Fiji Information

General

Fiji (Viti) lies between the equator and the tropic of Capricorn. Fiji's terrritoral limits cover 1.3 million sq. km, but only about 18,300 sq km of this is dry land

Fiji is made up of approximatley 333 islands varying in size from tiny patches of sand, to four main islands (Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Kadavu). Viti Levi, the main island, is 10,390 sq km and includes Fiji's highest point, Tomanivi or Mt Victoria(1323m), near the northern end of a range of mountains that seperates the island's east and west. These mountains act as a natural weather barrier; Suva, Fiji's capital, is located on the wet side of the island, while both Nadi and Lautoka are on the dry side of the island.

Vanua Levu, the second largest island, is also mountainous and has many bays of various shapes and sizes. Taveuni, the third largest island, is rugged and is known as the Garden Island due to its rich volcanic soil. Kadavu is formed by three irregular shaped islands linked together.

History

According to Fijian legend, the great chief Lutunasobasoba led his people across the seas to the new land of Fiji. Most authorities agree that people came into the Pacific from Southeast Asia via the Malay Peninsula. Here the Melanesians and the Polynesians mixed to create a highly developed society long before the arrival of the Europeans.

The European discoveries of the Fiji group were accidental. The first of these discoveries was made in 1643 by the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman and English navigators, including Captain James Cook who sailed through in 1774, and made further explorations in the 18th century.

Major credit for the discovery and recording of the islands went to Captain William Bligh who sailed through Fiji after the mutiny on the Bounty in 1789.

The first Europeans to land and live among the Fijians were shipwrecked sailors and runaway convicts from the Australian penal settlements. Sandalwood traders and missionaries came by the mid 19th century.

Cannibalism practiced in Fiji at that time quickly disappeared as missionaries gained influence. When Ratu Seru Cakobau accepted Christianity in 1854, the rest of the country soon followed and tribal warfare came to an end.

After Fiji was ceded to Great Britain in 1874, epidemics nearly wiped out the population and it seemed as if the natives were doomed. But the colonial government took the Fijians side.

From 1879 to 1916 Indians came as indentured labourers to work on the sugar plantations. After the indentured system was abolished, many stayed on as independent farmers and businessmen. Today they comprise 43.6 per cent of the population.

Fiji gained independance from Great Britain in 1970.

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