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Tuvalu

Travel Guide Oceania Polynesia Tuvalu

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Introduction

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A tourist to Tuvalu is about as busy as a hermit crab, and, like that creature, spends most of his or her time wandering the beach slowly, albeit without a shell on their back. With 26 square kilometres at its disposal, Tuvalu's main attractions are offshore, where undisturbed coral reefs lazily grow through the new millenium. The snorkelling is truly superb, so if you're in for a quiet holiday spent sunbaking, snorkelling and sleeping, Tuvalu is about as good as it gets.

For a country with its size, isolation and development, Tuvalu has done remarkably well with the arrival of the internet, its domain name .tv earning the nation a $50 million leasing contract. Which should raise the bar of the 11,000 Tuvaluan lives considerably, though it may have little effect in fighting the problem of global warming - there are widespread fears that the islands may be submerged in years to come.

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Brief History

Tuvaluans are a Polynesian people who settled the islands around 3,000 years ago coming from Tonga and Samoa. Eight of the nine islands of Tuvalu were inhabited; thus the name, Tuvalu, means "eight standing together" in Tuvaluan.

Tuvalu was first sighted by Europeans in 1568 with the arrival of Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira from Spain. The next Europeans to appear did not do so until the late 1700s when explorers reached the area. Peruvian slave raiders ("blackbirders") combed the Pacific between 1862 and 1864 and Tuvalu was one of the hardest-hit Pacific island groups with over 400 people taken from Funafuti and Nukulaelae, none of whom returned.
In 1892 the islands became part of the British protectorate known as the Ellice Islands. The protectorate was incorporated into the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony in 1916. In 1943, during World War II, Tuvalu was selected as an operations base for Allied forces battling the Japanese in the Pacific. Thousands of marines were stationed there until December 1945.

In 1974 ethnic differences within the colony caused the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands to vote for separation from the Micronesians of the Gilbert Islands (to become Kiribati). The following year the Ellice Islands became the separate British colony of Tuvalu. Independence was granted in 1978. Tuvalu Independence Day is celebrated on 1 October. In 1979 Tuvalu signed a treaty of friendship with the United States that recognised Tuvalu's rightful possession of four small islands formerly claimed by the United States.

As low-lying islands, lacking a surrounding shallow shelf, the island communities of Tuvalu are especially susceptible to changes in sea level and storm patterns that hit the island undissipated. It is estimated that a sea level rise of 20–40 centimetres in the next 100 years could make Tuvalu uninhabitable. While some commentators have called for the relocation of the population of Tuvalu to Australia, New Zealand, or Fiji, the former Prime Minister Maatia Toafa said his government did not regard rising sea levels as such a threat that the entire population would need to be evacuated.

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Geography

Tuvalu consists of three reef islands and six true atolls. Its small, scattered group of atolls have poor soil and a total land area of only about 26 square kilometres making it the fourth smallest country in the world. The islets that form the atolls are very low lying. Nanumanga, Niutao, Niulakita are reef islands and the six true atolls are Funafuti, Nanumea, Nui, Nukufetau, Nukulaelae and Vaitupu. Funafuti is the largest atoll of the nine low reef islands and atolls that form the Tuvalu volcanic island chain. It comprises numerous islets around a central lagoon that is approximately 25.1 kilometres north-south by 18.4 kilometres west-east, centred on 179°7'E and 8°30'S. On the atolls, an annular reef rim surrounds the lagoon with several natural reef channels.The highest elevation is 4.6 metres (15 ft) above sea level on Niulakita,[76] which gives Tuvalu the second-lowest maximum elevation of any country (after the Maldives). However, the highest elevations are typically in narrow storm dunes on the ocean side of the islands which are prone to overtopping in tropical cyclones.

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Atolls and Islands

Tuvalu consists of 6 atolls and 3 islands.

Atolls

  • Funafuti is the capital.
  • Nanumea
  • Nui
  • Nukufetau
  • Nukulaelae
  • Vaitupu

Islands

  • Nanumanga
  • Niulakita
  • Niutao

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CitiesTowns

  • Fakaifou
  • Alapi
  • Vaiaku
  • Senala
  • Teone

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Sights and Activities

Funafuti Marine Conservation Area

Funafuti Marine Conservation Area is the place to come if you ever dreamed about deserted islands and the real Robinson Crusoe feeling. The are contains five islets which are forming a necklace along the western side of the Funafuti atoll. They are all uninhabited and protected which also means ther is no fishing and no hunting and thre are no gathering areas.
The islets are very small and fringed with white sand. They also contain dense native forests and palm trees and are alive with the noise and activity of colonies of seabirds. Green turtles nest on the beaches as well, and while much of the coral close to shore has suffered from bleaching, it still provides a home for many species of brilliantly coloured reef fish. As recent as 2005 an exceptional storm destroyed a six islet, called Tepuka Savilivili. Tuvalu might just be one of the first countries in the world that will disappear when the global warming proces continues.
The conservation area was formed in 1996 and covers over 30 square kilometers of lagoon, reef, channel, ocean and island habitats. Luckily, it is all there waiting for you as it is open to visitors for snorkelling, walking, picnicking and bird-watching.

Nanumea Atoll

Nanumea Atoll is one of Tuvalu's most beautiful atolls. It features an unusual fresh-water pond and even a large church. The atoll was hit by the Japanese attacks during WWII severely and nowadays plane wrecks and a wrecked cargo ship near the main settlement serve as reminders. Apart from this history the main activities include relaxing, swimming and snorkelling and just admire the quiet athmosphere and enjoy island life.
It's not very easy (at least time consuming) to reach though but still worth the effort. You can take government supply ships, the Nivaga II and Manu Folau, to reach Nanumea Atoll or in fact any other of Tuvalu's Outer Islands. They both make crossing to the outer islands once every three or four weeks.

Nukulaelae Atol

Nukulaelae Atol is a ring-shaped atoll (coral island) and has a stormy history. In 1863 two thirds of the inhabitants were kidnapped by Peruvian who were looking for workforce. After a long and tough journey, killing many of the islanders because of a lack of food and water, they were foreced to work as slaves in the mines of Peur. Nowadays, the people are known for their dancing and singing. On the atoll there is also an archaeological place dating back to the time before Christianity which you can visit.

Other sights and activities

  • Funafala islet - traditional village life and relaxing
  • Funafuti lagoon - swimming with the locals

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Weather

There is not much variation in the weather on the atolls and islands that form Tuvalu. And that is actually a good thing. Temperatures hoover around 30 °C throughout the year during the day and don't drop below 25 °C at night on average. Although the sun shines a lot hear, it also rains a lot. There is not a real dry season, just a less wet season. The months of April to November still have around 250 mm of rain a month, while December to March sees 350 to 400 mm of rain a month. Most of it falls during heavy downpours in the late afternoon although rainy days are possible during the wetter months. Humidity as a result, is fairly high, but constant breezes bring some relief. And water is never far away!

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Getting there

Plane

The international airport is at Funafuti. The airport code is probably half the joy of getting to Tuvalu - it's FUN. There are only a couple of flights per week, with Air Fiji from Suva to Funafuti. Fiji Airways provides flights from Nadi.

By Boat

Tuvalu - Fiji vv
The MVs Nivaga II and Manu Folau, both government-owned cargo/passenger ships, travel to between Tuvalu and Suva, Fiji, every three months or so and the takes about four days. One-way fares are A$73/316 for deck/double cabin, with meals. Pacific Agencies (info@pacship.com.fj) is the agent for the MV Nivaga II and Manu Folau in Suva, the Marine Services Office in Funafuti.
The cargo boat Nei Matagare makes trips roughly once a month between Tuvalu and Fiji and you might find a berth on this boat as well. Williams & Goslings are its Suva agents.

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Getting Around

On Land

Cars are rare on Funafuti and almost non-existent on may other islands and atolls. Some taxis and minibuses travel around the main island, but your best bet will be renting small motorcycles or bikes. The smallest islands are easily explored on foot as well.

By Boat

You can take government supply ships, the Nivaga II and Manu Folau, to reach Nanumea Atoll or in fact any other of Tuvalu's Outer Islands. They both make crossing to the outer islands once every three or four weeks. The southern trip takes three or four days, and the northern trip about a week. Take as much drinking water and food as you can, as meals tend to be rather monotonous. A return trip to the northern/southern islands costs A$250/190 for 1st class without food, and A$107/87 for deck class without food. For bookings and schedule confirmation, contact the Marine Services Office in Funafuti.

The other options include asking around if locals make the inter-island trips or having your own yacht.

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Red Tape

Most western nationalities only need a valid passport, sufficient funds, accommodation and proof of onward or return transport. US Nationals need a visa, as do people from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

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Money

See also Money Matters

Tuvalu uses the Australian Dollar (AUD). Australian Dollar notes come in $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 and coins come in 5¢, 10¢, 20¢, 50¢, $1 and $2.

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Eat

There are many places that have small restaurants that serve food and beverages. They serve many types of ethnic cuisines such Chinese, Italian, and Indian. Fish is abundant since the island is surrounded by water.

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Health

See also Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Tuvalu. It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Tuvalu. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid. Vaccination against hepatitis B and tuberculosis is also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Dengue sometimes occurs as well. There is no vaccinations, so buy mosquito repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Also wear long sleeves if possible.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.

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Safety

See also Travel Safety

Violent crime is rare, and usually involves alcohol and family disputes. A siren signals when to leave the runway for an approaching plane.

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Keep Connected

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

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Quick Facts

Tuvalu flag

Map of Tuvalu

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Capital
Funafuti
Population
11,000
Government
Constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy
Religions
Christianity
Languages
Tuvaluan
Calling Code
+688
Nationality
Tuvaluan
Local name
Tuvalu

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This is version 22. Last edited at 10:34 on Jan 21, 14 by Utrecht. 15 articles link to this page.

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