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Geography of Fiji

Learn Geographic Facts About the South Pacific Country of Fiji

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Fiji Flag

The Fiji flag is light blue with the flag of UK in the upper hoist-side; the Fijian shield depicts a yellow lion above a white field quartered by the cross of Saint George featuring stalks of sugarcane, a palm tree, bananas, and a white dove.

Source: CIA World Factbook, 2007

Population: 944,720 (July 2009 estimate)
Capital: Suva
Area: 7,055 square miles (18,274 sq km)
Coastline: 702 miles (1,129 km)
Highest Point: Mount Tomanivi at 4,344 feet (1,324 m)

Fiji, officially called the Republic of the Fiji Islands, is an island group located in Oceania between Hawaii and New Zealand. Fiji is made up of 332 islands and only 110 are inhabited. Fiji is one of the most developed Pacific Islands and has a strong economy based on mineral extraction and agriculture. Fiji is also a popular tourist destination because of its tropical landscape and it is fairly easy to get to from the western United States and Australia.

Fiji's History

Fiji was first settled about 3,500 years ago by Melanesian and Polynesian settlers. Europeans did not arrive on the islands until the 19th century but upon their arrival, many wars broke out between the various native groups on the islands. After one such war in 1874, a Fijian tribal chief named Cakobau ceded the islands to the British which officially began British colonialism in Fiji.

Under British colonialism, Fiji experienced the growth of plantation agriculture. Native Fijian traditions were also for the most part maintained. During World War II soldiers from Fiji joined the British and the Allies in battles at the Solomon Islands.

On October 10, 1970, Fiji officially became independent. Following its independence, there were hostilities around how Fiji would be governed and in 1987 a military coup took place to prevent an Indian-led political party from taking power. Shortly thereafter, there were ethnic hostilities in the country and stability was not retained until the 1990s.

In 1998, Fiji adopted a new constitution that specified that its government would be run by a multiracial cabinet and in 1999, Mahendra Chaudhry, Fiji's first Indian prime minister took office. Ethnic hostilities continued however, and in 2000 armed soldiers staged another governmental coup which eventually caused an election in 2001. In September of that year Laisenia Qarase was sworn as Prime Minister with a cabinet of ethnic Fijians.

In 2003 however, Qarase's government was declared unconstitutional and there was an attempt to once again install a multiethnic cabinet. In December of 2006, Qarase was removed from office and Jona Senilagakali was appointed as the interim prime minister. In 2007, Frank Bainimarama became prime minister after Senilagakali resigned and he brought more military power into Fiji and refused democratic elections in 2009.

In September 2009, Fiji was removed from the Commonwealth of Nations because this act failed to put the country on track to forming a democracy.

Government of Fiji

Today Fiji is considered a republic with a chief of state and head of government. It also has a bicameral Parliament that is made up of a 32-seat Senate and a 71-seat House of Representatives. 23 of the House seats are reserved for ethnic Fijians, 19 for ethnic Indians and three for other ethnic groups. Fiji also has a judicial branch that is comprised of a Supreme Court, a Court of Appeal, a High Court and Magistrate's Courts.

Economics and Land Use in Fiji

Fiji has the one of the strongest economies of any Pacific island nation because it is rich in natural resources and is a popular tourist destination. Some of Fiji's resources include forest, mineral and fish resources. Industry in Fiji is largely based around tourism, sugar, clothing, copra, gold, silver and lumber. In addition, agriculture is a large part of Fiji's economy and its chief agricultural products are sugarcane, coconuts, cassava, rice, sweet potatoes, bananas, cattle, pigs, horses, goats and fish.

Geography and Climate of Fiji

The country of Fiji is spread across 332 islands in the South Pacific Ocean and is located closest to Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. Much of Fiji's terrain is varied and its islands consist mainly of small beaches and mountains with a volcanic history. The two largest islands that are a part of Fiji are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.

Fiji's climate is considered tropical marine and therefore has a mild climate. It does have some slight seasonal variations and tropical cyclones are common and typically occur in the region between November and January. On March 15, 2010 a large cyclone struck Fiji's northern islands.

More Facts about Fiji

• Fiji's official languages are English, Fijian and Hindi
• The literacy rate in Fiji is 93%
• Ethnic Fijians make up 57% of Fiji's population while Indo-Fijians make up 37%

To learn more about Fiji and its history, visit Hawaii/South Pacific Travel at About.com and the collection of Fiji maps on this site.

References

Central Intelligence Agency. (2010, March 4). CIA - the World Factbook - Fiji. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/fj.html

Infoplease. (n.d.). Fiji: History, Geography, Government, Culture -Infoplease.com. Retrieved from: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107509.html

United States Department of State. (2009, December). Fiji (12/09). Retrieved from: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/1834.htm

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