Rugby is one of many activities on the airstrip
When flying into Tuvalu, there is no other way out than flying back to where you came from. Fiji Airways is the only airline that flies to and from the country, which is only done twice a week. The rest of the time, the airstrip is open to the public and filled with people playing sports, doing yoga or simply meeting up with their scooters. It is the center of the island, and part of the around ten kilometers of paved road (shortest in the World) that the country has.
For some of the eleven thousand inhabitants in the country, it also feels like the end of the World. Tuvalu is the lowest laying country in the World and the first one to sink (or flood, depending of how you look at it) should the ocean rise due to climate changes. I don’t know if that was the reason why some of the locals were drinking from early morning until late night- it might also have been because the Tuvaluans were celebrating their 37th year of independence from the British while we were there. The president of Kiribati was on the same plane as me and four other tourists that had shown up for the independence day celebrations. As we landed all passengers were asked to stay seated until the president had left the plane, which was fine as we then could sit comfortably in our airplane seats and watching him being welcomed in a proper Polynesian way with lay being put around his neck while half of the country were watching from the ground.
And the Tuvaluans were indeed friendly people. Not in the same way as Vanuatuans who were the ones who asked questions and wanted to get in contact, but when taking initiative to the conversation I was often offered a beer and a cigarette as an appreciation. Apparently saying no to these offers was highly offending so I ended up spending some of the days having early beers with locals, then relaxing two hours during the 4-6pm siesta and then being offered beers from some fishermen I shared room with that had come on land for a few days after almost two months of tuna fishing. But it was a way to pass time in the Worlds fourth smallest country where it felt like time stood still. I skateboarded up and down the country, tried to use my hammock as a kite for skateboarding on the airstrip and other than there was just relaxing, reading and watching the rugby World Cup on TV. The lack of things to do is probably the reason why it is also the third least visited country in the World (with less than 300 tourists a year) although I think this is a bit undeserved as it has both beautiful beaches and friendly people, which is all you need for an enjoyable and relaxing holiday in the middle of the Pacific.
The Worlds smallest duty free store
Tuvalu is made up of eight inhabited islands. About half of them living on the main one where the capital is, the rest is spread out on the others. Having already been here for four days doing almost nothing I thought it would be nice to get away for a day and when a German couple suggested going to the Tuvaluan Conservation Area I was happy to accept.
The price was 200 dollars for a boat, with a conservation area officer and another guy driving the boat. My first thoughts were that it was too expensive, but it was government run and only possible doing that way and when we managed to collect all the five tourists in the country to go plus a fisherman it was just 30 AUD per person. Normally they would also charge 50 dollars per camera brought on the tour but we were not and was therefore happy with the price.
The ride to the first island was about 45 minutes, and as we got close the waters got a turquoise color and when looking down we could see how clear it was and how healthy and alive the corals were underneath.
After spending an hour on the first island, we jumped into the boat again, drove for around twenty minutes and then we got off the boat on the second. The beaches were just as nice and the colors as well, but what made the second island a tiny bit better was that the reef that ended in a thirty meter wall drop where huge Mahi Mahi and other huge fish were swimming around. In the country which receives the third least visitors a year I was not expecting to see what I would call one of the most untouched and beautiful beaches in the World.