Fiji ... a brief introduction
Fiji is an independent tropical island nation north of New Zealand and east of Australia. It currently has a population of around 850,000, a slight majority of which are Fijians of predominantly Melanesian extraction. A strong Polynesian influence has given the Fijians spectacular physiques and they are a much bigger people than their cousins elsewhere. A Fijian rugby player in full flight is awesome to behold. Fiji was first inhabited at around 1500 BC but there is some doubt as to whether the current Fijians were these "Lapita" people or whether they replaced them.
The biggest minority grouping in Fiji are Fijians of Indian extraction, many of whose illiterate ancestors signed contracts they may not have understood before coming to Fiji to work in the cane fields. Substantial communities of Chinese, Tuvalans, Rotumans (also part of Fiji), other Pacific islanders, European Fijians and expatriate workers make for an interesting mix.
Independent from Britain since 1970, Fiji was a parliamentary democracy. There was a hiatus in 1987 when military coups led by Sitiveni Rabuka overthrew the democratically elected government and introduced a racist constitution. Commonwealth reaction was swift and Fiji was summarily excluded from the British Commonwealth. Amazingly Sitiveni Rabuka, by then Prime Minister, recognized the injustices he had inflicted and paved the way for a new non-racist constitution which was duly passed and once again Fiji was admitted to the Commonwealth.
The latest coup on May 19, 2000, carried out by George Speight and other equally mis-guided individuals has set Fiji back ten years. Although Speight and many of his supporters were arrested, tried and jailed he has achieved many of his aims. The President was forced to step down, the Government removed from office and the 1997 Constitution revoked. Subsequently elections were held and a new Government elected. Indigenous rights were never really threatened by the Chaudhry Government. So, if you want to go and visit this amazing country ... feel free. Fijians are still the same lovable people and will welcome you with enthusiasm.
Fiji is a continental island which rests on its own plate. The oldest rocks in Fiji have been dated to 40,000,000 years. The group is made up of some 300 islands scattered over 1.3 million square kilometers of the South Pacific. The high islands are mostly made of basalt and sedimentary rock, the smaller atolls of reef formed limestone. There are some minerals present and currently there are two gold mines in operation. Copper mines have been mooted at various times but currently none are working.
Fiji is entirely tropical so the temperatures are relatively uniform with mean average temperatures ranging from 23 degrees C in July to 27 degrees C in January. Humidity ranges from 75% during winter to 88% in summer. During winter (May-October) the southeast trade winds usually blow making the climate very pleasant. During the cyclone season (November to April) the trade winds often fail and it gets hot and sultry. During El Niño years the trades may fail altogether bringing widespread drought. Every year Fiji gets several tropical cyclones but fortunately most do little damage.
The Fiji economy is built around sugar cane, forestry, gold mining, fisheries and tourism. There is some industry, most notably a thriving shipbuilding industry. Future plans include a considerable expansion of the tourism industry. Fijians are naturals at this as they are extremely hospitable people.
Fiji has an efficient telecommunications system including e-mail. You can even use the computers at the "Republic of Cappuccino" in Suva to send messages to loved ones elsewhere.
Fiji has an education system that includes a teacher's college and a medical school. It also hosts the main campus of the University of the South Pacific. Primary school teaching is in Fijian but switches to English for secondary school. Most Fijians are literate and a vast majority speak good English.
Flora and fauna
The interested reader is referred to the various books listed under Fiji. The most comprehensive book is Fiji's Natural Heritage (second edition) by Paddy Ryan. Dick Watling's bird books and his Mai Veikau provide additional useful information. Fiji's biotic relationships are mainly with Southeast Asia but there are some species from South America. There is substantial endemism.
Perhaps the most unusual large animal in Fiji is the Fijian iguana which is distantly related to iguanas of central America but there many other unusual creatures and plants. One of the plants, Degeneria vitiensis is in one of the oldest Angiosperm families known and is in effect a "living fossil".
Fiji has accommodation to suit all budgets from ultra-luxurious to down and dirty back packer's accommodation. Click here to read about some of our favorite places.
Planning a visit
If you are planning a visit to Fiji then you need look no further than Rob Kay's Fiji web site. Author of the original Lonely Planet guide to Fiji, Rob knows what he is talking about. The Fiji Visitor's Bureau gives excellent advice and information about Fiji and will be happy to field any queries you may have.
Kat and I are both scuba divers so that is high on our list of things to do. Click here to go directly to our favorite dive sites..
Other out door activities include river rafting, kayaking, hot air ballooning, jet boat riding, hiking, horse back riding, snorkeling, caving, sightseeing, helicopter rides, sailing etc.
How to get there
Both Air New Zealand and Air Pacific, Fiji's national airline, offer flights from Los Angeles. Air New Zealand code shares with United while Air Pacific code shares with Qantas and American Airlines.
Power supply is 240 volts 50 cycles AC. Plugs are Australian/New Zealand style.
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Last modified on Thursday, July 10, 2003