Located in the South Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia, this island nation may be one of the smallest and the remotest in the world.And yet, the island of Tuvalu is nothing short of any other ‘touristy’ island in the world–be it in its natural beauty or cultural value.
However, this Polynesian atoll, only two hours north of Fiji, has not been able to attract many tourists to its region. A recently released report by United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) declared the country to have been the least-visited destination of 2016.
According to the reports, only 2000 people visited the islets of Tuvalu in 2016, up from 1000 in 2014.
For an island, marked by deep blue waters and white sand, beautiful coral reefs and palm-topped islands, it is a little difficult to comprehend how exactly has the destination not been able to secure its due recognition among travellers. That too, at a time, when people are increasingly looking at off-beat getaways for spending their holidays.
So, if you still haven’t visited Tuvalu, here’s what you have missed out on:
1. Breath-taking landscape
The nation of Tuvalu comprises of three reef islands and six atolls. The main atoll among them is the capital of Funafuti, a narrow stretch of coral reef, adorned by the satin, blue-coloured ocean water, encircling a lagoon. Funafuti is also home to the only unfenced airport in the island, lined only with coconut palms, called the Funafuti International Airport.
2. Rich tradition and culture
It was through the Europeans, who sailed to Tuvalu around 16th century, that the island featured on the world map. Later, in the 19th century, it also became part of the British colony. However, it is the Polynesians, who are considered the original inhabitants of the destination. Interestingly, the non-commercialised environment of the island has, in turn, helped people preserve their traditions and culture to a large extent. Tourists can get a glimpse of their traditonal way of living in islands like Funafula, or immerse themselves in the rhythms of their dance and song called fatele. Their indigeneity extends up to their homes made of palm fronds, local cuisine and sports too.
Coming to artistic traditions, Tuvalu women can still be found making handicrafts out of cowrie and other shells. From their dress, to canoes and fish hooks, most of their daily-use items still bear elements of traditional design.
3. Heritage and architecture
Traditionally, people in Tuvalu used plants and trees to construct buildings. Use of concrete and nails came much later, only after the arrival of the Europeans. A lot of churches and community buildings are coated with white paint, made by burning coral with firewood. Other sites of interest include remains of a Japanese aircraft, that crashed on Funafuti, during World War II.
Coconut forms a staple in traditional Tuvalu food, apart from the variety of fish found in the oceans. Among the traditional dishes are pulaka (made of banana, breadfruit and coconut), coconut crab and pork.
Tuvalu may be deemed quite remote, but that doesn’t mean that the island is inaccessible. For, one can avail Fiji Airways or Air Pacific, that run services to the island, once and twice a week, respectively. Besides, there are quite a number of good hotels and guest houses available here. Since English is one of the official languages on the island, communication too shouldn’t be much of a problem.
The only concern, however, are the effects of climate change and the rapidly rising sea levels that pose a threat to the very existence of the island.