Fiji is a Pacific island nation about 2000km north of New Zealand. It comprises two main islands, Vitu Levu and Vanua Levu, plus hundreds of smaller islands. The population is about 830,000, with some 70% living on Vitu Levu. Most of the main towns are around the coast of Vitu Levu, including Suva, the capital city, on the east coast and Nadi, with the international airport, on the west coast.
History & Culture
Lapita and Melanesian sea farers first settled the Fiji islands as long as 5000 years ago. Archaeologists have found Fijian pots and canoes from Fiji on pacific islands as far away as the Marquesas Islands, showing the extent of sea travel and trading by traditional Pacific cultures.
Abel Tasman landed in Fiji in 1643, but it was nearly 200 years before the first Europeans settled there, initially stranded sailors, then whalers, traders, missionaries and planters. Rivalry and occasional conflict between Fijian peoples and with European settlers ultimately led to Britain annexing the islands as a colony in 1874. Then an epidemic of measles in 1875-6 killed nearly a third of the Fijian population.
Initially, the British policy was not to interfere with traditional Fijian life, so indentured labourers from India were brought in to work on sugar plantations. By the end of WWII, nearly half the population were ethnic Indians, and the division between Indo-Fijian and ethnic Fijian interests became a problem, especially after the country achieved independent status in 1970.
Since then there have been several coups, a 1990 constitution that guaranteed ethnic Fijian political dominance, and a 1997 constitution that restored some rights to Indo-Fijians. Fiji abrogated its constitution in April 2009 and has since been ruled by decree. There are international pressures to restore constitutional rule, and ongoing tensions at a political level in Fiji, but day-to-day life in most islands and rural areas is unaffected, and tourist resorts are operating as normal.
Most visitors get a free, four month visa on arrival so long as they have an onward or return ticket and a passport valid for at least six months after the date of arrival.
Dress & Etiquette:
Outside resorts, Fijian society is quite conservative, and visitors should dress modestly.
Fiji is generally a healthy destination, though it is wise to take precautions against mosquitos and other insect bites. Tourist resorts have clean water and good food hygiene standards and are generally free of health risks. Resort guests can usually access quality health and emergency services if required, but travel insurance, including cover for evacuation, is highly recommended.