Capital | Funafuti
Population | 10,544 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 26 SQ KM
Official Language | Tuvaluan
Holidays | Independence Day, 1 October (1978)
Currency | Dollar (AUD)
Time Zone | UTC +12
Best Time to Visit | May to September, when the easterly trade winds spring up
Connecting with the Culture | Joining in a game of soccer on Funafuti’s pitch, which doubles as the airport landing strip. Snorkeling in Funafuti Marine Conservation Area to gawp at tropical fish and cavorting turtles. Wreck-spotting on Nanumea Atoll for remains of several US landing craft and a B-24 bomber. Worshipping at the only remaining pre-Christian altar buried in the bush of Nukulaelae Atoll. Training in the Tuvaluan martial art of wielding the katipopuki (hardwood spear) on the island of Niutao.
Read | The People’s Lawyer by Philip Ells- an amusing and insightful account of a young Voluntary Service Ocerseas lawyer’s spell in Tavalu, or The Happy Isles of Oceania- Paddling the Pacific, by the notorious Paul Theroux.
Listen | to Tuvalu: A Polynesian Atoll Society- a good sampler with chants from several different islands.
Watch | Pacific Women in Transition, featuring a Tuvaluan woman adapting to the changes of modern life on the island.
Eat | your fill of seafood at a fatele, the mega-feast that always involves dancing.
Drink | toddy, the fermented coconut sap that delivers an alcoholic kick.
In a Word | Se fakamasakoga fua o fai se fatele (any excuse for a fatele)
Characteristics | Fine-sand beaches on clear seas; indigenous dot.tv millionaires; first-rate snorkeling around atolls; isolation; rising sea levels.
Surprises | Although Tuvalu literally means ‘cluster of eight’, there are nine islands in the nation; the highest point on Tuvalu is just 4.6m (15ft) above sea level.