FIJI
An island of hope

Geography - History - Climate - Culture and People - Land System in Fiji - Political Situation - Fiji at a Glance - Fact for Travellers - What to Do and What to See - Smart Phrases in Fijian - Smart Phrases in Hindi - Did You Know ...?


GEOGRAPHY

The Fiji islands are located to the southwest of the Pacific Ocean, north of the tropic of Capricorn and south of the equator. Australia is 3,160km to the southwest, and New Zealand lies 2,120 km to the south. Nearby Pacific State Islands include Tonga to the east and Vanuatu to the west.
Fiji's territorial limits cover an area of over 1.3 million sq km, but less than 1.5% of this is dry land. The total land area is about 18,300 sq km. The Fiji islands lie between latitudes 12º and 21º south of the equator, and between longitudes 177º east and 175º west. The 180º meridian cuts across the group at Taveuni, but the International Date Line doglegs eastward so all islands fall within the same time zone - 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

The Fiji Islands
Click to enlarge
The archipelago includes more than 300 islands. Island dimensions differ from tiny plots of land a few meters in width to Viti Levu, or 'big Fiji', which is 10,390 sq km. The second largest island is Vanua Levu, or 'big land', with an area of 5,538 sq km. Only about one-third of the islands are inhabited, mainly due to remoteness and to lack of fresh water.
Rocky formations

The highest peak in Fiji is in Viti Levu, Mt Tomanivi, or Mt. Victoria, at 1,323m. It is near the northern end of the diving range that separates east from west. Suva, the country's capital, is in the south east of Viti Levu.
Both Nadi, home to the country's main International airport, and Lautoka the second most important port after Suva, are on the western side of Viti Levu. In 'big Fiji' you find also the country's largest rivers. Viti Levu is the island where the most extensive transport system is. The Kings Road and the Queens Road connect together to form a main road that goes around the island's perimeter.
Northeast of Viti Levu you find Vanua Levu a jagged contour island with many bays of various shapes and sizes. The enormous, as compared to any other in Fiji, Natewa Bay is about 70 km long and 15 km wide. Like Viti Levu, the main part of the island is divided by a mountain range. Nasorolevu (1,032m) is the highest peak. Most roads are unsealed, but a sealed stretch links the two main towns: Savusavu, in the south, and Labasa, in the north.

Low tide shows amazing forms
The Somosomo Channel separates Taveuni, the third largest island, from Vanua Levu. It is rugged with rich volcanic soil and flourishing plant life. It is what they call ´Fiji garden island´. Its mountainous backbone of volcanic cones includes Uluigalau (1,241m), the second-highest summit in Fiji.

The Kadavu Group is South of Viti Levu. It includes Kadavu, of similar size to Taveuni, Ono and a large number of small islands, all within the Astrolabe Reef. The main island is three irregularly shaped, rugged landmasses linked by isthmuses. Like Taveuni, Kadavu is very picturesque, with beautiful reef lagoons, mountains, waterfalls and opaque vegetation.
The rest of Fiji's island are fairly small and are catalogued in groups: Lomaiviti, Lau, Moala, Yasawa, Mamanuca and Rotuma. Beqa, Yanuca and Vatulele are gorgeous small islands off southern Viti Levu.

 
FLORA AND FAUNA

Fiji's flora and fauna are moderately few in number but are of outstanding scientific curiosity because of the higher amount of endemic forms - i.e. those found anywhere else in the world. 10% of the 475 indigenous Fijian plant species known are endemic.

Bird watching in Fiji

Fiji also has a few rare reptiles and birds. Notable of this, is the Crested Iguana, found only in some parts of Fiji namely Yadua Taba in Bua and the Yasawas. Other exceptional species include the Fiji burrowing snake, Fiji petrel, the pink-billed parrot finch, the red throat lorikeet and the long legged warbler.

Recently two reporters in conjunction with the Fiji Museum found bones of crocodile, giant tortoises and giant Fiji pigeons during one of their projects. The crocodiles were around two and a half meters long and the giant iguanas a meter and a half long. The bones of these long extinct animals were found in the Volivoli and Qarinivokai caves which is situated to the West of Sigatoka dunes.
TYPES OF ISLAND AND CORAL REEFS

Volcanic Islands

A hideaway island
These are usually of high relief with a series of conical hills rising to a central peak. Spiky summits point out the locations of old volcanoes and crystallized magma runs frequently arrive at the coast to form rock faces. Between these ridges are green valleys, and on the coast are beaches and mangrove communities. Flat land is only found in the river valley of the larger islands. The sides of the island facing the prevailing winds get more rain and support thriving perennial forest vegetation. The leeward hills are home to grasslands with only a sparse covering of trees. While there are no active volcanoes in Fiji, live volcanic vents have been discovered on Taveuni. There is plenty of geothermal activity on Vanua Levu, and in Savusavu some local use their hot spring to do their cooking! Viti Levu and Kadavu are also volcanic islands.

Limestone islands


These are characteristically rocky landmasses that have uplifted from the sea. They have cliffs by the sea, with bushes and trees growing on the top. Generally, there is a central depression forming a basin, with fertile surging hills. Volcanic material also thrust up through the limestone mass.
One of the 300 Fiji Islands
Coral Islands

These are small low islands without many topographic variations. In general, they are situated in areas sheltered by barrier reef. Surface echelons rise only to the height at which waves and winds can deposit sand and coral fragments. These islands support plain yet abundant vegetation, mostly overhanging palms, broad-leafed trees, shrubs, vine and grasses. The coast has bright, white sand beaches and mangroves in the shallows of lagoons. Examples of coral islands are Beachcomber Island and Treasure Island, in the Mamanuca Group, and Leleuvia and Caqeli in the Lomaiviti.

Fringing Reefs

These are usually narrow stretches of reef linked to the shore and extending seaward. Sometimes they can extend up to 5km out from the shore. During low tide the reefs are exposed. Often the bigger fringing reefs have higher sections at the open sea edge and drainage. Rivers and streams break the reefs, the fresh water preventing coral growth. The Coral Coast on southern Viti Levu, is an example fringing reef. Most islands in Fiji have sections of fringing reefs somewhere along their coast.

Barrier Reefs


These are strips of continuous reef, broken only by occasional channels some distance from the coastline. They sometimes encircle islands and often occur in combination with fringing reef. The biggest barrier reef in Fiji is the Great Sea Reef, which extends 500 km from the coast of southern-western Viti Levu to the northern most point of Vanua Levu. A section of this barrier is unbroken more than 150 km, and lies between 15 and 30 km off the coast of Vanua Levu. Other smaller barrier reefs include the one encircling Beqa Lagoon, and the Astrolabe Reef of Kadavu.

Atolls


These are small islands rising just above the sea level, sitting on a ring of coral reef a lagoon. An atoll where the land forms a complete circle is rare, and is invariably small when it does occur. Despite the idyllic representation of atolls in tales of the South Pacific, most have inhospitable environments. The porous soil derived from dead coral, sand and driftwood retains little water and unless the atoll is situated within a rain belt it is subjects to droughts. The vegetation is usually small and hardy, with species such as pandanus and coconut palms, shrubs and coarse grasses. Fiji has only a few islands that can be classified as atolls. The most well known is Wailagi Lala, east of Nanuku Passage in the Lau Group. There are, however, a number of 'looping' barrier reefs that encircle island.

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This is the electronic edition of the special country report on Fiji will be published in Far Eastern Economic Review in June To order the issue or any reprint, click here.
World INvestment NEws, 2001. Developed by Agencia E.