When the whole country is one big beach

When the whole country is one big beach

In the photo above, you see not just another uninhabited island or coral reef in the ocean. In this photo, completely fit the whole country!

This is Tuvalu. It is the narrowest country in the world, which looks like one big beach. It’s also one of the smallest countries in the world (4th place from the end) and the most sparsely populated (only 11 thousand people live there).

But the best part: Tuvalu has an airport! Yes, the locals sacrificed an already tiny area to accommodate an airstrip. Why? Because tourism is the one of main sources of income of this state.

When the whole country is one big beach

The entire state is located on nine islands: the verne, three small islands and six atolls. So it is no exaggeration to say that the whole country is one big beach.

Atolls are ring-shaped formations that are also called islands, but “technically” they are more like coral reefs, the base of which are uplands on the ocean floor. The total land area in this country is only 26 square kilometers!

When the whole country is one big beach

The photo shows one of the narrowest areas of Tuvalu Atoll. A very tiny piece of land. And a vast ocean on the left and a vast ocean on the right.

This is despite the fact that the lagoons (that is, what is inside the atolls) here are simply huge by local standards (there are reservoirs of 500 square kilometers). This contrast in size is truly unique – the atolls of Tuvalu look like huge lakes surrounded by narrow strips of land.

When the whole country is one big beach

Land in Tuvalu is literally “worth its weight in gold”. The largest island is Vaitupu (its total area is just over 5 square kilometers). And the smallest island, Niulakita, is only 0.4 square kilometers (400,000 square meters).

Most of the inhabitants move around the islands by boat or on foot. The streets of Tuvalu’s capital city were asphalted only in 2002, and the total length of asphalt roads in the country is no more than 8 kilometers.

When the whole country is one big beach

This is what some of the residential areas of Tuvalu look like (if they can be named same). The houses of the locals are mostly small and built close to each other.

And, frankly, it is difficult to illustrate the story of Tuvalu with a single picture, because from the sky the whole country looks like scattered little dots on the surface of the water. Because the islands are also far away from each other. Between the closest of them – 67 kilometers (from Vaitupu to Nukufetau), and the most distant – 172 km (again, from Vaitupu to Nui).

When the whole country is one big beach

Tuvalu on the world map.

Tuvalu are islands with gorgeous beaches with fine sand and beautiful water color. Given the small width of most of the islands, about this place we can say with certainty: “the ocean here is really within walking distance”.

What is noteworthy here is that the sea water is not just close in terms of distance, but also in terms of height. That is, the islands are practically at sea level. The highest point above sea level here is only 5 meters!

When the whole country is one big beach

If the whole area is so low, it is logical to think how these islands were not washed away. In fact, it has happened before. In 1972, the islands of Tuvalu washed away almost all the trees and dwellings.

As a result, there are no authentic buildings here now, you won’t find a historical center or any ancient landmarks. People in Tuvalu today live in ordinary European-type houses. There are no large settlements here either, and half of the inhabitants (over 5,000 people) live in one place: the capital, Funafuti.

Interesting fact: Funafuti is not one settlement, but three. It is just that all of them are built on the same atoll.

When the whole country is one big beach

One of the villages of Tuvalu. Notice how close the houses are built to the water: they are literally just a few meters away!

Tuvalu has a tropical climate. There are two distinct seasons: rainy and dry. The wet season lasts from November to April and the dry season from May to October. The average air temperature does not change throughout the year and remains high, ranging from 26 to 32 °C.

The soils are considered infertile, so they are practically unsuitable for farming. In addition, there are no wild animals here, so the source of meat is pigs raised by locals or seabirds. Instead of the usual milk here are satisfied with coconut milk. And of course, the Tuvalians’ diet includes plenty of seafood, from crabs to flying fish.

When the whole country is one big beach

The name Tuvalu itself translates from the local language as “eight standing together”. At first it was exactly eight inhabited islands, the ninth “joined” to the state relatively recently. This was not a political act – Niulakita Island (already mentioned above) was just simply finally settled.

Tuvalu’s population is quite homogeneous: more than 90% of the inhabitants are native Tuvalu Polynesians, with some people from Micronesia. The official languages are Tuvalu and English. The main religion on the islands is Christianity, but in general the state guarantees freedom of religion.

Education in the country is free and compulsory for children from 6 to 15 years old. Each island has its own elementary school, but there is only one secondary school left today. After graduation, if you wish, you can enter either the Tuvalu Maritime School or the University of the South Pacific, which is located in Funafuti.

Despite remoteness of islands from civilization, the overall literacy rate here is very high, at 99%.

When the whole country is one big beach

National Bank and Government of Tuvalu Building.

Another interesting fact: In 2019, the local government rejected a proposal to build artificial islands for the people of Tuvalu to help cope with rising sea levels.

Why? Yes, because Tuvalu, as a tiny country, is very supportive of other small countries. Because the proposal came from China, it was perceived as an attempt to reduce the influence of Taiwan. So the locals decided to support Taiwan rather than China.

Of course, given how little space there is for building and living, locals try to make the most of every meter of land. Sometimes this land is created artificially, as in the photo below.

When the whole country is one big beach

The residents “reclaimed” this plot from the ocean by arranging a small alluvion.

Despite the amazing beauty and uniqueness of these islands, there are relatively few tourists. About 2 thousand tourists per year come here. Perhaps this is due to the great remoteness of Tuvalu from the mainland, or perhaps the lack of hotels.

When the whole country is one big beach

This is probably due to the complexity of the flight. There are no direct flights to Tuvalu, only complicated routes with several connections via China, Korea, Australia, USA.

Interesting fact: Most tourists here are from Australia. But not only because this country is the closest. Australians are more accustomed to the climate here, and 1 dollar Tuvalu is equal to 1 Australian dollar, which is convenient for calculations.

When the whole country is one big beach

The airport in Funafuti is the only one in the whole country.

In addition to tourism, the Tuvalu government tries to actively promote their country in many different ways. The small state is a member of the UN, its representatives participated in the Summer Olympics, also participated in meetings on climate change and many others.

When the whole country is one big beach

Every plane arrival on the island is an event. Many locals have an income just from serving tourists.

Climate and natural changes are a “sore spot” for Tuvalu. Many people believe that all atolls and islands may simply disappear under water in a few decades. So the rejection of the Chinese proposal, mentioned above, can be assessed as a kind of “heroism”.

Several scientists predict that in 50 to 100 years, the islands of Tuvalu could be uninhabited or completely submerged if ocean levels continue to rise. Then local residents will be forced to evacuate to neighboring countries. For example, plans are being considered to evacuate to New Zealand, Fiji, and Australia.

This country is not able to solve this problem on its own. Tuvalu is not a rich country. This country needs money to somehow fight against nature, strengthening those areas of land that have become inhabited. But there is no money, and the country is considered one of the poorest in the world.

When the whole country is one big beach

Most buildings are made of wood, electricity and communications are not available everywhere, and roads in the cities are narrow and often washed out.

There are other domestic problems as well. In the early 2010s, groundwater on the islands of Tuvalu became unsuitable for drinking and residents were forbidden to take water from wells. The main source of fresh water is now rainwater harvesting, and in crisis situations water is delivered by planes, for example from New Zealand.

In 2016, the World Tourism Organization recognized Tuvalu as the world’s seldom visited country.

Of course, the question immediately arises: why is Tuvalu not making money from tourists? In fact, the state earns money from tourism, but because of the lack of hotels, small airport and inadequate infrastructure, not many of them come here. Although the beaches here are undoubtedly excellent.

When the whole country is one big beach

Of course, the government is making efforts to make travel to Tuvalu more popular. Tuvalu has its own website, its own blog on YouTube, and special agreements with travel agencies.

This has borne some fruit: the flow of tourists has increased slightly. Also the fact that Prince William and Kate Middleton visited the islands in 2012 as part of the royal tour of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, contributed to the growth in popularity of Tuvalu.

When the whole country is one big beach

The media then circulated videos and photos of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge literally carried in their arms, where they danced with the natives and tasted the local delicacies. By the way, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband also came to see the property – in 1982.

When the whole country is one big beach

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were greeted in Tuvalu with maximum honors.

Nevertheless, even such a small flow, even a couple of thousand tourists who get here during the year, provide more than 10 percent of the country’s GDP. Obviously, an increase in the flow of tourists could noticeably improve the economic situation, but so far, all the wishes of the authorities are stymied by the above-mentioned problems.

Interesting fact: One of Tuvalu’s major national holidays is the opening of their national bank’s correspondent account with Bank of America. From that moment on, they began to receive compensation from Japan for the occupation directly, not through the U.S. Now this money is the main source of income for their budget.

Another lucrative business for Tuvalu is the leasing of the national domain: “.tv”. It is understandable the interest and demand for this domain on the Internet. Almost all TV channels in the world want to register it. Another important item of the country’s budget revenue is the issue of postage stamps. They are said to be much appreciated by philatelists.

When the whole country is one big beach

Postage stamps of Tuvalu.

At the end of our review, we note another interesting feature related to the history of the state of Tuvalu. The formal head of Tuvalu is the British queen, although the country gained independence in 1978, before that it was part of a British colony and not even a separate country until 1974.

However, in 2008, the citizens of Tuvalu held a referendum and democratically, that is, by a majority vote (out of a couple of thousand voters), decided to keep the monarchy in the country. Tuvalu’s flag still includes the flag of Great Britain.

When the whole country is one big beach

The unique rectangular atoll in Tuvalu – Motulalo, and Tuvalu’s flag.

Today these islands are an independent state, although of course the influence of Great Britain is still very great. Tuvalu has diplomatic relations with only 30 countries. The only country that has its own embassy in Funafuti is Taiwan.

What can we add here? Well, economics and politics are clearly not Tuvalu’s strong suit. But they have a lot of beautiful nature, sandy shores and fish.

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