Niuatoputapu is located in Pacific Ocean
Location of Niuatoputapu in the Pacific Ocean
NASA picture of Niuatoputapu, with North up and Tafahi in the background.
Located in Tongatupu to the very north of Tonga

Niuatoputapu is a high island in the island nation of Tonga, Pacific Ocean. Its highest point is 157 metres (515 ft), and its area is 16 square kilometres (6.2 sq mi). Its name means sacred island. Older European names for the island are Traitors island or Keppel island.

Niuatoputapu is located in the north of the country, 300 kilometres (190 miles) away from Vavaʻu near the border with Samoa. Its closest neighbours are the small island of Tafahi, only 9 km (5.6 mi) to the north-northeast, and the island of Niuafo'ou. The three islands together form the administrative division of the Niuas. There is an airport, Niuatoputapu Airport, which is designated to accept international flights. An estimated population of around 700 in 2020. The inhabitants formerly spoke the Niuatoputapu language, which has now been extinct for centuries, having been replaced with Tongan. Nevertheless, Samoan, ʻUvean and Futunan elements can be noticed.


The central top of Niuatoputapu, just beside Vaipoa, is a hill of only 157 m (515 ft) in height. It is the eroded remnant of a large volcano, which erupted about 3 million years ago. The island is almost entirely surrounded by a large reef, uplifted, and largely covered with volcanic ash, which has yielded it a fertile soil.

Niuatoputapu consists primarily of three villages: Hihifo (meaning "west" in Tongan), Vaipoa, and Falehau. Hihifo is the largest village, and, as its name suggests, lies in the west of the island. It contains the majority of the local governmental facilities, including the post office, telecommunications, police station and a high school (there are primary schools in all 3 villages). Vaipoa lies in the middle of the island. Falehau, which is east of Vaipoa, fronts on the island's only harbor, on the northwest coast.


The traditional line of lords of the island is the Māʻatu dynasty. According to the legends, an early member of them became the fish god Seketoʻa.[citation needed]

Niuatoputapu was put on the European maps by Willem Schouten and Jacob Le Maire during their famous circumnavigation of the globe in their ship the Eendracht (Unity) in 1616. After successful bartering with the inhabitants of Tafahi, but not finding a suitable anchorage there, they proceeded to its bigger southern neighbour. There their reception was less peaceful. Natives boarded their ship and attacked the Dutch with clubs, until they found out what muskets were and could do. After that an uneasy truce existed, enabling the barter of more coconuts, ubes roots (probably ʻufi (yam)), hogs and water. A 'king' of the island came along, but not on board. "He was equally naked with all the rest", only distinguishable by the respect the islanders paid to him. The next day the Dutch felt that something was in the air, and indeed when the king came along again he suddenly ordered his people into an attack. There were about 700 to 800 of them in 23 double canoes and 45 single canoes. But the Dutch fired their muskets and 3 cannons, and the islanders then quickly made themselves scarce. Schouten and LeMaire continued their westwards trip, leaving Verraders (Traitors) island behind.[citation needed]

In popular cultureEdit

The 2001 film The Other Side of Heaven depicts the LDS missionary efforts of John Groberg on Niuatoputapu. The film was, however, filmed on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands and in Auckland, New Zealand as well.[1]

2009 tsunamiEdit

The island of Niuatoputapu was affected by the M8 Samoa earthquake and tsunami in the Samoan Islands region at 06:48:11 local time on 29 September 2009 (17:48:11 UTC).[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Holden, Stephen (12 April 2002). "FILM IN REVIEW; 'The Other Side of Heaven'" – via The New York Times.
  2. ^ Magnitude 8.0 - SAMOA ISLANDS REGION Archived 7 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine Report on U.S. Geological Service's website. Retrieved online d.d. 29 September 2009.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Niuatoputapu at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 15°57′S 173°45′W / 15.950°S 173.750°W / -15.950; -173.750