- Location: West-central Pacific
- Capital: Funafuti
- Language(s): Tuvaluan, English
- Population: 11,046
- Total Area: 26 sq km
- Currency: Tuvaluan Dollar, Australian Dollar
- Curious Alcohol Fact: Alcohol consumption is widely discouraged especially in the public. Tourists should exercise restrain while drinking.
- Annual Average Liquor Consumption Per Capita: 2.44 liters
- Most Popular Drink(s): Coconut juice, kaleve (coconut toddy), kao
Tuvalu is a small island nation in the west-central portion of the Pacific Ocean. With Kiribati, Tuvalu formed the British Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony until they separated in 1975, and that explains why Tuvalu was once referred to as the Ellice Islands. In 1978, Tuvalu became an independent state and the capital is Funafuti, also the country’s hub for commerce. The closest island nations to Tuvalu are Fiji and Samoa (not American Samoa). Tuvalu is an archipelago made up of atolls and reef islands –all reaching a total of nine. The atolls include Funafuti (where the capital city of Funafuti is located), Nui, Nanumea, Nukufetau, Nukulaelae while the reef islands are Niutao, Nanumanga, Niulakita and Vaitupu. These islands are low-lying and are just a few meters above sea level. By virtue of its location, Tuvalu has a tropical climate with the environment hot and humid throughout the year.
Almost all Tuvaluans are Polynesians and they speak Tuvaluan (a Polynesian language that has many similar features with other languages in the region such as Samoan). Apart from Tuvaluan, English is also widely used in various parts of the country. Most Tuvaluans are into agriculture (especially subsistence farming while some others produce copra, a cash crop, for exports). More than 30% of the people live on the Funafuti Atoll where the capital city of Fongafale is located. Most Tuvaluans are Christians with many belonging to the Church of Tuvalu while the others are followers of the Baha’i faith or are simply not following any faith. Like all others in Polynesia, I found the Tuvaluans to be very hospitable and warm, and you can be sure of getting a warm welcome whenever you land on the islands.
I have often described the Pacific islands as paradise on earth, and each time I eat on any of these islands, I confirm the validity of my assumption. Tuvalu is one of such places where you can eat heavenly dishes prepared by people with legendary culinary skills. In a village on the outskirts of Funafuti, I enjoyed a dish of roasted taro called pulaka. While devouring the steaming taro, I was entertained by a group of Tuvaluans performing the fatele cultural dance. Fresh fish is consumed on a daily basis and that is surely one of the advantages of living in an island nation. One other meal that you must also try out is palusami. It is made using the following ingredients: onions, fish, banana leaves, taro leaves and coconut cream. Although I did not pay too much interest to the preparation (I was engrossed with the fatele) I focused all my attention on the plate of palusami and I concluded that if there is any delicacy in paradise, it must be palusami.
Coconut milk is present in every community, rural or urban and you will never be tired of taking this sweet and refreshing drink. If you desire something stronger, there are local brews called the kao and kaleve and are made from coconuts!
Sports in Tuvalu
When the topic is sports, you will see the Tuvaluans become excited and energized. The most popular sports in the country include football, rugby and volleyball. There is also a hugely popular local sport called kilikiti and is quite easy to learn.
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Adebayo Ahmed Adebola (Ilorin, Nigeria).
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