The Geography of Fiji (Republic of the Fiji Islands)

Learn Geographic Facts About the South Pacific Country of Fiji

Starry nights at at Turtle Island Fiji resort
©Turtle Fiji

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

Fast Facts: Fiji

  • Official Name: Republic of Fiji
  • Capital: Suva
  • Population: 926,276 (2018)
  • Official Languages: English, Fijian 
  • Currency: Fijian dollar (FJD)
  • Form of Government: Parliamentary republic 
  • Climate: Tropical marine; only slight seasonal temperature variation   
  • Total Area: 7,055 square miles (18,274 square kilometers)
  • Highest Point: Tomanivi at 4,344 feet (1,324 meters)
  • Lowest Point: Pacific Ocean at 0 feet (0 meters)

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. The following year, 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 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 comprised of a 32-seat Senate and a 71-seat House of Representatives. Twenty-three of the House seats are reserved for ethnic Fijians, 19 are for ethnic Indians, and three are 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.

Economica and Land Use In Fiji

Fiji has 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 on 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 are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.

Fiji's climate is considered tropical marine and is therefore mild. 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%.

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