At only 10 square miles, this is the third smallest country on Earth, and with a population of just 11,323, it is the third least populated country on Earth. It is impossible to fathom how unbelievably small this place is, your mind cannot comprehend just how little there actually is. They have very few lampposts. No cash machines and they don’t accept credit or debit cards (but they love a cheque). They have no railways. Only one hospital, on the main atoll and capital, Funafuti. They have only one hotel. They have only four taxis but do offer motorbikes for hire. There are some private bus services, but those buses have certainly seen better days. And they have only one airport, whose code is FUN. I’m sure it is. 10% of the countries revenue is generated from its internet domain name, .tv, earning the country a cool $2.2 million a year, a lot for such a small place. They have only five miles of roads. Crime hardly exists. Since independence in 1978, there have only been two murders. And they have no private lawyers. They have a ‘people’s lawyer’, paid for by the government, whose services are free for the arrested persons. His office? A tiny dilapidated wooden shack in the middle of a tropical paradise. This country is awesome. One of the all time greats. It is so incredibly beautiful, and it’s about time the world knew of it. We’re in Tuvalu.
Tuvalu is a Polynesian country located in the Pacific Ocean, about halfway between Hawaii and Australia. It is made up of three reef islands and six true atolls. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. And it’s better than all of them. At its highest point, it’s only four yards above the ocean. Because of the rising sea levels, it’s highly likely the country will be uninhabitable by the end of the century, and may have even disappeared completely below the waves. When the island was first settled on, eight of the nine islands were inhabited. In the native language, ‘Tuvalu’ means ‘eight standing together’, and now you know why. Nine stars on the flag represent each of the islands, each star geographically correct. The motto is, ‘Tuvalu mo te Atua’ or ‘Tuvalu for the Almighty’.
Life on Tuvalu is centred on art, music, dance, cuisine and community, all prominent and a specialty of the islanders. Each of the nine islands has a community meeting hall, where the locals gather regularly to discuss issues, to dance, to engage, to celebrate life and all that is good. Everybody knows everybody. Of course they do, it’s tiny. Each island has its own high-chief, sub-chief, community council and village president, who work with the police to keep that crime rate so low. They use a traditional community system, each family in every village has a ‘task’ to perform for the community. Fishing, house building, defence, etcetera. Skills passed down to new generations. It may sound old-fashioned to many, but it’s brilliant. It’s a way of life that has worked for generations and will do until, sadly, the sea consumes the land. The people are wonderful. Incredibly friendly and lovely indeed.
The main atoll is considered the capital. It is the largest of the islands and almost all of it is pictured second right. That’s the biggest island. That’s how small what we’re dealing with here, is. Yet tourism is hardly present because of its remoteness. In 2010, only 337 tourists visited. The whole place is one of the greatest wonders on the planet, and it won’t be here forever. For such a rich culture of marvellous heritage, great people and stunning beauty, I think that figure is a travesty. It is one big wonder in itself. It’s utterly fantastic.
Tuvalu is simply awesome. And more people should know that.
Images: 1) The flag of Tuvalu, 2) An aerial shot of most of the main island and capital of Tuvalu, Funafuti (credit: mkalty.org), and 3) Tuvalu Road, the longest road in Tuvalu (credit: Brian Cannon)
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