Tuvalu – A Polynesian Island Nation - The Traveller


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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Tuvalu – A Polynesian Island Nation

Tuvalu, was formerly known as the Ellice Island, a Polynesian island nation situated in the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Australia and Hawaii. Tuvalu comprises of nine small islands which are placed over 500,000 sq. mile of the western Pacific to the south of the equator and the islands include Niulakita, Nukulaelae, Funafuti, Nukufetau, Vaitupu, Nui, Niutao, Nanumaga and Nanumea.

Tuvalu’s EEZ – Exclusive Economic Zone comprises of an oceanic area of around 900,000 km and its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. It has a population of 10,873 making it the third least populated sovereign state in the world with the Vatican City and Nauru with few inhabitants.

It physical land size is 26 square km and is the fourth smallest country in the world though larger than Vatican City at 0.44km2Monaco at 1.98km2 and Nauru at 32km2..

 It is believed that the earlier inhabitants came from Samoa through Tokelau, while the others came from Tonga and Uvea – Wallis Island and were all Polynesians with the exception of Nui who were mostly descendants of the Micronesians from Kiribati.

Gained Independence in 1978

There are three linguistic areas in Tuvalu the first being the islands of Nanumea, Niuto and Nanumaga, the second being the island of Nui where the people speak a language that is derived from I-Kiribati and the third linguistic groups consists of the islands of Vaitupu, Nukufetau, Funafuti and Nukulaelae.

Presently, English and Tuvaluan are spoken throughout the island. Alvaro de Mendana y Neyra, was the first European explorer who sailed westward across the Pacific in 1867-8 with his ship known as the `Capitana’ and spotted the island which was Nui and named it the Isle of Jesus.

The island was then a part of the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands though ethnic difference which developed within the colony led the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands to seek separation from the Micronesian of the Gilbert Islands. And it then became the separate British colony of Tuvalu. It gained independence in the year 1978.

Contract Lease - $50 Million

Tuvalu negotiated a contract leasing its internet domain name `tv’, for $50 million in royalties in 2000, over the next dozen years. The country being placed in a remote area is not popular as a tourist site though the main island of Funafuti is the focus of travellers due to the only airport in Tuvalu being the Funafuti International Airport with the island having several hotel facilities.

The Funafuti Conservation Area on the western side of the Funafuti atoll have some of the best natural sights which comprises of 33 sq. km of ocean, gorgeous lagoon, channel, reef and six uninhabited islets while the outer atolls can be visited by passenger cargo ships namely Nivaga II and Manu Folau that provide round trip visits to the outer islands every three or four weeks.

Provision for guesthouse accommodation is also made available on several of the outer atolls. It diversity in marine life is an awesome place for scuba diving or snorkelling for those interested in it. The Tuvalu Women’s Handicraft Centre which is at the airport is an excellent place to pick some local crafts.

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