Fiji Facts
Fiji Facts

50 Fantastic Facts about Fiji

By Nathan James, Associate Writer
Published October 4, 2017
  • Located in the South Pacific, Fiji is an archipelago nation approximately 1,300 miles north of New Zealand.[4]
  • Archeological evidence suggests that Fiji was settled in three waves of immigration between 1230 BC–860 BC by early Polynesian peoples.[8]
  • Cannibalism has a long history in Fiji. Historical estimates place the beginning of the practice at around 400 BC.[6]
  • Though cannibalism is no longer practiced, Fijians today have embraced this aspect of their history. One can buy cannibalism forks and humorous cannibal dolls in many Fijian gift shops.[12]
  • Ratu Udre Udre, a Fijian war chief, was the most active cannibal in recorded history. He is reported to have eaten between 872 and 999 people during his lifetime.[12]
  • A long-standing Fijian tradition held that women should accompany their husbands into death. As such, in the past, women were typically strangled the day their husbands died and buried alongside them.[9][14]
  • Kava is a plant cultivated in Fiji and other Pacific Islands for its sedative and euphoric properties. The roots of the kava plant are crushed into a paste then filtered with water and drunk.[14]
  • Fiji Kava Facts
    Kava is drunk across the South Pacific, including in Hawaii, Vanuatu, and Melanesia.

  • The traditional method for extracting kava is to for adolescent boys to chew it into a pulp, then spit it into a communal pot to be squeezed through coconut fiber.[14]
  • One of the traditional ways to enjoy kava is to drink it in the evening and then enjoy the beauty of the ocean or sunset—an experience said to be enhanced by the kava’s euphoric effects.[14]
  • Over half the population of Fiji is native Fijians. Indians are the next largest demographic, making up another two-fifths.[4]
  • The vast majority of menial physical tasks on Fiji have traditionally been seen as women’s work, with men performing more exciting or momentous tasks such as waging war and building houses.[8]
  • Fiji is fairly religiously diverse; while most native Fijians are Methodist, there are also many Catholics, Hindus, and Muslims among the remaining population.[4]
  • Fiji’s main commercial export is water, which is bottled from a natural aquifer and sold globally.[11]
  • Fiji Dance Fact
    Fijian dance is a way of recounting stories through song and body movement.
  • Meke is the broad term for traditional Fijian dance.  The traditional dances vary from ferocious war cavorts to graceful fan dances.[3]
  • Fijians have traditionally held strong taboos regulating family behavior. For instance, brothers and sisters were not supposed to sleep in the same house once they had grown to maturity.[10]
  • Traditional Fijian houses were built and inhabited in a way that reflected the social status of the inhabitants. The rear of the house was reserved for the head of the household; it was considered socially “higher” than the front of the house.[10]
  • Children are generally excused from observing all of the complex taboos of Fijian culture because they are considered to be yalo wai, or “watery spirits”—immature and ill-formed souls.[10]
  • Fiji is made up of approximately 300 islands and 540 smaller islets. Only one-third of the Fijian Islands are inhabited.[4]
  • Human sacrifice was a common practice throughout Fijian history. During the construction of temples devoted to their gods, people would be sacrificed at various stages of construction and the bodies eaten by the living.[14]
  • In war they are fearless and savage to the utmost degree, but in peace their disposition is mild and the affection they bear towards their relations is very seldom found among Europeans.

    - William Lockerby, 1808

  • The Reverend Thomas Baker was a Methodist missionary who visited Fiji in the 1860s. He was killed and eaten by the natives after accidentally offending one of the chieftains.[14]
  • In 2003, the Fijian descendants of the cannibals who ate Methodist missionary Thomas Baker formally apologized to Baker’s descendants.[12]
  • According to historical records, Fijian cannibals did not eat people who died natural deaths; only those killed in combat were considered good for food.[6]
  • The flesh of women was considered more tender and delicious than that of men, according to historical records of Fijian cannibalism. The choicest parts of the human body to eat were the arms above the elbows and the legs.[6]
  • Fiji Cannibalism
    This reenactment portrays a traditional cannibalistic scene. (Coulon)

  • Human flesh was reported, by both Fijians and Europeans who visited Fiji during the 1800s, to both resemble and taste like pork. Some European travelers occasionally ate human flesh on accident, mistaking it for pork.[9]
  • Seru Epenisa Cakobau (sometimes rendered Thakombau) was a Fijian chieftain and warlord who claimed kingship over Fiji in the 1850s. He was not accepted as king by competing chieftains and engaged in nineteen years of bloody struggle to assert his dominion.[8]
  • Cakobau attempted to cede Fiji to the British Empire in exchange for their covering a debt to the United States of America owed by Fiji of around $44,000. The British refused since Cakobau refused to give up his title of king as part of the deal.[8]
  • The Fijians, through Cakobau, officially ceded leadership of their islands to Great Britain in 1871, marking the beginning of British colonial rule.[8]
  • Fiji boasts nearly 800 species of plants found nowhere else in the world. The most famous of these is the tagimoucia flower, which only grows on a single mountain ridge on the northern island Taveuni.[13]
  • Fiji Flower Fact
    A Fijian legend holds that the tagimoucia's ruby red petals were formed from the tears of an ancient Fijian princess. (John Game)
  • The tagimoucia flower has deep significance for many Fijians. It is featured in tales of romance and heartbreak, and appears on Fiji’s $50 bill.[13]
  • Fijian soldiers fought with distinction on the side of the British in World Wars I and II.[8]
  • Fiji's mountainous terrain is largely volcanic in origin.[2]
  • Fiji gained its independence in 1970 after 96 years as a British colony.[2]
  • Fiji established a democratic government in 1970 but has experienced a great deal of political turmoil since. Military coups occurred in 1987, 2000, and 2006.[2]
  • The two largest islands of Fiji are Viti Levu (home to the capital city, Suva) and Vanua Levu. The sea between these two islands is known as the Koro Sea.[4]
  • Suva, Fiji’s capital city, is unique to the rest of Fiji in that it gets a lot of rain. It’s not uncommon for Suva to have rain every day of the week.[14]
  • Many traditional Fijian words have violent histories, including lagos, the word for log, which refers to men who had been killed in order to serve as rollers for canoes.[14]
  • The whole of Fiji covers an area slightly smaller than New Jersey.[2]
  • Fiji Weapons Fact
    Traditional Fijian clubs had many designs and bore names like "Brain Smasher," and "Neck Twister."
  • War in Fiji was traditionally waged with clubs, spears, slings, and bows.[7]
  • Only 59% of Fiji’s population has electricity.[2]
  • Only Fijian chiefs are allowed to wear hats inside of their village.[3]
  • In Fiji, it’s considered insulting to touch another person's head.[3]
  • European explorers to Fiji were surprised to discover that Fijian boys were circumcised, traditionally at age 16.[9]
  • William Lockerby, a Scottish Sandalwood trader marooned on Fiji in 1808, was astonished at both the Fijian's cannibalism and savagery in war, and the kindness and hospitality of the people towards him. He writes in his journal, "I question very much whether the unfortunate stranger if thrown destitute among the peasantry of our own country would have been treated with equal kindness."[9]
  • Whale teeth are highly prized in Fiji. They are given as dowries for marriage or as gestures of apology.[14]
  • Tourism and agriculture are the economic pillars of Fiji. In addition to cultivating taro, copra, cocoa, kava, and pineapple, Fiji is a world-leading producer of sugarcane.[4]
  • Raids upon rival tribes, villages, or clans was historically common in Fiji. Sometimes the causes for war were very small, including breaches of etiquette.[7]
  • Fiji is known as the "soft coral capital of the world," boasting 4,000 square miles of coral reef housing over 1,000 species of fish. This makes it an ideal spot for snorkeling and diving.[5]
  • Fiji Coral Facts
    The oceans around Fiji are home to the Great Astrolabe Reef, one of the world's largest barrier reefs.

  • In Fiji's tropical climate, temperatures generally stay in the mid-80s Fahrenheit (29 C), with the ocean around the islands in the lower 80s (27 C).[5]
  • As of July 2017, Fiji has a population of approximately 920,938.[2]
  • Staples of Fijian cuisine include taro (a yam-like root), fish, and duruka, which is the unopened flower of sugarcane shoots.[1]
  • All About Fiji INFOGRAPHIC
    Fiji Infographic
References

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