Fiji is an archipelago nation located in the South Pacific. It shares marine boundaries with Vanuatu to the west, New Caledonia (France) to the southwest, Kermadec (New Zealand) to the southeast, Tonga to the east, American Samoa, Samoa and Wallis and Futuna (France) to the northeast and Tuvalu to the north.
Fiji gained its independence in 1970 after 96 years as a British colony. The flag of Fiji consists of the British Union Jack (in its upper left), which is representative of the country’s long association with Great Britain.
Fiji is a popular tourist location, with its white sandy beaches, beautiful islands, all-year-round tropical weather and stunning coral reefs. Not only this, Fiji has a very interesting past. Here are few interesting facts about the country.
Interesting Facts about Fiji
1. Fiji is made up of approximately 330 islands but only 110 of these are inhabited. Most of the population lives on the two biggest islands Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.
2. We all know that Fiji has beautiful beaches but do you that it is also known as the “soft coral capital of the world”. It is home to over 4,000 square miles of coral reef, including the Great Astrolabe Reef. An ideal spot for snorkeling and diving, it feels like you are swimming in a rainbow. The aquatic life is in abundance with over 1000 species of fish living here.
3. Fiji is also home to about 800 species of plants which are found nowhere else in the world. The most famous of these is the tagimoucia flower which has gained a celebrity status because of its beauty and rarity. This crimson and white flower grows only on a single mountain ridge on the northern island of Taveuni.
4. There is an Indian connection here. Under British rule, Indian servants were brought to Fiji to work in the sugarcane fields and today their descendents make for 37 percent of the population. As a result Fiji is quite diverse in terms of religion. While most native Fijians are Methodist, there are also many Catholics, Hindus, and Muslims among the remaining population.
The largest Hindu temple in the entire Southern Hemisphere is the Sri Siva Subramanuya in Nadi.
5. Cannibalism is a part of the country’s history and culture. According to archaeological evidences the practice is at least 2,500 years old. The precise reason for cannibalism in Fiji is yet to be identified; however, several reasons have been suggested such as it gave someone control over their enemies. The residents of Fiji also believed that eating someone’s flesh allowed one to possess their knowledge.
Ratu Udre Udre, a Fijian war chief, was the most active cannibal in recorded history. He is reported to have eaten between 872 and 999 people during his lifetime. Who was keeping the count?
Human sacrifice was also common practice throughout Fijian history. During the construction of temples devoted to their gods, people would be sacrificed at various stages of construction and the bodies eaten by the living.
With the arrival of Christian missionaries, cannibalism began to wane. The last known victim was himself a missionary. The Reverend Thomas Baker was a Methodist missionary who visited Fiji in the 1860s. He made the mistake of accidentally touching the head of the village chief, an insult which resulted in the declaration of war. He was killed and eaten by the natives. In 2003, the Fijian descendants of the cannibals who ate Thomas Baker formally apologized to Baker’s descendants.
Do not put your travel plans to Fiji on hold. Cannibalism does not prevail in the country today. Fijians now regard those years as “na gauna ni tevoro” (the time of the devil). In fact you can buy cannibalism forks and humorous cannibal dolls in many Fijian gift shops. Well they do know how to sell it.
6. If you visit Fiji, you have to try Kava. This national drink of the country is very popular. Kava is a plant cultivated in Fiji and other Pacific Islands. The roots of the kava plant are crushed into a paste then filtered with water and drunk. The citizens of Fiji believe that the drink has numerous medicinal qualities particularly in the treatment of insomnia, headaches, and stress. In some regions, Kava is referred to as Yaqona.
Grab a glass of Kava in the evening and enjoy the beauty of sunset which will be enhanced by this magical drink, if you know what I mean 😉
7. Fijian water is famous worldwide. In fact it makes for one of the main commercial export of the country.
8. You won’t be able to wear hats or sunglasses if visiting a village in Fiji. Only village chiefs are allowed to do so.
It’s also insulting to touch another person’s head (Refer point 5 to know what happens if you do that).
9. Whale teeth are the most precious gift one can receive in Fiji. They are given as dowries for marriage or as gestures of apology.
10. Witnessing the fire walking ceremony is one of the most popular activities within Fiji. According to a legend, many centuries ago a young man from Sawau tribe was fishing for eels when he found a spirit god. The spirit god asked for his help and in return offered him a gift of controlling fire which allowed him to walk on white hot stones. Today only his descendants are able to fire-walk. People can see them perform in few resorts on the island of Beqa and Viti Levu.
11. You can time travel in Fiji. Yes “Time Travel” and no there are no machines involved. The International Date Line runs across the island of Taveuni dividing it into two parts. And even though the country observes just one time zone for the sake of logic, theoretically one side of the island exists in one day and the other side of the island exists in the next day.
12. Don’t get confused if someone raises their eyebrows while answering your questions. Many Fijians raise their eyebrows as a way of saying “yes”.
13. Fijians are crazy about Rugby. It’s a national obsession. The national rugby team performs an intense war dance known as Cibi before their matches. This dance is said to evoke the spirit of the ancestors, prepare the players mentally and give one last warning to the opposition that the team is ready for battle. It is one Goosebump worthy performance.
14. Fijians believe in family. And any typically village households contain extended families living together. The culture frowns upon elderly people living alone and uncared for.
15. The economy of Fiji mainly depends on tourism and agriculture. The agricultural industry produces sugarcane, coconuts, cassava (tapioca), rice and pineapple.
16. Veicaqemoli (kick the orange) is a game played by the village women on every New Year’s Eve. The most interesting aspect of the game is that the winning team gives gifts to the members of the losing team. Haar k jeetne wale ko kya kehte hain?
Trip leader Sakshi’s Recommendations if you are visiting Fiji:
Diving (Underwater and Sky): Jump from wherever you can. The island is famous for the corals and you should explore the marine life by deep sea diving in the blue and unspoiled oceans. Colourful corals and the underwater life will leave you speechless.
And after you are done with the waves, jump from a plane for that adrenaline rush. The views from above are stunning and worth the jump.
Visit a local village: Drop by a local Fijian village to get a glimpse of their traditional way of life. The people are very friendly and will be happy to talk to you and answer your questions. You can also participate in a kava ceremony.
Laze on Fijian beaches: Any talk about Fiji will be incomplete without mentioning its spectacular beaches. Take a stroll, go for a swim or just have a peaceful time basking on any of its numerous white shores till the sun goes down. Few popular beaches are: Castaway Island, Honeymoon Beach, Horseshoe Bay, Liku Beach, Namale Private Beach, Natadola Beach, Yasawa Island Beach.