A Closer Look at Fiji and its Islands
Covering an area of 200,000sq km, Fiji's 333 islands and atolls are the epitome of a South Pacific paradise, with sunshine, palm-fringed beaches and sparkling lagoons fringed with coral reefs. The two main islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for 85% of the country’s total land area. Fiji’s bustling capital, Suva, lies on the south-east corner of Viti Levu. Widely regarded as the regional capital of the South Pacific, Suva is a city of contrasts where colonial architecture blends with modern skyscrapers and traditional marketplaces. Most visitors arrive in Fiji via the international airport at Nadi on the western coast of Viti Levu and head to one of the country’s resort destinations.
Coral reefs fringing the islands offer superb snorkelling and diving with a myriad of tropical fish. Visitors to the larger islands can experience inland Fiji with its rivers and rainforests, waterfalls and wildlife. The Fijian people are particularly friendly and welcoming with a natural warmth and a great love of singing. Visitors are greeted and farewelled with song, and the lingering melodies are an integral part of Fiji’s magic. So too are traditional customs such as the kava ceremony, a meke (song and dance), firewalking and a lovo feast, where food is cooked in an underground oven.
Pronounced "Nandi", this is the location of Fiji’s international airport and the gateway to Fiji, with shopping, restaurants, nightlife, sightseeing tours and inter-island cruises.
Fiji's upmarket resort island is only a 10-minute drive from Nadi International Airport. The marina is also a watery gateway to cruising Fiji's islands and atolls.
Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands
Just a short distance from Nadi are the Mamanuca (pronounced "Mah-mah-noo-tha") Islands and to the north of them, the Yasawa Islands. Island resorts offer numerous watersports and boating opportunities.
The area from Lautoka to Ba on the north-western coast of Viti Levu is Fiji’s Sunshine Coast. This is Fiji’s sugar belt and a prime beef area. It is also known for gold from Vatukola and plantations of Caribbean pine trees.
Fiji’s capital - a vibrant, multi-cultural city offering a wide selection of restaurants, nightlife, shopping and markets.
A purpose-built visitor destination on the southern coast of Viti Levu, at the eastern end of the Coral Coast and 50km west of Suva, with an 18-hole championship golf course, luxury villas and an inland waterway.
The Coral Coast extends for about 80km on the sheltered southern side of Viti Levu, about halfway between Nadi and Suva. This is a popular tourism destination with fabulous beaches, including some good surf beaches, as well as cultural and historic attractions.
Vanua Levu and Taveuni
The two main islands in the northern group hide some of the best dive spots in the world. Taveuni is spectacularly scenic with lush flora and numerous waterfalls. Eco adventures can be enjoyed on these islands.
This is the fourth largest island in Fiji, located south of Suva and surrounded by the world-famous Astrolabe Reef. The reef is a prime dive site with drop-offs, underwater caves and walls and a rich array of coral and marine life. Resorts here specialise in scuba diving.
Diving and Snorkelling
Fiji’s islands have some spectacular dive sites. The Northern Islands and Kadavu in the south are particularly well known for their superb underwater landscapes and numerous species of tropical fish. The Bequa Lagoon is another world-renowned dive area, and there is wall diving on the Coral Coast of Viti Levu.
With 333 islands, Fiji is fabulous for cruising. Discover deserted beaches and tiny atolls, visit traditional villages or sumptuous resorts. Take a day cruise or head out for several days and nights.
With large inland areas, tropical rainforests, rivers, waterfalls and variety of flora and fauna, Fiji can offer a range of eco tours which are a complete contrast to the coastal attractions. Overnight treks are a great way to explore Fiji’s highland areas. If you are passionate about getting the most out of travel and minimising your environmental impact, please read our article on a greener getaway in Fiji.
Fiji’s superb surfing is one of the country’s best kept secrets. Surf spots include Tavarua Island, Coral Coast and Beqa Island. Boards and accessories can be hired at surf shops in Fiji.
The first settlers arrived in Fiji about 3500 years ago. In 1643 the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman brought the first Europeans to the islands and was followed more than a century later by Captain James Cook in 1774. Captain William Bligh sailed through the area in 1789 after the mutiny on the Bounty. Christianity was brought to the islands by missionaries in the mid 1800s. Fiji came under British rule in 1874 and it was at that time that the Indian labourers were brought to the islands to work on the sugar plantations. Independence was granted in 1970 and in 1987 Fiji declared itself a republic.
Fiji is a multi-cultural society but the two main groups are the native Fijians and Indians. Village life is central to Fijian culture and certain rules of etiquette must be observed when visiting a village. A gift of yaqona, also known as kava, is normally presented to the head of a village. Modest dress is required – it is a good idea to carry a wraparound sulu (also known as a sarong, lavalava or pareu) to cover up brief clothing. Hats should not be worn in a village as this is an insult to the chief – it is also insulting to touch someone’s head. And shoes must not be worn in people’s houses.
Fijian, Indian, Chinese and continental food are all part of Fijian cuisine, reflecting the many ethnic groups represented in Fiji. Seafood is a main part of the Fijian diet, often cooked in lolo (coconut milk). Island nights at many of the hotels and resorts feature food traditionally cooked in an earth oven (lovo) and served buffet style accompanied by traditional entertainment. Island nights also include a kava (yaqona) drinking ceremony and a meke (song and dance).
English is the official language, although Fijian and Hindustani are also widely used. Visitors rapidly become familiar with the word ‘Bula’, Fiji’s traditional greeting.
Fiji has a wide range of shopping opportunities from duty-free to colourful local markets and roadside stalls. A piece of tapa cloth may make a light and affordable momento of your stay in Fiji, and make sure you check out the other arts and crafts of the islands. The large stores have fixed prices but bargaining is still accepted in some places.
Fiji’s place as a top holiday destination is not just due to its friendly culture or stunning scenery, but may have something to do with the climate. Temperatures sit between 22 to 31 degrees year-round; visit during the cooler months (April to October) and a gentle tropical breeze and perfect water temperatures will ensure your visit is relaxing. The wet season of November through to March can bring heavy rain. Tropical cyclones can occur around this time, so ensure you stay informed about local weather patterns.
Sport and Recreation
Sport and recreation for most visitors to Fiji is centred around the water – at the beach, in the lagoon or the resort pool. Swimming, snorkelling, diving, sailing, game fishing, windsurfing, kayaking, parasailing, waterskiing and surfing are among the many watersports available. On land, activities include horse riding, trekking, golf, bowling, volleyball and tennis. The Fijian people enjoy their sport – they play rugby, touch rugby, soccer, cricket, tennis, squash, badminton, hockey, netball and basketball.
Visitor Information: www.bulafiji.com