Funafuti is an atoll that forms the capital of the island nation of Tuvalu.

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Funafuti is an atoll that forms the capital of the island nation of Tuvalu. It has a population of 4,492 (2002 Census), making it the most populated atoll in the country. It is a narrow sweep of land between 20 and 400 metres wide, encircling a large lagoon 18 km long and 14 km wide. With a surface of 275 km², it is by far the largest lagoon in Tuvalu. The land area of the 33 islets aggregates to 2.4 km², less than one percent of the total area of the atoll. There is an airstrip, hotel (Vaiaku Langi Hotel), and administrative buildings, as well as homes, constructed both in the traditional manner, out of palm fronds, and more recently out of cement blocks. The most prominent building on Funafuti atoll is the Fetu Ao Lima Church of Tuvalu. Other sites of interest are the remains of Japanese aircraft that crashed on Funafuti during World War II, when the airstrip was used by the forces of the USA, to defend the Gilbert Islands and the Marshall Islands.

The largest island is Fongafale. The island houses four villages, including Vaiaku, seat of the Tuvalu government. There are two junior schools, Nauti Primary School and SDA Primary School and Fetuvalu High School.

The capital of Tuvalu is sometimes given as Fongafale or Vaiaku, but the entire atoll of Funafuti is officially the capital.

Tausoalima Falekaupule is the traditional meeting house on Funafuti – Tausoalima means “hand of friendship” and Falekaupule means traditional island meeting hall.

Villages on Funafuti

The individual villages of the atoll with population, according to the census of population 2002, by islet:

Central Fongafale islet

  • Fakaifou 1007
  • Senala 589
  • Alapi 1024
  • Vaiaku 516

Rest of Fongafale islet

including Tengako peninsula in the north

  • Lofeagai 399
  • Teone 540
  • Tekavatoetoe 343


  • Funafala 22


  • Amatuku 52

Funafuti Marine Conservation Area

In June 1996, the Funafuti Conservation Area was established along the western rim of the reef, encompassing six islets. It has an area of 33 km², containing 20 percent of the reef area of Funafuti. The land area of the six islets in the conservation area is 8 ha (0.08 km²). The islets in the conservation area, from north to south, with estimated area in hectares:

  • Tepuka Vilivili, 3
  • Fualopa, 2
  • Fuafatu, 0.2
  • Vasafua, 0.5
  • Fuakea, 1.5
  • Tefala, 1

Islands in Funafuti

There are at least 33 islands in the atoll. The biggest is Fongafale, followed by Funafala. At least three islands are inhabited, which are Fongafale, the main island in the east, Funafala in the south, and Amatuku in the north.

  • Amatuku
  • Avalau
  • Falaoigo
  • Fale Fatu (or Falefatu)
  • Fatato
  • Fongafale
  • Fuafatu
  • Fuagea
  • Fualefeke (or Fualifeke)
  • Fualopa
  • Funafala
  • Funamanu
  • Luamotu
  • Mateika
  • Motugie
  • Motuloa
  • Mulitefala
  • Nukusavalevale
  • Papa Elise (or Funangongo)
  • Pukasavilivili
  • Te Afuafou
  • Te Afualiku
  • Tefala
  • Telele
  • Tengako (peninsula of the island of Fongafale)
  • Tengasu
  • Tepuka
  • Tepuka Vili Vili
  • Tutanga
  • Vasafua
  • And at least 5 other islands

Passages of Funafuti Atoll

The atoll has several passages with varying degrees of navigability that lead in to the lagoon. The passes are listed clockwise, starting south of Fongafale islet. The first two clearly separate the southern part of Funafuti Atoll from the rest.

  • Te Ava Pua Pua, with a least depth of 12.7 metres, between the islets of Funamanu to the north and Fale Fatu to the south, in the southeast, separating the southern part of the atoll in the east
  • Te Ava Fuagea, also known as Ava Amelia is a deep and narrow passage on the southwestern side of the atoll, 18.3 metres deep and 160 metres wide, separating the southern part of the atoll in the west, south of passage Te Ava Papa and the still more northerly islet of Fuafatu, and north of the islet of Vasafua
  • Te Ava Papa (just north of Te Ava Fuagea)
  • Te Ava Kum Kum is in the middle of the western rim, south of Te Ava Tepuka Vili, between the islets of Tepuka Vili Vili to the north and Fualopa immediately south
  • Te Ava Tepuka Vili, a deep and narrow channel, between the islets of Tepuka to the north, and Tepuka Vili Vili to the south
  • Te Ava Tepuka and Te Avua Sari are two neighbouring passes in the northeast, between the islets of Te Afualiku to the northeast and Tepuka to the southwest
  • Te Ava i te Lape is the favoured entrance into the lagon, although it has a depth of only 5.8 metres, and a width of barely 500 metres. It is in the north, between the islets of Pava to the east and Te Afualiku to the west.


The lagoon (TeNamo in Tuvaluan) of Funafuti atoll has a north-south length of 24.5 km, and east-west 17.5 km, with an area of 275 km², making it by far the largest lagoon of Tuvalu. It is up to 52 metres deep, but has several submerged rocks and reefs that are coming as close as 6 metres to the surface. [1]


Climate data for Funafuti
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 30
Average low °C (°F) 27
Precipitation mm (inches) 389
Source: Weatherbase [1]


Woman on Funafuti, Harry Clifford Fassett (1900)

The founding ancestor of the people of Funafuti is described as being from Samoa.[2] [3]

The first European to visit Funafuti was Arent Schuyler de Peyster, of New York, captain of the armed brigantine or privateer Rebecca, sailing under British colours.[4] Arent Schuyler de Peyster passed through the southern Tuvalu waters in May 1819 sighting Funafuti, which he named Ellice's Island after an English Politician, Edward Ellice, the Member of Parliament for Coventry and the owner of the Rebecca's cargo.[5]

The United States Exploring Expedition under Charles Wilkes visited Funafuti in 1841.[6] The U.S. claimed Funafuti under the Guano Islands Act from the 19th century until a treaty of friendship was concluded in 1979, coming into effect in 1983.

In 1894, Count Rudolph Festetics de Tolna, his wife Eila (née Haggin) and her daughter Blanche Haggin visited aboard the yacht Le Tolna.[7] [8] Le Tolna spent several days at with the Count photographing men and woman on .[9]

The boreholes on Funafuti at the site now called David's Drill are the result of drilling conducted by the Royal Society of London for the purpose of investigating whether traces of shallow water organisms could be found at depth in the coral. Drilling occurred in 1896, 1897 and 1911. Professor Edgeworth David of the University of Sydney lead the expeditions in 1896 & 1897.[10] Photographers on the expeditions recorded people, communities and scenes at Funafuti.[11]

Harry Clifford Fassett, captain's clerk and photographer, recorded people, communities and scenes at Funafuti during a visit of USFC Albatross when the U.S. Fish Commission were conducting hydrographic surveys in 1900.[12]

The population of Funafuti from 1860 to 1900 is estimated to be between 280[13] and 300 people.[14]


Funafuti International Airport is located here. Flights are only available twice a week to Suva, Fiji, on Pacific Sun, the regional carrier of Air Pacific, Fiji's national airline. Pacific Sun flies 42-seat ATR 42-500 42-seat turboprops between Suva and Funafuti. The airport code for Funafuti is FUN.


Funafuti is one of the eight constituencies in Tuvalu, and elects two Members of Parliament. Following the 2010 general election, its current representatives are Kausea Natano and Kamuta Latasi. Both were successfully re-elected incumbents.

2010 election results

Funafuti constituency results[15]
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Non-partisan Kausea Natano 436 42%
Non-partisan Kamuta Latasi 302 29%
Non-partisan Samuelu Teo 289 28%