Around The World: Tuvalu

By Sherry Zhang

Remote, Tuvalu (pronounced too-vah-loo) is an island country in Oceania, comprising nine small islands. Neighboring countries of Tuvalu include the tropical Kiribati to the north and the beautiful Fiji to the south. Furthermore, Tuvalu is a member of the British Commonwealth, a political association between the United Kingdoms and former British colonies, and a member of the United Nations. Here are ten fun facts about Tuvalu!

  1. Before its freedom from the United Kingdoms in 1978, Tuvalu was a part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. Because of a referendum prior to independence, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands quickly split. The Gilbert Islands became the nation of Kiribati; the Ellice Islands, Tuvalu.  
  2. Among its nine islands, three of Tuvalu’s islands are reef islands while the other six are coral atolls, which are ring-shaped reefs or islands caused by the submersion of volcanoes. To add, atolls are usually long, narrow, and are very close to sea level. Unfortunately, because the sea level continues to rise, Tuvalu is becoming smaller and smaller. At this rate, the entire country may be covered in water in about 50 years. 
  3. The total population of Tuvalu is around 11,815 people. The majority of Tavaluans are of Polynesian (Somoan/Tongan) descent and their language, Tavaluan, is relatively similar to Samoan. Furthermore, because Tavulu was a former British colony, many Tavaluans also speak English. Thus, the official languages of Tuvalu consist of English and Tavaluan. 
  4. Tuvalu only has one airport, which is located in the capital city Funafuti. Moreover, the air traffic is irregular and planes only fly to Fiji.
  5. Tuvalu was among several Pacific islands to suffer from blackbirding, the coercing and kidnapping of people for forced labor on plantations, during the late 19th century. Thankfully, the cruel practice was banned in 1872 and led several nations to prohibit overseas-labor recruitment.
  6. Because there are no mountains in Tuvalu, there are no natural rivers or streams in the country. Thus, rainwater is collected for drinking water. 
  7. Due to its remoteness, Tuvalu has no ATMs. Credit card and debit card payments are also not accepted on the islands. Hence, visitors must either pay with Australian dollars or Tuvaluan dollars. Also, the island only has one hotel and one guest house, which includes the only restaurants on the island.
  8. Along with 31 other countries, including many Oceanian countries, Tuvalu does not have a military.
  9. Tuvalu’s economy revolves around coconuts and fish.
  10.  During World War II, Tuvalu played an enormous role in the liberation of the Pacific islands occupied by the Japanese. The United States launched many of their missions from Tuvalu. Funafuti was also bombed by a Japanese airstrike in 1943.