A group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand. Formerly a U.K. colony. Most of their economic activity is in sugar exports and tourism.

In Red Dwarf, where Lister wants to retire and open a restaurant.

Great place to scuba dive and snorkel. Some parts are quickly succumbing to the (american-style) tourism industry--that is, massive construction along the shore. I'd hate to see it become Hawaii. On the bright-side, ecotourism is starting to counter gross development.

Relatively nonindustrialized, english-speaking third-world country. Many villages are still without the bane of television, and others only watch Rugby on their single TV set. (Side note: since TV came to fiji, eating disorders have skyrocketed.)

country whose Democratic government faced a rebel coup in June 2000, where the Prime Minister and several other members of the government were kept hostages for over a month. The problem was solved after long talks with the rebels.

Some consider the Fiji Islands to be paradise on earth. With its palm trees and white beaches surrounded by the green-blue Pacific Ocean, Fiji now is one of the most colourful countries of the South Pacific. A history of cannibal tribes, British colonization and curious Asian immigrants has created a surprising island republic.

Geography

On the world map, the Fiji Islands can be found between Hawaii and New Zealand, close to the International Date Line. An interesting aspect: if you take a plane from Hawaii on January 1 late in the evening, you will reach Fiji on January 3 after a flight of only six or seven hours.

All but two Fiji Islands are part of Melanesia, one of the three main island regions in the Pacific (the others being Polynesia and Micronesia). The entire republic occupies nearly 1.3 million square kilometers, most of it water: only 18 thousand square kilometers taking up solid ground.

If you take every tiny piece of land into account, Fiji consists of over one thousand islands. Just over 300 could possibly be inhabited by man, of which 106 in fact are. The other 200 are either too isolated, too inaccessible or – rather ironical with so much surrounding water - just lacking fresh drinking water. A recent census produced a figure of 875,000 inhabitants.

The main island is Viti Levu (Great Fiji, sometimes called Vitu Levu), where around 70 percent of the entire population live. With its 146 by 106 kilometers Viti Levu is also the largest of all Fiji Islands. Country capital Suva is the only large city in the archipel with 175,000 citizens. The other important town on Viti Levu is Levuka, which was capital until 1882. Apart from its ‘cities’, the large island is known for its picturesque countryside villages, nice beach resorts, beautiful inlands, tropical rain forests and sugar cane fields. Tourists tend to visit Viti Levu for diving, fishing, camping, swimming, surfing and snorkelling.

Other large islands include Vanua Levu (Great Land of the People) and the volcanic Taveuni. One of the most rapidly developing islands is Kadavu, which lately aims its arrows at tourists looking for unspoiled nature and beautiful scenery.

The two islands outside the territory of Melanesia are called Rambi (Micronesia) and Rotuma (Polynesia). This geographical division is open to discussion by the way.

People

Around half of the 875,000 inhabitants have the Fijian nationality. The others are mainly Polynesian, European, or Chinese. Some 80% of the territory is owned by traditional Fijians, who live in villages, work on the land and go fishing in the ocean, just like their ancestors have done for centuries.

Not only literally Fiji is in a whole other timezone than the Western civilization. The traditional way of life means that most products are still made by hand and the proud people tend to hang on to their culture. Yet other influences slowly get a grip of the country, which we can mainly thank (or blame if you like) tourism for. Cultural expressions are very much visible in the small Fiji circle of writers, which includes the likes of Jo Nacola, Vilsoni Hereniko and Joseph Veramu, who wrote the story bundle The Black Messiah and the novel Moving Through the Streets (about young people in Suva). Traditional dance and songs also hold a strong position in society, passed on from generation to generation. Ghosts play an important part in these cultural expressions that are observable at every significant happening (birth, weddings, funerals, war, major trade matters). The best known ceremony is called Kava, a dance with a correspondingly named medicinal drink.

More than 50% of the Fijians supports the Christian belief, while almost 40% are Hindu and 8% are Muslim.

The Fijians received their name from their neighbours from Tonga, who called the islands Viti. Over the years this was evolutionised into the current appellation.

Nature and climate

The islands possess astounding reefs, lagunes and forests, lots of them unspoiled by tourism. Several woods have been ravaged since the sixties, so some areas are eroded. Lack of awareness for nature preservation has caused pollution (on land and sea) on a minor scale.

The tropical climate is stable with an average summer temperature of 25 degrees Celcius. Between November and April cyclones can occur, although the large surrounding water areas hush the raging storms for the most part. The wet season is very typical. Most islands have a wet eastside where the rain paints the land green, and a dry western half with tropical savannas. In Suva it rains a lot and many people don’t leave their house without umbrella.

The Fiji Tourist Guide: Destination Suva

The first tourists in Suva were the British navy. After they left the stations they occupied from 1942 to 1946, the real tourists started to creep in. The number of curious visitors has been incrementing ever since.

British influences are still very clear in Suva. Streets, squares and buildings carry British names and the city even has its very own little Big Ben. Housing architecture shows many colonial influences.

Suva is sometimes described as a Tropical Garden City. From nearly each spot in town you can see tropical rain forest. Being the most important city of the South Pacific, the trade centre is full of live. All that a large city should have, is readily available in Suva: shops, markets, monuments, discotheques, restaurants, cafés. The harbour is very lively and important for trade income.

The Fiji Tourist Guide: Destination Bequa

Near the south coast of Viti Levu lies Bequa, the Fire Island. Around 500m from the Coral Coast the reef provides a fantastic diving spot. Ship wrecks and underwater caves make this just about perfect for divers, but apart for some petty rafting and fishing, there's nothing else to do here. In the eight villages on Bequa the people live their uncomplicated, traditional lives.

Cyclone season is from December to April here, but luck is the all-important factor. Sight varies under water, with better chances during the 'cold' months.

The Fiji Tourist Guide: Destination Kadavu

The island of Kadavu has a varied landscape, with waterfalls, beaches and reefs. Bird life is extensive here, but tourists will rather go for the exceptional beaches and colourful reefs. Because tourism hardly can be called developed, nightlife is all but sweeping. 'Large town' Vunisea does not have restaurants, but the coffee house opens in the morning and the market provides for tea and scones.

The Great Astrobale Reef stretches for over 30 kilometres along the Kadavu coast. Colourful fish swim through the underwater grottos produced by seismic activity. Cape Washington has excellent surf waves while Mount Washington attracts some adventurous mountaineers.

The Fiji Tourist Guide: Destination Taveuni

One of the most beautiful Fiji Islands is Taveuni. The volcanic soil makes it very fertile, turning the island into one big rain forest with breathtaking waterfalls. Sixty percent of Taveuni is woods.

Most tourists head for Rainbow Reef, whose coral as you would have thought belongs to the most colourful in the Pacific. The Great White Wall is an underwater canyon with white coral. Anyone can make those postcard pictures here on the spacious beaches with their palm trees. Apart from traditional dances and the local country club in Waiyevo, the most interesting entertainment comes from the peculiar 180 Meridian Cinema:

"Where to begin? As of 2/23/02, I've really taken over the world's most remote movie theater, the 180 Meridian Cinema, village of Wairiki, island of Taveuni, republic of Fiji, South Pacific Ocean, for the purpose of showing free movies in a media-free, no-electricity environment/market...which also happens to be paradise. (…) There are only two forms of group entertainment here - church or cinema. Now we've matched the admission price. Drop in for a visit anytime. I've got a spacious, airy, solar-powered, 120-year old termite-infested, bees in the walls, geckos bug control plantation house."
from grainypictures.com

Some tourists take on the challenge of climbing to Lake Tangimauthia. To get to this crater lake at 823 metres height, you have to overcome dense forests and foot-to-knee deep mud.

Politics

The Fiji President is called Ratu Josefa Iloilovatu Uluivuda, who is assisted by Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase. The official website of the Fiji government describes the political structure of the country as follows:

The executive authority of the State is vested in the President who is the Head of State, and who also symbolises the unity of the State. As President he is also the Commander-in-Chief of the military forces.
The President is appointed by the Bose Levu Vakaturaga (The Great Council of Chiefs) after consultation by the Council with the Prime Minister. The term of office for the President is 5 years. He is eligible for re-appointment for one further term of 5 years but is not eligible for re-appointment after that.
The President is assisted by Cabinet with the Prime Minister as Head of Government. The President, in his own deliberate judgement, appoints as Prime Minister the Fijian member of the House of Representitives who appears to him best able to command majority support in the House.
Ministers other than the Prime Minister are appointed by the President, from members of Parliament, in accordance with advice of the Prime Minister.

Fiji Online

The website Hello Fiji at the internet address http://www.hellofiji.com/ is very useful and provides daily updated news and information.

Tales are the most important evidence there is of the first inhabitants of the Fiji Islands. According to Fijian legend, the great chief Lutunasobasoba led his people across the seas to the new land of Fiji. Most experts agree that people came into the Pacific from Southeast Asia by way of Indonesia. Here the Melanesians and the Polynesians merged to create a highly developed society long before the arrival of the Europeans. The original inhabitants are now called "Lapita people" after a distinctive type of fine pottery they produced.

The first European to sight the Fiji Islands was a Dutch sailor called Abel Tasman, after whom Tasmania would later be named. He noticed the Fiji island Taveuni in 1643 but did not go on shore. James Cook was the next discoverer of the Fijis in 1774 but he neither set foot on Fiji grounds.

The next to discover the islands is captain William Bligh. He was actually looking for the mutineers of the Bounty and then sighted Fiji. Bligh manoeuvred his ship inside the reef to get closer to the island. But suddenly local warriors advanced in their canoos, armed with spears. Bligh decided to flee and the ship got away as fast as possible. They were lucky to find an opening in the reef because otherwise they would have crashed onto the coral. This would certainly have meant the shipmen's end, because the Fijians were cannibals. The water where this took place is now called Bligh Water.

Bligh returned to the island in 1792 but then too he stayed on board. The explorers of the next years stayed far away from the Fiji Islands, which were now called Cannibal Isles. Apart from the stories about cannibals, adventurers were wary of the dangerous reefs.

After a shipwreck of Europeans in 1804 it became clear the Fiji Islands contained valuable wood species such as sandal. But extensive trade caused the islands to run out of wood. The first 'white people' to really mingle with the locals were runaway convicts from Australia. They received a warm welcome because of their weapons. Wood trade was revived in 1830, but sea snails were suddenly as popular in trade. Lots of traders stayed on Fiji, marrying local women and founding mixed families.

Cannibalism practised in Fiji at that time quickly disappeared as missionaries gained influence. When Ratu Seru Cakobau accepted Christianity in 1854, the rest of the country soon followed and tribal warfare came to an end. At no time before the newcomers' era was Fiji a political unity. Nevertheless, Fiji did exhibit certain traits that set it apart from its neighbours, and it was this that defined a distinctive Fijian culture. Some kind of government was introduced in 1867. But the three regional administrations experienced too many mutual conflicts for sufficient cooperation. Great Britain had refused the requested annexation of the Fijis in 1862, but at the second attempt it was acknowledged. Fiji became a British colony, on its own demand, in 1874.

Fiji was full of plantations. First especially cotton, but over the years sugar started to dominate. The plantation owners wanted to have the Fijians to work for them, but they refused. The British therefore signed workers from India, who were contracted for five of ten years and often even stayed afterwards. In total over 60,000 Indians stayed in Fiji and started a family.

The 20th century brought about important economic changes in Fiji as well as the maturation of its political system. Fiji developed a major sugar industry and established productive copra milling, tourism and secondary industries. The first Fijian elections took place in 1963. They did not vote against the British colonisers though, because they were seen as protectors rather than oppressors. After a lot of hassle it was decided Fiji needed a constitution which saw the light in 1970. Quite suddenly the independence was claimed as well, in October of the same year. It took another three years to form the first Fijian government. The Fiji Islands became the Republic of Fiji in 1987.

As part of the Gutenberg project, Blue_Bellied_Lizard published the full document A History of Fiji (1915) in several parts on E2. Go and read it if you want to know all the extensive details of Fiji history, from a coloniser's perspective.

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