional villages seemingly stuck in time, arrive on yachts, which is all part of the South Pacific sailing adventure. As for getting between the islands, which are 100km (62 miles) apart, your best option is waiting for MV Otuangaofa to make the 12-hour crossing. Needless to say, there’s no public transport on the islands, so you’ll need to rely on the friendly locals or your own two feet to get around. Get the details in this list of ways to get to The Niuas, as well as ways to get around!
For more tips of visiting these islands, see The Complete Guide to The Niuas.
1. Flights to The Niuas
Tonga’s domestic airline operates flights from Vava’u to Niuatoputapu and Niuafo’ou. Flights between Vava’u and Niuatoptapu operate two times a week taking approximately 1h10mins. Flights arrive at Mata’aho Airport which is an unsealed coral strip. Flights between Vava’u and Niuafo’ou operate once a month and take approximately 1h30mins, landing at Queen Lavinia which is a grass strip airfield. Note that flights are likely to be cancelled in bad weather. They are often fully booked months in advance and cost approximately TOP$300-$385 from Vava’u one way and TOP$580-$730 from Tongatapu one way. Learn more about flights in Tonga in The Guide to Flying Around Tonga.
2. Ferries to The Niuas
The Friendly Islands Shipping Company runs a ferry service to Niuatoputapu and Niuafo’ou usually once a month, but schedules are erratic and need to be checked with the FISC or with the Tourist Information Centres. Ferries will typically depart from Vava’u on a Tuesday afternoon and take approximately 16 hours to reach Niuatoputapu. The service then continues to Niuafo’ou on a Wednesday evening taking approximately 12 hours, before the ferry makes its way back to Vava’u. Sailings are on the MV Otuangaofa which is a slow cargo ship. Prices are around TOP$215-$250 one way. Learn more about taking the ferry in Travelling in Tonga by Ferry.
3. Sailing to The Niuas
Most visitors to The Niuas arrive on their own sailing yachts. There are anchorages at both Niuatoputapu and Niuafo’ou. Before you arrive, you must submit an advance notice of arrival form (ANOA) to Tonga Customs no less than 24 hours before your ETA. The Q flag of your craft must be flown and contact made with Customs before mooring. Customs on Niuatoputapu and Niuafo’ou will tell you where to moor, then you will need to transport them to your yacht. If they are not waiting for you on arrival, then you can find the Government building in the village of Vaipoa as you approach the high school. In Niuafo’ou, the Government buildings are in Angaha village. Lear more in the Sailing Guide to Tonga.
4. Fishing Boats
A popular trip that visitors want to make on Niuatoputapu is the crossing to Tafahi Island. Fishermen go between the islands daily (except Sundays), so you can negotiate to hitch a ride to do the crossing with them, usually returning the same day. Have cash available to pay your way. Learn more about hiking on Tafahi in the 10 Things to Do in The Niuas.
5. Locals’ Vans
With no public transport in The Niuas, getting around means hiking or hitching a ride with the locals. Some vans carry people around Niuatoputapu and Niuaofu’ou for a small fee, so have cash available. There are roads and tracks circling both islands.