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Tuvalu - Top Tips

Super Seven


Funafuti The capital of this tiny island nation with a population of just over 6,000 is Funafuti. Due to the size, you'll only need a couple of hours to visit the main sights. There's the Government House, the Parliament of Tuvalu, the Convention Centre, and a walk through the local neighbourhoods. There's no stand out attraction in Funafuti, but it's a pleasant walk.


Airport Runway Perhaps the most iconic landmark in the country is the runway of Funafuti Airport with the aptly named code "FUN". With only 3 incoming flights a week and given the size of the country, the runway airport provides the locals with a recreation playground. You'll see volleyball nets, football goalposts, and fitness classes, which is fascinating to see on a landing site for planes. On a Sunday morning, you'll even see a small market set up. When the 3-weekly flights are incoming, there's a siren and air traffic control workers on mopeds clearing the area.


Tuvalu Philatelic Bureau Towards the southern end of the Funafuti township, you'll find the unique Tuvalu Philatelic Bureau, which is where stamp collectors from around the world gather, as stamps depicting the facets of Tuvalu are highly collectable. The background... In 1975, when Tuvalu separated from the Gilbert Islands & Ellice Islands (now Kiribati) and later became an independent constitutional monarchy, the Philatelic Bureau was created to deal with all stamp issues for the newly-created territory. A perfect place to stop off and buy a unique souvenir, which certainly beats anything from the nearby Chinese owned supermarkets.


End of Atol Walk To get a deeper look into Tuvalu everyday life, I decided to walk the atol. From the airport runway to the western end of the atol is approx 3km each way on flat terrain. You'll get a chance to see locals in their small communities and pass beautiful beaches on your way to the end of the atol. Due to the close proximity to the equator, the sun is very intense, so pack plenty of sunscreen, even for what may see like a simple short walk.


Marine Conservation One of the top highlights of my time in Tuvalu was taking a boat out to the Marine Conservation. This is a small uninhabited island across the opposite side of the atol which is a protected area. Firstly, you need to visit the government office in Funafuti and pay a small fee for a permit entry to be able to reach the island. The protected marine conservation is essentially a small sandbank with fine white sand and palm trees, surrounded by colourful coral. Bring plenty of water, food etc, as this is literally a "desert island". I hope you'll have the same experience as me where you'll feel completely isolated from the rest of the world.


Funafala Despite a population under 30, which is formed by 5 families, Funafala is referred to as the "second city" of Tuvalu. Aside from a handful of houses, there's a small school, a church, and a Taiwanese Garden. This place can easily be reached via a small detour en route back from the Marine Conservation, so could serve the purpose of a lunch stop. It's interesting speaking to the local families and hearing how happy they are here in such a peaceful laid back environment.


Snorkelling As you'd expect, Tuvalu is surrounded by crystal clear water. Although there's no scuba diving companies in the region, theres still some worthwhile snorkelling spots. The colourful coral and marine life at the protected conservation is worth checking out, although I'd recommend wearing water shoes. En route to Funafala, you'll noticed a sunken WWII vessel poking out of the ocean, which is a very simple snorkelling spot.


Accommodation Advice


With only a handful of accommodation options, you're definitely not spoilt for choice. Based on past recommendations, I chose to stay at Filamona Lodge, which was perfect for purpose. The lodge is located next to FUN airport offering basic rooms with air conditioning at $90 AUD a night. The owner of the lodge is an elderly lady called Penny, who's very welcoming and will offer to cook an evening meal for you during your stay. My favourite feature of the lodge was the hammocks on the balcony that offered a clear view of the airport runway, which was perfect to relax and watch the action. Note: There's no WiFi, but there is a sim card store within walking distance that opens sporadically.


Food Factor


If you're expecting high-end culinary dining experiences, they Tuvalu is not the country for you. Practically everything is imported and there's only a handful of restaurants, with majority of these being Chinese fast food stores. However, it's worth noting that there is a buffet dinner on offer a couple of nights a week at Esfam Hotel for a cost of $25 AUD per person. This is not a typical buffet restaurant experience, but you will be provided with a selection of freshly cooked dishes and deserts by the Esfam team. You can also purchase beer (imported, of course).


Good Guide


The small size of the country means that you don't need to hire the services of a tour guide. Renting a scooter is sufficient to cover all the main sights on offer. The only time you may require assistance is if you want to visit the protected marine reserve. Even if you're not staying at Folamona Lodge, I'd recommend popping in and speaking to Tim (The owners son), who can put you in touch with a local fisherman to take you across the atol to the reserve. Additionally, he can take you to the relevant government office to pay the $50 AUD permit fee per person.


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