26 interesting facts about Fiji

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From pioneering the use of GPS in aviation to straddling the international dateline, these are the most interesting facts about Fiji.

beautiful beaches facts about fiji
Interesting facts about Fiji include its plants, islands and maritime history (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of Fiji
Capital city: Suva
Population: 935,974
Area: 18,274 sq km
Major languages: English, Fijian, Hindustani
Time zone: UTC+12 (Fiji Time)
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)

Fascinating facts about Fiji

1. The first settlers in Fiji arrived from the islands of Melanesia around 3,500 years ago.
(Source: Britannica)

2. In 1643 Dutch explorer Abel Tasman became the first European to visit the islands.
(Source: BBC News)

3. Located in Oceania, Fiji is an archipelago of around 300 islands and 540 islets. The islands are scattered across an area of around 3,000,000 sq km. About 100 islands are inhabited.
(Source: Britannica)

A map of the country showing the International Dateline cuting through Fiji on the island of Taveuni
A map of Fiji showing the Dateline cutting through Taveuni (Shutterstock)

4. The International Dateline cuts through Fiji on the island of Taveuni. It is a popular destination for tourists as it offers visitors the chance to jump from one day to the next.
(Source: Lonely Planet)

5. In the 1830s Christian missionaries began to arrive from overseas converting the local population. In 1874, Fiji became a British crown colony.
(Source: BBC News)

6. From 1879 to 1916 Britain transported more than 60,000 indentured labourers from the Indian subcontinent to work on sugar plantations in Fiji.
(Source: BBC News)

7. Fiji’s traditional dance, the meke, has been around since the 1800s. Mekes are commonly performed by male or female-only groups, although a dance called the vakamalolo combines both. Men sometimes perform with clubs and spears and women with fans.
(Source: Rough Guides)

Men performing the meke
Men performing the meke (Shutterstock)

8. Today, around 37.5% of Fiji’s population are classed as Indo-Fijian.
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)

9. In 1970 Fiji gained full independence after 96 years of British colonial rule.
(Source: New York Times)

10. The Fijian flag is still emblazoned with a British flag along with a coat of arms featuring a lion holding a cacao pod and symbols of sugarcane, coconuts, bananas and a Fijian dove. There have been ongoing calls to remove the colonial symbolism from the flag.
(Source: The Guardian)

One of the most interesting facts about Fiji is its flag (Shutterstock)
One of the most interesting facts about Fiji is its flag design (Shutterstock)

11. In the 2016 Olympic Games, Fiji won its first Olympic gold medal after beating Great Britain 43-7 in the rugby sevens.
(Source: CNN)

12. In 1987 a coup by indigenous Fijians overthrew the elected Indian-dominated coalition government. Another coup in 2000 saw Fiji’s first ethnic Indian prime minister, his cabinet and numerous MPs held hostage for several weeks.
(Source: BBC News)

13. In 2006, there was yet another coup – Fiji’s fourth in 20 years. It led to Fiji being suspended from the Commonwealth in 2009 for its lack of progress towards democracy. Following free elections in 2014, it was reinstated.
(Source: BBC News)

14. Kava is a traditional mildly narcotic drink in Fiji. The drink, also known as ‘yaqona’ and locally as ‘grog’, is made from an infusion of powdered roots from a type of pepper plant called Piper methysticum.
(Source: Lonely Planet)

Kava being served
Traditional Kava, the national drink of Fiji (Shutterstock)

15. Archaeological evidence suggests that cannibalism was common in Fiji from at least 2,500 years ago up until the 19th century. The islands were even referred to as the ‘Cannibal Isles’.
(Sources: Fiji Museum, The Telegraph)

16. In 2003 Fiji villagers, whose ancestors killed and ate a British missionary 136 years before, apologised to his descendants in a bid to lift a curse. In 1867 Thomas Baker along with seven Fijians were killed and eaten.
(Source: The Independent)

17. Fiji is home to around 800 species of plants found nowhere else on Earth. The most unique of which is the tagimoucia. The crimson and white flower only grows on a single mountain ridge on Taveuni.
(Source: New York Times)

facts about fiji: 800 species of plants can be found only in Fiji
800 species of plants can be found only in Fiji (Shutterstock)

18. Cannibalism was a highly ritualised event where human flesh was eaten as part of a religious ceremony. Usually, the flesh was from adversaries killed in war – it was considered the ‘ultimate insult’ to a defeated enemy.
(Sources: Fiji Museum)

19. Fiji’s main commercial exports are bottled water (16%), sugar (11%) and processed fish (7%).
(Source: OEC)

20. Firewalking (known as vilavilairevo) has been performed by members of the Sawau people on the island of Beqa in Fiji for generations. These days the traditional ceremony of walking over white-hot coals is generally only performed for tourists.
(Source: Oceania Journal)

21. Traditional Fijian homes, known as bures, are large open-plan wooden structures made from hardwood trees, coconut string and thatched roofs.
(Source: Rough Guides)

Traditional Fijian homes surrounded by palm tress
Traditional Fijian homes (Shutterstock)

22. In 1994 Fiji became the first country in the world to incorporate GPS into its aviation navigation system.
(Source: BBC Travel)

23. The Great Astrolabe Reef which surrounds Kadavu Island is the fourth-largest barrier reef in the world.
(Source: Lonely Planet)

24. Fiji has one UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Levuka Historical Port Town. The town was the first colonial capital of Fiji, ceded to the British in 1874.
(Source: UNESCO)

Levuka Historical Port Town
Levuka Historical Port Town (Shutterstock)

25. Some small and isolated villages on Fiji’s outer islands still practice the hospitality custom of sevusevu. Visitors must offer a tangled bundle of kava roots as a gesture of respect to gain permission to enter.
(Source: BBC Travel)

26. Fiji has a long history of ship and canoe building. A traditional Fijian canoe, or drua, is a traditional double-hulled, open ocean sailing canoe.
(Source: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), New York Times)