29 August, 2017. Tuvalu. By Julia Corderoy. THE island paradise of Tuvalu is nestled in Polynesia, north of Fiji and about halfway between Australia and Hawaii.
Well, it’s actually a chain of nine small islands — three true islands and six coral atolls — floating in the sparkling blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. It has balmy tropical temperatures, white sand, palm-tree lined beaches and the charm of vibrant Polynesian culture.
It is also the least visited country in the world. According to report by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), this little slice of heaven had the least amount of visitors on the planet in 2016.
Tuvalu welcomed just 2000 tourists in 12 months, despite all it has going for it. Its nearest neighbour Kiribati had more than double the visitors in 2016, totalling 5,000.
Tuvalu’s tourism organisation notes its “spectacular marine environment”, “magnificent lagoons” and its “distinctive Polynesian culture” with “unique social organisation, art, crafts, architecture, music, dance and legends”.
It’s baffling to think such an idyllic part of the world isn’t luring many people to its shores. So what’s going on?
Firstly, despite being close to Fiji, it is still relatively unknown. Tuvalu is one of the smallest and most remote nations in the world. It has a population of just 11,000 and the United Nations classifies it as one of the least developed countries in the world.
That being said, the Fijian domestic carrier, Air Fiji, operates flights between Suva and Tuvalu’s main island, Funafuti, twice a week — and there is choice when it comes to accommodation in Funafuti once you get there. There’s a government-owned hotel and several family-owned guesthouses and B&Bs on the country’s most populous island.
The other reason you might not have heard of Tuvalu is because it is also one of the least elevated countries. Like many island nations, it is battling the consequences of rising sea levels. Scientists have predicted that Tuvalu could be completely wiped off the map due to the effects of climate change.
All the more reason to visit sooner rather than later.