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Introducing Tuvalu

In a stunning approach from the air, the islets of tiny Tuvalu appear like a mirage in the vastness of the Pacific. Barely higher than the surrounding ocean, and capped with a fringe of coconut palms, it's easy to understand why rising sea level due to global warming is a major concern here.

Time moves at its own pace on the five atolls and four islands of this sun-stunned nation. The weight of heat requires immediate retreat to the shade; it's impossible to move or even to think fast. Change down a gear, and enjoy the lack of hustle and bustle.

Formerly known as the Ellice Islands, the huge changes in Tuvalu over recent years are nowhere more evident than on Fongafale, the capital of Funafuti Atoll. Cars are overtaking bicycles and feet as the preferred form of transport, and an increasing population density and move away from subsistence traditions are bringing other challenges. Meanwhile, you can join the locals by taking a nap in the afternoon before a sunset float in the lagoon. If time is really no object, venture to the outer islands, where life is even more laid-back.