FIJI consists of 18,376 square km of land and includes approximately 330 islands of which around 100 are inhabited. The largest island and population centre is Viti Levu, followed by Vanua Levu. It is located north of New Zealand and northwest of Australia. The four largest islands, Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Kadavu are surronded by coral reefs and have mountains located in the central region of each island which cover a large portion of the land mass.
Fiji has a tropical oceanic climate. The rainy season, from November to April coincides with the hot and humid months and the cooler months are from May to October. Humidity tends to be higher in the south and east and much less in the west and north. Tempertures in January in Suva can be min – max temp: 23 – 30 degrees C or 74-86 degrees F and in July: min – max temp:20-26 degrees C or 68-79 degrees F.
Fiji is perhaps the most cosmopolitan of all South Pacific nations. Its population just under 780,000 is a combination of indigenous Fijians (50%), Indians (46%), with the remainder of the population including Rotumans, Chinese, other Pacific Islanders and Europeans.
Indigenous Fijians have a culture and language that is fairly homogonous with hereditary chiefs and patrilineal descent. Indians first came to Fiji under British rule as indentured labourers over a century ago.
Fiji’s economy is based on mainly agriculture and tourism. The sugar and tourism industries provide employment to over 50% of the labour force with that figure looking to increase due to the influx of resorts and hotels being built in the West. Both sugar and tourism are based in Western Viti Levu. A variety of crops are also produced including coconut oil, cocoa, ginger and kava.
Fiji’s tourism industry has grown over the last decade to become and important source of jobs and the major source of foreign exchange since 1990, surpassing sugar as an export industry at that time. Several new hotels and resorts being built in the Nadi and Sigatoka area will have a major impact on the number and frequency of people arriving in Fiji, as well as creating a large number of jobs.
Abel Tasman is credited with the first European discovery of the Fiji Islands in 1643. Captain James Cook passed through in 1774 and Captain William Bligh of the famous Mutiny on the Bounty tale navigated trhough in 1789. Further exploration was done over the next 30 years.
The Europeans that first arrived in Fiji include shipwrecked sailors, Australian escapees, traders, planters and of course the missionaries who arrived around 1830.
Throughout this time, Fijians were involved in internal wars. The leader of one of the two powerful groups, Cakobau became a Christian in 1854 and was named Paramount Chief of Fiji. Cakobau eventually made an offer to cede Fiji to Britain and the Deed of Cession was signed at Levuka, then the capital on October 10, 1874. The first group of indentured labourers arrived from India to work on the sugar cane plantations around this time in 1879.
Fiji attained independence from Britain on October 10, 1970 with the Queen as the Head of State.