Atolls of Tuvalu – PacSim – review (4*)

Atolls of Tuvalu is an amusing scenery. Apart from Funafuti it is loosely based on the real world putting fun in front of realism. Surprisingly – it works!

Approaching Nui

Over Atolls of Tuvalu

Pros and cons

What I like in Atolls of Tuvalu

  • a mood of Pacific island hooping
  • developer’s creative approach
  • nicely designed villages
  • details that emphasize the aura of this place
  • performance

Cons

  • low resolution of terrain textures
  • incorrectly set navaids

What can be improved

  • ships should be under way instead of static (apart from this in harbors)

Note on a review

This is the first review I published on my Polish blog – CalypteAviation.com. It was published in 2012 and I find it surprisingly current. I bring it to this site with only minor changes – that is why it does not follow my usual schema.

Tuvalu

Tuvalu is one of the smallest countries in the world. It’s population is 12 thousand people who live on 26 square kilometers of islands and atolls spread over 250 miles of of Pacific Ocean.

The real world Tuvalu has a single airport – Funafuti International (NGFU). Air Pacific ATRs fly a scheduled route from Fiji. Irregular connections are served by smaller planes and flying boats. Inter-island transportation is carried by small vessels, boats and a single ferry.

Pacific Islands Sim Atolls of Tuvalu

It is a creative rendition of Tuvalu. Pacific Islands Simulation created Funafuti and then followed with six additional airports and airfields located on other islands – usually in places where military airfields or landing sites were located during the second world war. There are also 7 sea plane bases (also based on a military/historic heritage). Three helipads are entirely fictional.

To add more live to this scenery – several ships and liners were added in harbors and close to islands. There is also a balloon over one of the islands.

For navigation purposes – additional airports were equipped with navaids (NDBs).

How to get here?

Coming from Australia or New Zealand you should fly route B450 (from Sydney) to Norfolk Island (NF) and then G224 to Fiji (NN) and then A578 to Funafuti. If your plane has no GPS or INS – it’s good to fly over Rotuma island on the way from Fiji to Tuvalu – this route has almost full coverage of VORs and NDBs.

Remember to circle the airport before landing – the runway is used by local population as a road..

Funafuti International

What to fly and where?

There are several good sceneries of nearby islands – Tonga, Pago Pago, Marshall Islands and Fiji. Longer flights can reach Tahiti, Australia and New Zealand.

You should definitely go for a trip around Tuvalu – all islands and atolls look nice and you will find several airfields – each one has it’s distinctive character.

For local flights I recommend a small turboprop or a small twin (remember that you are flying long distances over the ocean). The biggest planes that fit in Funafuti are 737s. For cargo flights – C-130 is perfect.

Purchase, installation, manual

I bought Atolls of Tuvalu on a sale in Simmarket. It’s standard price is 22,02 Euro (VAT EU included – it’s about 18 Euro if you live outside EU). If you live in EU – the Flight Sim Store has a better offer (30,50 AUD equals to 19 Euro at current rates – September 2015).

There is an automatic installer that asks for the product key.

Two files make the manual – a PDF with a scenery description and .doc file with a short description of each airport, navaids data and NOTAMs (notices to airman).

The scenery

Funafuti

The scenery consists of seven islands and atolls. The first thing I noticed is a precise shoreline and photoreal waterclass – that means that you can see the bottom in shallow waters and it is based on aerial or satellite imagery. Low level flights over this reefs are what I like most in Tuvalu.

Each island has custom autogen (trees and buildings) and scenery objects (more buildings, piers, jetties etc.). Several real world buildings and structures are recreated – the government building and Funafuti airport among others.

As I fly over this islands I find eastern eggs placed around the atolls. It is a campfire on a beach, small hut hidden in a jungle, kayaks, boats and many other.

Normally I like the scenery to be as realistic as possible but here the creative approach makes this scenery much more interesting. It gave me new places to fly.

Nanumea

What I do not like is the quality (the resolution) of ground textures. When compared to idyllic reefs – the ground hurts my aesthetic feelings. it is even more pronounced when seen from an aircraft parked on apron or runway – the contrast between runway resolution and terrain resolution is terrible.

Nanumea

Airports

The main airport of Tuvalu scenery is Funafuti International in the capital. The airport has a single concrete runway directly connected to aprons (there are no taxiways here). As it is located in the middle of the city and there is no fence around it – the runway is often used as a road for local traffic. Pilot should overfly the airport before landing to allow pedestrians and cars to get off the runway. As the vicinity of the airport is well documented Pacific Islands Sim team could recreate airport buildings and the government building close by (it’s construction cost was covered by Taiwan, which is a close partner of Tuvalu). Other objects in Funafuti are fictional or just inspired by the real world. For example – pier in the harbor is much larger then the real one. I do not mind – I like how they did it.

Funafuti International

When I flew around Tuvalu (clockwise) Nukufetau Atoll was the second. This large atoll has a big airfield with two runways. There is a military base on the airport bringing back the memories of a real air base in 40s. Blackhawk helicopters set a nice mood but the anchored destroyers (U.S.) and submarines (clearly Russian – perestroyka?) look strange.

Nukufetau Atoll

Nui is my next stop. It’s small airport has a medium length (2700 feet) sandy runway. There is a village nearby. I like the canoeists who are admiring dolphins swimming close to them.

Nui

Nanumanga – the first island of the archipelago. On approach to this 3500ft long sandy runway I pass over a fishing boat. The airport looks old and abandoned – hangar gives no protection against the weather.

I encountered a mesh problem while flying here – if you have mesh resolution lower then 10m (lower means the number is higher – like 19m) – then a part of this runway will be obscured by terrain. It looks strange. As always – I suggest using the highest mesh settings.

Nanumanga

Nanumea – the north-easternmost part of Tuvalu. You will find a long asphalt runway and a flock of pelicans in the bay. There is a balloon over the island (who in his right mind would fly a balloon over such a small island?!). I suggest you take a flying boat to Nanumea – there is a nice sea plane base here.

Nanumea

Niutao – another island and a sandy runway once again.

Niutao

Vaitupu. Runway is 4200ft long this time (sand-gravel).

Vaitupu Lagoon

Islands and atolls

I have no idea if the islands’ villages were recreated or invented but once again – I do not care. I like that the shape is correct and that village positions are mostly consistent with what I can see on satellite imagery.

For a small plane pilot it is nice (although unrealistic) that there are ships cruising between islands. Unfortunately – these are static ships and they do not move.

I have several sceneries of Pacific Island Sim and one think that they have in common is the plentiful use of animals. If you buy Tuvalu you will see many dolphins and birds. I like it.

Catalina over Niutao

Summary (4****)

Atolls of Tuvalu is a nice scenery for two kinds of pilots. If you like flying over-water routes in your 737 or A320 – that is a perfect place for you (I think you can even try taking 757). If you are a bush pilot, a helicopter pilot or a seaplane pilot – this is a great scenery for you and you should definitely try it.

I liked this scenery very much when I bought it several years ago (2011 or 2012) and I still find it good in 2015. The biggest downside is the resolution of ground textures.  In other fields – Pacific Islands Sim team showed good craftsmanship and created a valuable product.

I often wonder what is better – several airfields or a single that is meticulously designed in every detail. I usually prefer the single but this scenery makes me doubt myself. I think that the quality of each airport in this set is good enough and the number of airfields makes up for the lower level of detail.

Atolls of Tuvalu is for me primarily a scenery where I fly to have fun.

A note for the readers who treat “as real as it gets” motto as element of their faith – aviation in places like Tuvalu is still less formalized then in Europe or U.S. Please do not treat having fun as something contrary to being “as real…”. It may be the same thing.

Quality to price ratio – a little high

Price of 22 Euro is in my opinion a little high for a scenery that is several years old and could use a small update.

Developers website: http://islandsim.com/

Add-ons shown in this review:

Funafuti

Atolls of Tuvalu

Atolls of Tuvalu

Atolls of Tuvalu

Atolls of Tuvalu

Summary
Review Date
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Wojciech Przybylski
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