Five Things You Should Know Before Going to Fiji
June 11, 2019
by Aleksandra Haliciu
Bula!!! 😀 June is here, the sun is up and I said to myself – why not recollect all those sunny places I’ve had the chance to see – and give you a tiny bit of their vibe through writing? So – here I am – writing about Fiji! While being a tropical paradise with amazing beaches, bursting green and breathtaking views, Fiji conquers through its history and rich culture, unique practices and authentic people. It encourages you to leave everything behind and go back to the roots.
If some of you still wonder, Fiji is not an island but a country in the South Pacific Ocean. Some time ago, I happened to stop by one of them – Viti Levu – the biggest out of a total of 334! I have to admit that prior to my arrival I haven’t read much about Fiji and what I had in mind was basically nature, pristine beaches and the famous Fijian water. Well, surprise surprise – I have been truly impressed. It is not only the beaches, the lush green and the spectacular views that got to me, but mostly the people and have to admit – the Indian influence (since I am a big fan of India and Indian culture). From a mud bath, a traditional Fijian massage (tip-the only place that offers mud-baths is situated 40 minutes away from Lautoka – at the Sabeto Mud & Hot Pools, famous for its soothing qualities) to the well-known Fijian fire-walkers and kava ceremony, adding the food and the welcoming people, my stay has been a truly fulfilling experience that I recommend to anyone that is looking for authenticity.
If you are into history, I would strongly recommend a visit to the history museum in Suva, the capital of Fiji. I have learned quite some… captivating facts about the first settlers. The history of this place is traced back to 3000BC with the Lapita people being the first inhabitants. The famous Lapita pottery is made by hand moulding local clays and by the way, it is still practised in Fiji’s pottery today. Of course, Christianity was brought to Fiji around the 1800s, but prior to this the history of the Fijian islands is quite dark, where cannibalism, slavery and warfare between the tribes were quite common (one of the ‘captivating’ incidents being when in 1867, Sir Thomas Baker – a Christian missionary – was killed and eaten because he tried to comb the hair of the chief).
Strong Indian Influence
The Indian influence that I mentioned before is due to a long period of homogenisation of cultures and common history. As the indigenous Fijian communities have been dramatically depleted due to the various diseases introduced through European contact, the British brought Indian labourers to work the sugar cane plantations. In total, more than 60,000 Indians were brought to Fiji. Most of the migrants were from poor, uneducated, agricultural casts. As life in India was far from easy, they were desperate to migrate.
Rich Culture and Traditions
Fijians are quite ceremonious by practice and the kava and fire walking ceremonies are still in practice to these days. The indigenous society is very communal with great importance attached to the family unit, the village and the land. The varying ceremonies performed around the islands strengthen tribal and family ties and reinforce traditions and ancient myths. During a kava ceremony, everyone is invited to drink a bowl of kava (the national drink) which is believed to have medicinal qualities and will leave you feeling mellow and a little tongue-tied.
Nature and Pristine Beaches
While Fiji is famous for its pristine beaches and blue waters, the country is also mountainous with ancient craters and peaks rise up to 1100m with rivers stretching for many kilometres. This means there are plenty of activities for the adventurous like water rafting, hiking and even exciting cultural village trips into the interior of the islands (one of them being the Art village which I visited that is 50minutes drive from Suva).
Still Good to Know
Coconut holds a special place in the life of a Fijian as it was used since immemorial times and it has many uses around the household. It is considered to be the three of life. English is the official language but Fijian and Hindi are also used. The most used word is by far the traditional ‘Bula’ which is a greeting and a way to welcome visitors. If you are in for a treat – but of course only in the market – you can try your bargain skills, however, you should use your common sense and stick to the fixed prices in the shops. Hope, if you are around, that you will have the best of time in between mud bathing, kava ceremonies and shopping for saris – and if not, at least that maybe you just discovered another piece of heaven in the Pacific! Enjoy 🙂