Sunday, 25 August 2013

Where are the Fiji Islands, how to get there, and a bit of history, geography and weather

Bula! The heart of the South Pacific welcomes you!

Bula, a word you hear many times a day in Fiji. It means "hello" and is always said with a welcoming smile.

Image by Travel Around the World

The  tropical islands of Fiji are one of Oceania's most popular destinations, and thus attracts all types of travellers. From thrill-seekers and water sports enthusiasts to families and couples alike, thousands from all over the globe seek out this gorgeous island paradise to take advantage of its abundant sunshine and breathtaking landscape.

Fiji's Flag   |   Image by Open Clip Art Library

Fast Facts
Name: Republic of Fiji Islands
Population: Approx. 837, 271
Capital: Suva
Area: Approx. 18,300 square kilometres
Main Languages: English, Fijian, Fijian Hindi
Currency: Fijian Dollar (FJD)

Quick History Lesson
The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman visited Fiji in 1643 while looking for the Great Southern Continent. Europeans settled on the islands permanently beginning in the 19th century. The first European settlers to Fiji were beachcombers, missionaries, whalers and those engaged in the then booming sandalwood and bĂȘche-de-mer (also known as sea cucumber) trade.

During the British rule, indentured labourers from India were brought to work on cotton and sugar-care plantation fields.
 87 Voyages were made by the 40 ships that brought Indian labourers to Fiji [1]. Of these ships, 27 were sailing ships and 13 were steam ships. Leonidas was the first ship to sail from Calcutta while Syria was met with destruction towards the end of its journey to Fiji [1]. After 5 years of work in the fields, the labourers were free to go at their own expense however. The majority did not want to leave, and many at the time were not allowed to either, to ensure sufficient labour was available to support the thriving sugar industry.

With time the sugar industry grew and with it the country and it's beautiful people. The native Fijians are the indigenous people of the country and pretty easy going and very welcoming. Today, not only Fijians and Indians live in Fiji but many other races. It's like a big multi-racial family of multi-cultural background.

Fiji gained independence in 1970 after 96 years as a British colony. The first capital city of Fiji was Levuka, a major trading post at the time. Levuka was the site of the Deed of Cession when Fiji was ceded to Britain as well as the site where Fiji gained independence. It is therefore fitting that UNESCO declared the town Fiji's first world heritage site in July 2013. In 1887, Suva was officially made the capital owing to the remoteness and limitations of expansion in Levuka.

Fiji now is one of the most developed economies in the Pacific island realm due to an abundance of forest, mineral and fish resources. Today, the main sources of foreign exchange are its tourist industry and sugar exports.

Fiji is located approximately 2000 kilometres north east off the coast of New Zealand and approximately 2700 kilometres off the east coast of Australia.

Consisting of more than 330 islands, each beautiful with its own personality, the majority of the population occupy the 2 biggest islands known as Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.

Located on the eastern side of Viti Levu is Suva the capital city. While Nadi (pronounced "Nandi") on the west coast where the main international airport is located.

As you can see in the below image it is quite centrally located within the South Pacific region and very accessible by air.

Fiji on the World Map   |   Image by Travel Fiji

Entering the country
As with any other destination, please ensure that you have a valid passport with an appropriate visa before arriving in Fiji. Make sure that your passport is not due to expire for at least 12 months.

By sea: Travelling to Fiji by sea can be quite fun especially when taking a cruise allowing you to soak up the magnificent views of the South Pacific. Keep in mind that it is easier and more affordable to travel via sea from the Oceania region rather than Europe or the United States.

By air: Fiji is centrally situated in the South Pacific making it a major airline hub of the Pacific region. Most visitors travelling to Fiji arrive at Nadi International Airport while others land at Nausori International Airport. Nausori is about 23 kilometres north-east of down-town Suva city on the main island of Viti Levu. Bear in mind that both airports are on Viti Levu, so if you wanting to travel to Vanua Levu you will have to get book a domestic flight or use local boat services.

Note that Nadi is on the western side of the main island of Viti Levu and is 192 kilometres from Suva city which is approximately a 3 hour drive.

Weather and Climate
Being a tropical group of islands, Fiji does not have winter temperatures like you would get in London, United States or Australia. It is usually between 22 to 31 degrees all year around. The best times to travel would be from around April to October, that being the cooler months however it is also the peak season for tourism.

The wet season occurs from December to March bringing heavy rain and tropical cyclones. Travelling during this time is not pleasant considering the high chance of tropical hurricanes and cyclones developing in the region.

I hope this has been a useful introduction for you about the Fiji Islands. Please feel free to comment, leave feedback, bookmark, share and like this page.

Be sure to come back soon as over the coming weeks as I will dive into more details about My Island Paradise.

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