Main Languages: English, Fijian, and Hindi
Currency: Fijian Dollar
Main Religions: Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh
Area: 18,274 square kilometers
Industry: Tourism, sugar, and clothing
Agriculture: Sugarcane, coconuts, tapioca, rice, cattle and fish
Exports: Sugar, garments, gold, timber and fish
Traditional Fijian food is a delightful combination of fresh, local ingredients found in the tropics and the traditional preparations and cooking methods passed down generations. Coconut, fish, rice, taro, sweet potatoes, cassava and breadfruit are the main components in local Fijian dishes.
Fish is a major part of Fijians lives: mahi-mahi, snapper, mackerel, unicorn fish, octopus etc. One unique dish that incorporates the fishy part of Fijian cuisine is kokoda. It’s similar to ceviche: raw pieces of white fish marinated in coconut cream, lime, onions and tomatoes. The acid in the limes or lemons cooks the fish but the coconut gives it a creamy flavor.
An unusual asparagus-like vegetable that is seasonal during the months of April and May that is sometimes called “Fijian Asparagus”. Duruka is often cooked in coconut milk or put in a curry.
Lovo essentially means “feast cooked in the earth”, and within reason: a shallow pit is dug and heated rocks are placed at the bottom. Meat wrapped in taro leaves is places on top and covered with a variety of root veggies like cassava and taro. Then the entire thing is covered with dirt and left alone for a couple of hours, at which point the food is cooked. The food takes on a smokey flavor due to the leaves and the method of cooking.
Taro is a heavy, potato like tuber with a kind of purple hue. Taro can be boiled like a potato, mashed, used in a curry or even cut into fries or chips. Steamed taro is very popular. Fijians also use the taro leaves in cooking. The leaves can be boiled in coconut milk to create a spinach-like dish or fried into fritters. Fijians are so committed to Taro, there is even a holiday dedicated to it: the first full moon in the month of May is Taro Day (this year Taro Day is between May 20th and May 21st).
Holidays & Festivals
Because the population in the Republic of Fiji consists of a mixture of Christians, Hindus and Muslims, the nation celebrates a mixture of holidays that showcase its multiracial, multicultural make-up.
Fiji Day (October 10)
This day commemorates the declaration of independence from Britain in 1970. The week leading up to it is called Fiji Week. It’s become a celebration of Fiji’s ethnic and religious diversity. Religious ceremonies and cultural festivals fill the week, along with traditional food and drink, music and dance.
Eid-al-Adha & Eid-al-Fitr
Eid-al-Adha commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s devotion to Allah and his willingness to sacrifice his son Ismael to prove his devotion. Eid-al-Fitr, which is the larger of the two holidays, celebrates the end of the month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset for 27-28 days. Fijian Muslims attend communal Eid prayers at local mosques and visit each other’s’ homes and give gifts of money to children during these two holidays.
Diwali is a Hindu festival, also known as the “Festival of Lights,” in honor of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Although it’s a Hindu holiday, it’s also celebrated by non-Hindus. Fijian Hindus will often invite their neighbors (whether Hindu or not) over to enjoy the sweet treats of Diwali. Schools and communities will often have Diwali activities for people to participate in and enjoy. People will also spend the days before the holiday cleaning and decorating their homes, then wearing new clothes for Diwali festivities.
Christmas (December 25)
Fijians tend to celebrate Christmas on a lower scale than other countries do. It’s more about spending time with family rather than on expensive gifts and wild decorations. Some may do these things as well, but on a much smaller scale. Many people attend the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass and sing Christmas carols. At night, children wait for Santa to bring a small assortment of gifts and toys during the night. People eat all day and drink a lot of grog and kava. And they usually continue eating and drinking until the night. And then the next day, repeat.
The Hibiscus Festival
It is held in August every year in Suva and the streets are filled with floats that show case traditional dances and cultural shows. The crowning glory is the famed Hibiscus ball which is very well attended.
The Sugar Festival
It is celebrated annually in the month of September in Lautoka which is Fiji’s second largest city. Considering that sugar is Fiji’s largest export commodity and most of the island workers are involved in the sugar plantations, it is no surprise that the festival is widely celebrated.
The Bula Festival
It is another popular event and celebrated in Nadi again in September. Traditional music and dance shows are put up and the streets are lively with marching bands and pageants.
World Music Festival
Fiji is the heart of the Pacific music culture. Each year in June, the World Music Festival packs the city of Suva. Bands from across the world and some local come to the city to showcase their exciting musical talents. Reggae is popular during this time, as is traditional Fiji music. It only started in 2006, but has grown considerably since then.
Nadi, located on the western side of Viti Levu, is the third largest urban center in Fiji. It is also the site of the main international airport and has the largest number of hotels and motels in Fiji.
This is the town most popular for its access to the smaller island groups that surround Fiji.
In Fiji, most people live on the largest island, Viti Levu, where Suva is located. Suva is the capital of Fiji. You can climb to the top of Mt. Korobaba and see all of Suva and the harbor below, go to Colo-I-Suva Forest Park which is filled with trails and waterfalls (It is advisable that you not go alone though). In Suva there are lots of shops and restaurants however most things are closed on Sundays. It is also home to the University of the South Pacific - which hosts students from almost every Pacific island. It is a diverse, beautiful city if you spend any time there.
Sigatoka is a town in about 70 kilometers from Nadi, on Viti Levu. An ornate temple, open to public, built by Hare Krishna devotees dominates the Sigatoka skyline. Major tourist attractions include the Sigatoka Sand Dunes near Kulukulu village two kilometers south of Sigatoka, and the Kula Eco Park, which houses some 500 birds of 100 species from many tropical countries. The town is also the principal center for Fiji's coastal tourism belt - the Coral Coast - which hosts many of the country's leading hotels and resorts.
Things To Do
See Fire-Walking on Beqa
Located just off Vitu Levu’s southern coast is Beqa Island and the surrounding Beqa Lagoon, home to more than 100 dives sites, some just a five- to 20-minute boat ride from shore. See why Fiji is considered the soft coral capital of the world as you spy on blue ribbon eels, ghost pipefish, seahorses, pelagics and more — most at depths above 50 feet. But it’s not just about underwater sightseeing. Beqa Island is home to the Sawau tribe, who originated the traditional art of fire-walking.
Hike the Falls of Taveuni
Located just off Vanua Levu’s east coast is Taveuni Island, known as Fiji’s Garden of Eden. More than 80 percent of it is protected within the Bouma National Heritage Park, and it teems with rare orchids, prehistoric tree ferns, tumbling waterfalls and natural water slides. Don’t miss the Tavoro waterfalls, a 60-foot horsetail of white water that cascades into an emerald pool and is easily accessible via a flat, grassy trail.
Hunt Lairo Crab on Qamea
A short boat ride from Taveuni, the intimate island of Qemea hosts lush jungle-clad hills and pristine beaches alike. Qamea is also known throughout Fiji as the home of the Lairo, a unique — and remarkably tasty — species of land crab that inhabit the island’s steep hills.
Visit the Fiji Museum
This museum offers a great journey into Fiji’s historical and cultural and evolution. To enjoy the exhibits in chronological order, start with the displays behind the ticket counter and work your way around clockwise. The centre piece is the massive Ratu Finau (1913), Fiji’s last waqa tabus (double-hulled canoe), over 13m long and with an enclosed deck for rough weather. Other attractions in the main hall include war clubs, a gruesome display about cannibalism and the rudder from The Bounty (of Mutiny fame).
Kula Eco Park
The Park is nestled in a valley of coastal forest less than 1,000 meters from the ocean close to Sigatoka Town. The Queen's Highway runs past the park's entrance on its way between the international airport of Nadi and the capital city of Suva. Today, the Park is the environmental showpiece of the South Pacific. Kula Eco Park works in cooperation with The National Trust for Fiji, The Endangered Species Recovery Council of San Diego, The Parks Board of New South Wales (PBNSW) Australia, is a Full Institutional Member of The Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks & Aquaria (ARAZPA), an Honorary Associate of the Royal Zoological Society of South Australia (RZSSA).
The principal ethnic groups— Fijians, Indo-Fijians, and people of mixed Euro-Fijian descent—intermingle with ease at the work place, in shops and markets, and in some educational and recreational settings, but interact much less freely at home. Religion and domestic custom tend to cause greater division than does language. But political aspiration is perhaps the greatest divisive factor, with indigenous Fijians demanding political paramount-cy and Indo-Fijians, political equality. Naturalized European and part-European communities tend to mingle more closely with ethnic Fijians than with Indo-Fijians.
Fun Fact: fijians call their country Viti in their own language. The word “Fiji” came from the English pronunciation of Fisi, the name for the islands that their neighbor Tonga gives them.
Most ethnic Fijians who live in villages grow food in gardens where they may use swidden (slash-and-burn) agricultural techniques. Sugar production, begun in 1862, dominates and now engages over half the workforce. A garment industry relies on cheap labor, mostly female. The only commercially valuable mineral is gold, which has declined in importance since 1940, when it generated 40 percent of export earnings. Commercial agriculture consists of the production of copra, rice, cocoa, coffee, sorghum, fruits and vegetables, tobacco, and kava. The livestock and fishing industries have grown in importance. The majority of indigenous Fijians who live in rural areas are either subsistence farmers and fishermen or small-scale cash croppers, while in town they are largely in service-providing occupations, as unskilled, semi-skilled, or skilled workers. Rural Indo-Fijians are mostly cane farmers on leased land, while Indo-Fijians at the other end of the scale largely dominate the manufacturing, distribution, commercial farming, and service industries. Other non-ethnic Fijians and expatriates also have some input in these sectors, but ethnic Fijians are minimally involved, either as owners or entrepreneurs.
Among ethnic Fijians, marriages were traditionally arranged, with the groom's father often selecting a bride from a sub clan with which his family had a long-term relationship; ties between lineages and families were strengthened in this manner. Today, although individuals choose their spouses freely, marriage is still considered an alliance between groups rather than individuals. When parental approval is refused, a couple may elope. Among ethnic Fijians,leve ni vale("people of the house") include family members who eat together, share their economic resources, and have access to all parts of the house. The domestic unit typically consists of the senior couple, their unmarried children, and a married son with his wife and children and may extend to include an aged widowed parent, a sister of the head of the household, and grandchildren.
Fijian man taking part in traditional native kava ceremony at tribal gathering in Fiji.