Fiji is an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean. There are more than 300 islands in the archipelago that makes up Fiji, but only around 110 are inhabited, and the two largest—Vanua Levu and Viti Levu—are home to around 87% of the country’s population. Fiji’s climate is warm all year round, with an average temperature of 22 degrees Celsius during the cooler season, and highs in the low to mid 30s during the warmer months. Fiji is subject to tropical storms during the rainy season from December to April.
To the rest of the world, Fiji is a beautiful tropical island getaway. This reputation is well-deserved, thanks to its warm blue water and golden-sanded beaches, exotic marine life, and relaxing atmosphere. The Fijian way of life has always emphasised sustainability, and this concept is now an important part of the country’s tourism industry too.
Fiji is a highly multicultural country. Less than 60% of inhabitants have fully Fijian ancestry; the remaining 40% includes people of Indian, Chinese, Southeast Asian, and European descent, as well as people from other Polynesian nations. As a result, the country’s national cuisine is an eclectic and delicious mix, exemplified in the national dish called Kokoda: raw fish marinated in lime and coconut cream. The national drink is Kava, a root that is pounded and mixed with cold water. When drunk it has an earthy bitter taste and a mildly sedating effect.
Fiji was settled between 3,000 and 1,000 BCE, according to local archaeological records, but the question of where the first settlers migrated from has not been conclusively answered. It’s thought that they may have been from the Lapita culture, which originated in Southeast Asia around 5,000 years ago. For centuries, Fijian culture was characterised by ongoing warfare between various island tribes. Cannibalism was once an element of warfare, which deterred explorers and settlers for several centuries.
Europeans came to settle in the islands in the 19th century, and in 1874 the British Empire claimed Fiji as a colony. Fiji was granted independence nearly 100 years later, in 1970. While the country has been peaceful in the modern, with democratic rule prevailing, there have been brief periods of military rule.
Fiji’s warring past once deterred settlers, but these days Fijians are a warm and welcoming people. The peaceful side of the culture is at the forefront of the Fijian way of life, seen in its traditional crafts of pottery, tapa cloth, carving, and canoe building.
Fiji’s small but diverse natural population includes a few native species of animals and plants. Fiji’s only native mammals are six species of bat. One of these is the Fiji Flying Fox, a small fruit-eating animal that is one of the rarest bat species in the world. This tiny fruit bat has a vegetarian diet, and sleeps in tall clumps of ferns. Another native animal is the banded iguana, a striped green lizard that is an expert when it comes to camouflage. There are many native birds, including bright parrots and doves, species of pigeon and finch, and several honeyeaters.
More than 800 species of plant are endemic to Fiji, and found nowhere else in the world. These include towering palm trees, delicate orchids, and the national flower, a gorgeous red-flowered vine known as the Tagimaucia.
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