Funafuti Commonwealth Walkway

Tuvalu / The Pacific

TUVALU Tuvalu is an island country in the west-central Pacific Ocean, never more than 600 metres wide.  It sits about halfway between Australia and Hawaii.  It is made up of a chain of nine small coral islands – three reef islands and six atolls (sand and coral), covering about 10 square miles.  Five of the islands are coral atolls, the other four consist of land rising from the sea bed.  There are strong ocean waves on one side, and a peaceful lagoon on the other.   The indigenous people of the archipelago were Polynesians and recent evidence suggests that the island may have been settled as long as 8,000 years ago.  Alvaro de Mendana de Neira was the fits visit to sight it in 1568.  European settlers arrived in the 1800s.  Tuvalu used to be known as the Ellice Islands and in 1892 they were joined by another neighbouring island to form the Gilbert and Ellice Islands – first as a protectorate, and later as a British colony.   They separated and on 1 January 1975, the Ellice Islands became Tuvalu and the Gilbert Islands became Kiribati.  Independence was granted on 1 October 1978 with Princess Margaret representing the Queen, though she fell ill and had to cut her visit short.   In 1982 the Queen and Prince Philip visited Tuvalu, being carried onto the island in canoes held high by the local people.  The Queen laid the foundation for the new parliament building.  The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited in 2012. Tuvalu’s 12,000 or so inhabitants are Polynesian and their language is Tuvaluan, which is closely related to Samoan.  That being said, English is taught in schools and widely used.  Furthermore, the vast majority of the population belongs to the Church of Tuvalu (the former Ellice Islands Protestant Church).  Life on the islands is simple and often harsh. There are no streams or rivers, so the collection of rain is essential.  No vegetables can be grown here, there are no sheep or cows, but there are many pigs.  Recently the island has profited from investment by the World Bank, Australian Aid, the Government of New Zealand and the Chinese Government, so many roads are now tarmacked.   There is a distinct danger that Tuvalu might disappear soon. The highest point in the entire country is only 4.6 meters (15 feet) above sea level. As sea levels rise, the disappearance of Tuvalu becomes more of a pressing concern.   Capital Tuvalu’s capital is Funafuti, one of the small atolls.  Funafuti is a tiny and laid back capital, dotted with traditional thatched roof buildings alongside the occasional concrete structure.  It has a population of 6,320 people, making it the country’s most populated atoll, with 60 per cent of Tuvalu's population.  Funafuti is often described as looking like a human head when viewed from space, with most of the land area appearing at the back of the head, or the eastern side of the lagoon.  The lagoon at the narrow neck area is very shallow, and the surrounding islets are known for their unspoiled beauty and sandy beaches. Fun facts 
  • Tuvalu is one of the smallest countries in the world.
  • The country does not take credit cards. The entire country operates on a cash basis.
  • Only about 500/600 tourists visit each year.
  • There are only two flights a week – from Fiji.

2.6 miles / 4.2 kilometres

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