On the way back from Funafala, with the sun shining in a way I had not seen before, we decided not to go back to Fongafale immediately, but to pass by Tepuka first. Doing so, we sailed north, skirting the beautiful islets on the western side of Funafuti atoll, part of the Marine Park. Some of them looked like a bunch of palm trees floating on a white line of sand; their smallness contrasted with the vast body of water of the Pacific behind it. It made them look fragile, which in fact they are: we saw one sand bank barely visible above the waterline, which was only visible because the tide was still coming in. The boatman told me that this had been a small islet, too: a hurricane had washed it away. It was not difficult to imagine that the other islets, indeed, the entire atoll, could eventually face the same fate.
We sailed past the last islet of the Marine Park, left the atoll through one of the channels of deep water, after which I realized we were now really out on the South Pacific. It was hard to believe: the water was as flat as a mirror; contrasting with the sometimes choppy waters we had encountered inside the lagoon before. The visibility of the water was incredible: I hang over the bow of the boat to stare into the changing shades of blue below me, where I saw all kinds of corals. Sometimes, the water seemed very shallow, the transparency of the waters made the coral seem closer than they probably were. The islet of Tepuka, which we had seen already since a long time from a distance, now appeared before our eyes, rising out of the fantastic colours of the quiet Pacific.
Ringed by a band of white sand, the uninhabited islet of Tepuka has palm trees sticking out of it in all directions. When we came closer, we could actually see how erosion was eating away at the island; some palm trees had been uprooted, others were already lying on the seabed. The western side of the island was particularly beautiful, with a wider stretch of sand at the end. It was easy to see how Tepuka would be the favourite get-away from the main island of Fongafale: just half an hour across the atoll, this was a small touch of paradise. It was time to finally see the coral with my own eyes: while the boatman towed our boat behind me, I just let the current push me back into the atoll, while I could now see all those shaped I had seen from above, and the plentiful of fish that darted around in them. The waters were still shallow, but there is a sharp drop-off at the edge of the channel. Hoping for sharks, who do come in with the tide, I did see a young turtle escape into the dark blue of the deep. Back on the boat, we headed back to town and were greeted by a rainbow right over the lagoon.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Tepuka islet (Tuvalu). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Tepuka islet. Read more about this site.