Tuvalu was first settled by Polynesians 3000 years ago, most likely from Tonga or Samoa. It was first sighted by the Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendaña y Neyrai in 1568 and was not revisited until the 1700s. In the mid-1800s, most of the Polynesians living in Tuvalu were kidnapped by “Blackbirders”, British or Australian recruiters looking for indentured laborers to work the sugar cane plantations in Australia and Fiji. None of them returned. Tuvalu became a part of the British protectorate in 1892 until it was granted independence in 1978.
Tuvalu’s landscape epitomizes the classic image of a stranded tropical island – vast stretches of ocean waters, crystal blue skies, white breakers along fringing reefs, and white sand and swaying palms. There are no mountains, hills, waterfalls, or river streams in Tuvalu. Many of the atoll islets are dominated by Pandanus, ferns, and palm trees of papaya, banana, coconut, and breadfruit. The native broadleaf forest and the coral beaches of the uninhabited islets are also natural habitats for nesting seabirds, green turtles, and coconut crabs. The lagoons, channels, reefs, and ocean waters around Tuvalu are home to many species of fish, algae, and corals.
The people of Tuvalu are very community and family-oriented. Recreationally, residents enjoy playing kilikiti, a game similar to cricket, and a national game called te ano. It is a peculiar game involving a heavy ball that is thrown from one side to the other. The object of the game is to hit it back with one’s hands without letting the heavy ball fall. Traditional dancing and dance music are also very popular in Tuvalu and performed only on special occasions as a form of celebration.
Most of the population of Tuvalu lives in the capital, Funafuti, which is a great place for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. The second most populated island is Funafala, which has no shops. So, if you plan on visiting this island and staying overnight, be prepared to bring your own food and water. The other islands on Tuvalu are Niulakita, Nanumanga, Niutao, and the other atolls are Nukulaelae, Nui, Nanumea, Vaitupu, and Nukufetau.