The Fiji Islands are strategically located at the
crossroads of the Western Pacific routes. Of volcanic
and coral origin, they are made up of four main islands
(Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Kadavu). There are
320 islands and atolls in the group, in addition to 480
islets, but only 150 islands are inhabited. The extinct
volcanoes produce wonderful reliefs, the highest being,
the 1324 m Tomaniivi (Mount Victoria), in Viti Levu,
where Suva is also the capital. Coral reefs surround
most of the islands that line the rainforest on the
slopes and prairies. The landscape has already been
heavily wooded, but many trees have been felled or
burned to make way for pasture, exposing the soil to
erosion. Over 60% of the soil is covered by forests. The
archipelago has an area of 18 270 km2. The
most important cities in the archipelago are Suva, with
178,600 inhabitants (2004), Lautoka (46,000
inhabitants), Nadi (32,800 inhabitants), Labasa (25,600
inhabitants) and Nausori (23,000 inhabitants).
climate is tropical, with high humidity and low thermal
fluctuations throughout the year.
Tourism has become an industry. the tropical sun,
tempered by the sea breezes and the coral strands are
natural resources that attract visitors. Traditional
industries are centered around the cultivation of sugar
cane, which is the main export product. Fiji has a
modern and most developed economy in the South Pacific.
Its main trading partners are Australia, the United
Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States of America.
Environmental indicator: the value of carbon dioxide
emissions, per capita (metric tons, 1999), is
In 2006, the Fiji Islands had 905,949 inhabitants (est.
2006), which corresponds to a population density of 48.9
inhabitants / km2. The birth and death rates
are respectively 22.5% and 5.65%. Average life
expectancy is 69.82 years. The value of the Human
Development Index (HDI) is 0.754 and the value of the
Gender-adjusted Development Index (IDG) is 0.743
(2001). It is estimated that, in 2025, the population
will be 1 153 000 inhabitants. Three of the main islands
(Viti, Levu and Vanua Levu) comprise 90% of the
population. The main ethnic groups are Fijians (51%) and
Indians (44%) and others (5%). The dominant religions
are Christian (53%) and Hindu (44%). The official
language is English although Fijian is also spoken.
Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was the first European
visitor in 1643, Captain Cook arrived in 1774, but
exploration of the islands did not begin until 1792.
Whalers and merchants in search of sandalwood and sea
cucumbers arrived later. Rifles were sold to these
unstable and aggressive people, exacerbating the
inter-island conflicts that in 1874 led Britain to
intervene, not only at the insistence of European
colonists but also to remove French and American
interests on the islands. The British agreed to depose
the chief warlord, King Cakobau, who needed money for
the war, and Fiji became an English colony from 1874 to
1970. They were considered the eyes of the English
Colonial Empire in the South Pacific. The capital ,
Suva, was the administrative and political center of
Oceania, of British influence.
Fijian natives, mainly Melanesians and Polynesians, were
outnumbered by the descendants of sugar cane plantation
workers brought from India, which would create racial
tensions that were controlled by Britain. The electoral
statute did not allow dominance of any ethnic group,
although it gave the natives a special status.
In 1987, the Melanesians feared that the government,
with an Indian majority, would change its status as
Taukei, which means "owners" in their language; this led
Colonel Rabuka to head a coup d'état, which deposed the
prime minister and the governor-general. On October 6,
1987, Colonel Rabuka proclaimed Fiji a republic and in
1990 a new constitution came into force. In 1992 the
elections returned civilians to power.