In this post, we’re setting our sights towards Fiji as we attempt to answer the following questions: What is Fiji in the first place? Is Fiji a country? What is the history of Fiji? And just where is Fiji located on a map?
What Is Fiji? Is Fiji a Country?
Fiji is a country in Oceania, officially known as the Republic of Fiji. It has an area of about 7,056 sq mi (18,274 km2) and a total population of just over 900,000 people. Suva is the capital and largest city in Fiji. In addition to being the political, economic, and cultural center of the country, Suva is also considered an economic and cultural hub of the Pacific as a whole.
Most people know Fiji for its warm tropical waters, stunning volcanic landscape, and impressive coral reefs. Every year the set of island nations draws in thousands of tourists from around the world.
Fiji consists of an archipelago of more than 330 islands, about a third of which are inhabited. The three largest islands in Fiji are Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, and Taveuni. At 4,430 feet, Mount Tomanivi is the highest peak in the country, located on Viti Levu.
Where Is Fiji? Finding Fiji on a Map
Fiji is located in the South Pacific Ocean, in a subregion of Oceania known as Melanesia. The country is 1,300 miles (2,000 km) northeast of New Zealand’s North Island. Fiji’s closest neighbors are Vanuatu to the west, New Caledonia to the southwest, Tonga to the east, and Tuvalu to the north.
Because the International Date Line passes just east of the Fijian archipelago, Fiji is literally ahead of its time. Fiji has one of the earliest time zones on Earth, meaning it is one of the first countries to see a new day.
Fiji has a very stable climate, falling into the tropical marine climate zone. There is only a slight amount of seasonal variation in the average temperature range year round. During the wet season occurring from November to April, the island is prone to cyclones that occasionally cause severe damage.
The History of Fiji
The first people to reach Fiji were the Austronesians, who came to the islands sometime during the 2nd millenium BC. These early settlers would trade with the peoples of various other South Pacific archipelagos, eventually developing their own unique Fijian culture. From almost the start, native Fijians domesticated animals and set up plantations. They established well-structured communities led by chiefs, elders and notable warriors. And they built impressive watercraft called drua, the speed of which would later gain almost mythical status among Western sailors.
Though it had been “discovered” by Europeans over a hundred years prior, it was not until 1789 that an English Vice-Admiral named William Bligh charted and plotted the islands. By the 1820s, the first European-style town was established on Fiji. Shortly after, Christian missionaries would come to the islands. As seen elsewhere in the world, these new European arrivals would attempt to repress and change many elements of Fijian culture in order to exert control. Fijian customs and beliefs were labeled as “primitive” or “savage” or “backward”, and this was in turn used to present a narrative that the native populations of Fiji were uncivilized and in need of saving.
After nearly a century of gradual settlement, the British annexed Fiji in 1874. Shortly after, a large-scale plantation system was set up throughout Fiji. Over 60,000 Indians were brought to Fiji as slaves.
The legacy of the colonial plantation system has had a significant effect on the population demographics in the islands of Fiji. Today approximately 44% of the inhabitants of Fiji are of Indian descent, while native Fijians still make up just over half the population.
Throughout the 19th century and the early half of the 20th century, Fiji was plagued by racial division. Fijians, Indians, and Europeans all aggressively vied for political power, creating deep ethnic rifts. The islands of Fiji eventually gained complete political independence in 1974. After many unsuccessful attempts to establish political stability, an independent commission recommended the establishment of a new Constitution that was to be adopted in 1997. However, Fijian politics have still been marred by various issues.
However, despite the omnipresent political turmoil, Fiji remains one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. It is known for its relatively well-developed economy and abundant natural resources.
The Fijian people also have a reputation for friendliness and hospitality, and visitors are fascinated to learn about the many interesting traditions and customs that exist on the island. Visitors are expected to follow proper cultural dress code and etiquette standards when visiting Fiji. English is widely used, but the Fijian language is also still preserved and alive and well on the island. The island draws in around 300,000 foreign travellers on an annual basis.
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