Tuvalu is one of the world's smallest and most isolated independent nations. During British colonial times the group was known as the Ellice Islands, and while the current name Tuvalu means "cluster of eight," there are actually nine islands in all. The explanation lies with the smallest island, Niulakita, which was only resettled by people from Niutao in 1949. Internationally, Tuvalu is best known for its Internet address (.tv) and the threat posed by global warming.
Due to high airfares, this remote group of low coral atolls gets only a few dozen tourists a year and most never go beyond the crowded little government center on Funafuti. That makes the almost inaccessible outer islands one of the most idyllic and unspoiled corners of the Pacific, particularly Nukufetau and Nukulaelae. On these, time seems to stand still, yet rising sea levels due to greenhouse gas emissions far away may soon bring the world to them.
|TUVALU AT A GLANCE|
Tuvalu is just south of the equator between Fiji and the Gilbert Islands (Kiribati).
Tuvalu shares a time zone with Fiji and New Zealand, 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
Tuvalu offers the chance to visit one of the world's remotest independent states, a lonely island outpost of Polynesia just south of Micronesia.
Air Pacific flies between Suva, Fiji, and Funafuti, Tuvalu, twice a week.
The population is around 10,000 and all nine atolls are inhabited. All are Polynesians, although the Nui people speak a Micronesian language.
Funafuti Conservation Area:
nature reserve, snorkeling, diving
view from the massive church tower
only Micronesian inhabitants of Polynesian Tuvalu
huge lagoon safe for navigation, war relics
Tuvalu's largest secondary boarding school