Coat of Arms
President Epeli Nailatikau
»English, Fijian, Fiji Hindi
»18,274 km2 (156th)
» $4.250 billion
» Per capita – $4,728
» Per capita – $4,083
»Fijian dollar (FJD)
Fiji is an island country in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,100nautical miles (2,000 km; 1,300 mi) northeast of New Zealand’s North Island. Its closest neighbours are Vanuatu to the west, New Caledonia to the southwest, New Zealand’s Kermadec Islands to the southeast, Tonga to the east, the Samoans and France’s Wallis and Futuna to the northeast, and Tuvalu to the north.
Fiji is an archipelago of more than 332 islands, of which 110 are permanently inhabited, and more than 500 islets, amounting to a total land area of about 18,300 square kilometres (7,100 sq mi). The farthest island is Onu-i-Lau. The two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for 87% of the population of almost 860,000. The capital and largest city, Suva, is on Viti Levu. About three-quarters of Fijians live on Viti Levu’s coasts, either in Suva or in smaller urban centres likeNadi (tourism) or Lautoka (sugar cane industry). Viti Levu’s interior is sparsely inhabited due to its terrain.
Fiji has one of the most developed economies in the Pacific due to an abundance of forest, mineral, and fish resources. Today, the main sources of foreign exchange are its tourist industry and sugar exports. The country’s currency is the Fijian dollar. Fiji’s local government, in the form of city and town councils, is supervised by the Ministry of Local Government and Urban Development
The majority of Fiji’s islands were formed through volcanic activity starting around 150 million years ago. Today, some geothermal activity still occurs on the islands of Vanua Levu and Taveuni. Fiji has been inhabited since the second millennium BC, and was settled first by Austronesians and later by Melanesians, with some Polynesian influences. Europeans visited Fiji from the 17th century, and, after a brief period as an independent kingdom, the British established the Colony of Fiji in 1874. Fiji was a Crown colony until 1970 when it gained independence as a Commonwealth realm. A republic was declared in 1987, following a series of coups d’état.
Endowed with forest, mineral, and fish resources, Fiji is one of the most developed of the Pacific island economies, though still with a large subsistence sector. Natural resources include timber, fish, gold, copper, offshore oil, and hydropower. Fiji experienced a period of rapid growth in the 1960s and 1970s but stagnated in the 1980s. The coup of 1987 caused further contraction.
Economic liberalisation in the years following the coup created a boom in the garment industry and a steady growth rate despite growing uncertainty regarding land tenure in the sugar industry. The expiration of leases for sugarcane farmers (along with reduced farm and factory efficiency) has led to a decline in sugar production despite subsidies for sugar provided by the EU; Fiji has been the second largest beneficiary of sugar subsidies after Mauritius.
Urbanisation and expansion in the service sector have contributed to recent GDP growth. Sugar exports and a rapidly growing tourist industry – with tourists numbering 430,800 in 2003 and increasing in the subsequent years – are the major sources of foreign exchange. Fiji is highly dependent on tourism for revenue. Sugar processing makes up one-third of industrial activity.
Fiji is surely every beach bum’s vision of nirvana. Palm-fringed beaches, fish-packed reefs and smiling locals: pack your swimsuit and sunscreen, these sunny isles are so warm they sizzle.
Fiji’s underwater scenery is spectacular and some of the finest, and most accessible dives in the Pacific can be found here. Its reputation as the ‘soft coral capital of the world’ is well justified and its countless reefs, drop-offs, walls and channels will have even experienced divers and snorkellers ‘ohhhing’ and ‘ahhing’ into their mouthpieces.
Fiji is also a great surfing destination and now that its surf breaks are open to all, the legendary waves of Cloudbreak, Swimming Pools and Frigates are free to be enjoyed by anyone experienced and brave enough to take them on.
Fiji has been in the tourism business for decades, drawing vacationers like pilgrims to a holy land with its promise of white-sand beaches, cloudless skies and the opportunity to fall into a sun-induced coma under a palm tree.
The perennial favourites are the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands, which arc north like a stingray’s tail from the body of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu. These are Fiji’s movie stars, dangled in front of the world as idyllic South Sea Edens, their reefs and cobalt-blue waters providing cinematic eye candy for films such as Tom Hanks’ Cast Away and Brooke Shields’ vehicle to stardom The Blue Lagoon. It is therefore little wonder that, despite a coup in 2006, Fiji’s beaches remain flushed with sunburnt tourists.
But the beaches – as lovely as they are – are only part of what Fiji has to offer. To get to grips with the national psyche, you have to spend some time on the mainland. Two-thirds of the population live in urban centres and it is on Viti Levu that you’ll find the country’s two cities: Suva, the capital, and Lautoka, a port town reliant on the sugar-cane farms that surround it. Suva’s nightlife and large student population give it a youthful if unexpected vibe.
- Fiji’s main attraction is its paradise-like nature, with perfect palm-lined beaches, blue waters and green inland hills. Making postcard-perfect pictures of your tropical holiday is a piece of cake when you’re at the gorgeous sandy beaches of the Mamanuca Islands.
- The same is true for the Yasawas, where you can also dive for the dark limestone Sawa-i-Lau cave. Discover the sand dunes of the Sigatoka Valley, once used as a burial ground, or head deep into Viti Levu to see Fiji’s inland wildlife at the beautiful and jungle-covered Kulu Eco Park. Join the masses at virtually any of the islands to dive under and be amazed by Fiji’sunder water beauty, or opt for a challenging hike along the ridges and through the dense rain forest of Bouma National Park, on Taveuni. Tall jungle trees, a colorful array of birds, waterfalls and volcanic peaks are just some of the
- In short, the natural treasures alone are worth the trip, but this island nation does have a number of cultural sights to offer. There’s the beautiful Garden of the Sleeping Giant on Nadi, once owned by famous actor Raymond Burr who lived here. It holds over 20 hectares full of orchids native to Fiji, many cultivated and exotic plants plus a lovely lily pond. Make a trip to one of the many villages to take part in a kava ceremony or to see one of the many other remaining cultural traditions.
- Navala village (on Viti Levu) still maintains its traditional bures, making it an excellent pick. For a deeper insight in the country’s history and culture, the Fiji Museum on Suva is an excellent addition to your trip.