This was the sole visit to Tuvalu and the third one to Fiji. It was an 11 hour direct flight from Los Angeles to Nadi, Fiji followed by a short 20 minute flight on smaller plane across the main island of Fiji to Suva. From there it was a 2.5 hour flight on smaller plane to Tuvalu. The return was via Suva to Nadi for a stayover before heading back home. For the first couple of days in Tuvalu, there was stormy weather due to cyclone that hit Vanuatu which is west of Tuvalu and Fiji but the latter two got the tailwind effects of it. For this reason, there are a few photos showing tree and plant debris on the beaches that had yet to be cleared.
Tuvalu is a small and poor country and can only be reached from Fiji, either by a smaller plane 2.5 hour flight two days a week or by boat once or twice a month that takes a few days. There are nine main islands with Funafuti being the main one and where the only airport is located. Travel to the other islands can only be made by boat. All the islands in Tuvalu are low lying atolls that may disappear in the future if sea levels rise as expected. The people are polynesian unlike Fijians who are melanesian.
It only gets about 1200-1500 visitors a year of which only about 300 are tourists with the rest being family visitors and workers from government and other organizations. Many of these workers are Australian where their governement and other companies do development aid projects in Tuvalu. Tuvalu is part of the British Commonwealth and uses Australian currency.
It is not developed for tourism probably due to people not wanting to invest there since the islands may disappear in the future. Another reason is that it is fairly isolated with the only access from Fiji. There is only one 16 room government run hotel along with a few guest house lodges. It is going back in time in Tuvalu. There is no hot water even at the hotel and no TV in the hotel room, only in the lobby. Credit cards are not accepted anywhere. Supplies are often limited due to sometimes unreliable cargo boats that come once or twice a month from Fiji. So it is not unusual for example to see food menus listed but only half of them are available. Chinese food is the most prevalent.
The main island is long and skinny where it is widest in the middle where the airport and most facilities are, but not more than half mile across. Away from the middle the island narrows at each end to where it is no more than 100 yards wide. The airport area is the center of activity. The airport itself is only used for a few hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays when the flight from Fiji arrives at 11 am and departs at 12 pm and this is a major event of the week. About a half hour before the plane arrives, a loud horn sounds and a fire engine goes up and down the runway to clear it. At all other times, the area including runway is open to all and is used for access, crossing the runway and for sports activities, the latter being mostly in the late afternoons and evenings. Although not observed on this trip, apparently on hot and muggy nights some locals sleep in the runway area presumably because it is the place that gets the most wind.
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Fiji could be considered the "center of the South Pacific" due to its location in relation to other island countries. The native people are melanesian but about 40% of the population is Indian who were brought in the early 1900's to work on the sugar plantations.
Stayed at the Raffles Hotel directly opposite Nadi International Airport that is located several miles north of Nadi town. Nadi itself has some hotels and also caters to backpackers and other budget accomodations. The beaches near Nadi are not good but there are plenty of other options away from Nadi.
A bus trip was made to the Coral Coast on the south coast of the main island of Vitu Levu. The journey passes through Nadi town and from there numerous sugar plantations are along the way before reaching the town of Sigatoka. From there the Coral Coast stretches some 30 miles where numerous small and large hotels are located along the beachfront.
A second trip was made to Port Denaru south of Nadi from where boat tours can be taken to various islands. The closest islands are the Mamanuca Islands some of which were visited on this trip, while the Yasawa Islands are further away. Some movies have been filmed in these islands two of which were "Castaway" on Modriki Island (Mamanuca Group) and "The Blue Lagoon" in the Yasawa Group.
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