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Fijian Islands Tourist Information

Things to do on your Diving Holiday

Looking for some information to make your diving trip to Fiji run smoothly?

This section contains tourist information for your visit to the following locations:

• Kadavu
Unspoilt, natural island paradise with spectacular untamed reefs ...

• Taveuni
The Garden Island perched on the Somosomo Strait ...

• Viti Levu
Fiji's most accessible diving, including the Coral Coast, Rakiraki and Beqa Island ...

Tribal dancing show - photo courtesy of Fiji Visitors Bureau

Fiji conjures up images of white sandy beaches fringed with coconut trees, romantic moonlit walks along the shore, and the beaming smiles of locals as you join in their fireside songs. For years Fiji has epitomised South Pacific island charm.

Verdant green islands giving way to golden sandy beaches lapped by crystalline waters - Fiji really is paradise on earth. Resorts, ranging from the fabulous to the simple, allow those who come on a diving holiday here a chance to sample the unique Fijian culture and laid-back way of life.

If movies are the stuff of dreams then it is clear why Brooke Shields frolicked in her birthday suit here in 'Blue Lagoon', why Tom Hanks was a castaway on a Fijian island and even why Jodie Foster, when she went to heaven in 'Contact', met her re-born father on a Fijian beach. Whether old or young, active or in need of relaxation, Fiji has that magic allure that many destinations claim but few can really deliver. There are giant waterfalls, huge volcanic craters, remote villages, lush rainforests and coastal views one can normally only dream of.

For the diving enthusiast there is not only the abundance of fabulous dive sites, including the world's second largest barrier reef, and the colour schemes that earn the country the title of "The World's Soft Coral Capital", but also arguably the world's best shark diving.

The rest of this page contains information about Fiji:

Tourist Security and Safety

Fiji has earned its reputation as one of the world's greatest holiday destinations, based in part on the friendliness of its people. Here your greatest concern, in the countryside and on the smaller islands, is more likely to be how to thank the locals for their kindness than how to avoid trouble with them.

Having said that, Fijians do suffer from high rates of poverty and unemployment. In the urban areas, such as Suva and Nadi on Viti Levu, the Fijian disaffected youth is garnering a reputation for tourist muggings and even the odd robbery-related murder. We do not consider Suva safe to walk around at night but, in any case, we don't recommend you spending any time in that smog polluted town anyway. Get out into the wonderful countryside and Fiji is a very safe place to travel.

The security most tourists feel here is evidenced by the numbers of older couples, families, honeymooners and young independent travellers who come here every year to enjoy some of the most beautiful islands in the South Pacific.

The much publicised coup back in 2000 caused great unrest and international disapproval since its ultimately successful objective was to remove Indo-Fijians from political and economic power. Racial tensions continue to simmer in politics although the coup was relatively bloodless. Tourism is returning to normal following the Asian market crashes and the political upheaval of recent times, and it is unlikely politics will ever come to the fore in conversation during your stay.

If you still feel uncomfortable, we can recommend that you take out insurance to cover diving and travel activities, including trip cancellation. See our insurance programme for a competitive quote.

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How to Get There

Fiji lies directly above New Zealand, 3 degrees or so above the Tropic of Capricorn. Most flights here land at Nadi Airport. Some flights from Sydney and elsewhere in the Pacific use Suva Airport, Nausori. If you are staying in Viti Levu or nearby you are most likely to be picked up by a resort representative, so it will be easier to cope with the throngs of people welcoming you with guitars, flowery shirts and offers of taxi rides.

Most flights arrive early in the day, which allows for local flight connections to be made on the day of arrival but please check carefully as, for example, flights from Nadi to Taveuni run only until early afternoon.

There are flights from Brisbane, Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland and Christchurch as well as several other Pacific destinations. North American flights are from Los Angeles, Vancouver and Honolulu. Hong Kong provides another excellent gateway to Fiji, making the South Pacific more accesible than ever before.

If you require accommodation in Fiji you can get the best value rooms with Agoda, our affiliated resort reservation specialists:

Visit Agoda.com and review details, prices and make a reservation for Fiji and worldwide hotels (opens in a new window)

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General Information

This section contains information about:

Climate

One of many golf courses on the Fijian islands - photo courtesy of Fiji Visitors Bureau

The Fijian islands have a relatively stable, tropical climate throughout the year. Due to the mountainous interiors of many of the larger islands the windward sides of these slopes tend to see more rain than the leeward sides. This characteristic has seen the resorts built in areas of plentiful sunshine and, where possible, cooling breezes.

November to April sees the wet season and cyclone season, May to October the dry season and is the best time to dive Fiji. Summer days can see 30°C with a low of around 18°C in July and August and an average of around 25°C. The warm waters maintain a pleasant 25 to 28°C all year. Prevailing southeasterlies can whip up along the islands' south-east coasts at times.

History

First sighted by Europeans such as Abel Tasman and James Cook searching for the legendary Great Southern Land in the 17th and 18th centuries, tales of treacherous reefs and cannibals kept white men away from the FeeJees for years. William Bligh's post-Bounty experience of Fiji was less than a taste of paradise as he was chased by Fijian war canoes through the stretch of water that runs between the main islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, now known as Bligh Water.

Becoming a British colony in 1874 the rulers, in an effort to appease their disgruntled subjects, declared that no indigenous Fijian would work in the harsh labour conditions of the plantations or construction industry. To that end, indentured Indian labour was shipped in at the initial rate of about 2,000 a year to take up what proved to be positions of toil and misery. Despite this, many stayed after their 5 years were up, preferring life here to the hopelessness of a lower caste 'untouchable' in their homeland. By the end of indenture in 1919 some 60,000 Indian labourers were in Fiji.

The Local People

Indigenous Fijians make up the majority of the population (53%), most continuing to live the lifestyle of old based on village life under the watchful eye of the local chief. They are a mix of Melanesian and Polynesian influences. No-one who comes to Fiji for the first time can fail to be impressed by the warmth and friendliness of the inhabitants of what were once known as "The Cannibal Isles".

Other ethnic groupings include Indo-Fijians (40% of the total population). Many were brought here by the British to work the abundant sugar cane fields and have therefore been here for several generations. Other Pacific islanders and Chinese immigrants make up the remaining ethnicity. In addition, modern settlers from across the globe have continued the trend of falling in love with these islands and simply refusing to leave.

The population is around 850,000, around 75% of whom call the main island of Viti Levu home. The second island of Vanua Levu has about a 5th of the population, the remainder being scattered throughout the other islands.

The traditional Fijian religion of ancestor worship has largely been replaced by Christianity including Methodism, Catholicism and Anglicanism. Church attendance is high (and a great experience for the tourist) and church leaders hold powerful sway over their flock. Indo-Fijians are mostly Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs, with a scattering of Catholics and Hare Krishnas.

Health

Spectacular sunset on the Koro Sea - photo courtesy of Fiji Visitors Bureau

Fiji is malaria free so no worries there. It can be hot and humid however, so all the obvious rules, about light clothing and keeping one's moist parts dry and free from fungal attack, apply. There are mosquitoes of course and it has been known for them to spread dengue fever and filariasis. Hepatitis A and B are also known to occur.

You should obtain your own medical advice prior to your departure and obtain any immunisations you feel you need. That said most people do not have their little slice of heaven on earth disturbed by anything other than common ailments.

Ciguatera is a type of food poisoning that you would do well to bear in mind when perusing any menu. This is a bowel-twisting condition resulting from eating the big reef predators like barracudas, grouper and snapper. This may not seem like too great a sacrifice when the alternative may consist of the following ingredients: nausea, chills, tingling mouth, weak muscles and joints, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, hot and cold flushes and for dessert, aching extremities for weeks or even months! Doesn't the salami pizza look good?

Health and diving insurance are both strongly recommended.

Tourist Visas

A free of charge tourist visa, valid for 4 months, is granted on arrival to citizens of over 100 countries including the USA, most of Europe, Russia and much of South America. You should check to see if you need to apply for a visa prior to arrival. All visitors do need is an onward ticket and a passport valid for at least 3 months longer than your stay.

Time Zones

"Fijian Time" is a term often offered as an excuse for slow service, as things (including internet speed) and people can move at snail's pace here. Fiji is +12 hrs GMT (or +17 hrs EST), in other words it is as far away from Britain as possible (hooray!). It lies just to the west of the International Date Line (in fact, it actually runs through Taveuni) so Americans lose a day getting there and gain one on the way back. This can be confusing, even for intelligent people, so you can just imagine ...

Business Hours

Most businesses are open from 08:00 to 17:00 hrs depending on how the proprietors feel that day, and most close between 13:00 and 14:00 hrs. Sunday is a day to unwind after a stressful week.

Electricity

Electricity is supplied at 240V, 50Hz AC. Many resorts, particularly the best ones, will have outlets for 240V and 110V and many have adaptors but, as ever, it's best to bring your own to avoid trouble. Outlets are 3-pin Australian-style.

Photographic Facilities

If you have even a passing interest in photography you will probably take an excessive number of photographs in Fiji as the seascapes, hillsides, sunsets, Brooke Shields and people (ask first) all make for wonderful subjects. Film and batteries are available for purchase in many places.

Communications

All but the bottom-end hotel rooms have phones and are often free to use locally but crippling for long-distance calls. IDD phone cards can help ease the pain but there is nothing quite as painless as calling collect. Vodafone is the only mobile operator here and has roaming agreements with Australian, New Zealand and UK providers so it is best to check the details with your local provider.

Fiji is quickly falling in love with the 'net, and internet outlets are popping up all over the place at a cost of up to 25 cents per minute. In resorts however it can be a different story and you will need to exercise time-limiting caution if you don't want to run up spine-chilling costs.

The postal service is more reliable and inexpensive than you might think. There is also an international express mail service. Post offices are plentiful and all major ones offer a free Poste Restante service. Fax services are also available.

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Codes of Behaviour

There are certain standards of behaviour which one would do better to avoid breaking but, as is always the case, the locals will know you to be a foreigner and will forgive your ignorant blunders with good grace. Fijians will welcome you like nowhere else, however, so it is worth according them the respect of being familiar with a few matters of etiquette.

Always bring a gift if invited to someone's home or village. Yaqona (pounded kava) should be brought for presentation to the village chief as well as a separate gift for your host. Never walk around the village or people's bures uninvited as this will be seen as an invasion of privacy. On any visit you will probably end up sitting cross-legged in a ring drinking ditch-water brown kava from coconut shells, clapping and grinning like a native. Trousers or sulu and long sleeves will see you avoid any trouble in these circumstances.

Try to avoid touching the head of a Fijian as the head is considered sacred, and avoid wearing a hat and sunglasses as they are considered rude, particularly when meeting someone. What you might consider rude, being asked to part with your shoes or bracelets, is simply part of the tradition of shared property in Fiji so if you want to get local leave your bling at home.

Also public displays of affection will be tolerated to a certain degree but tongues and beyond may cause offence.

Tipping and bargaining

Tipping is not expected or encouraged - like we say it is paradise. However if you feel the need, you will doubtless receive a warm, genuine smile in return. When you add the 12.5% VAT that is seldom included in quoted prices, you may feel you have had your daily quota of toothy smiles. Bargaining is done mostly with the Indo-Fijians, especially taxi-drivers who love a long, protracted negotiation.

Clothing

Before the missionaries arrived everyone ran around the islands naked. While this may still occur occasionally at some of the rowdier resorts frequented by young Scandinavians, Fijians will expect you to dress modestly. Even when swimming, Fijians will often wear a shirt and sulu. Thongs and toplessness are not at all welcomed, unless at the most exclusive resorts and, when out and about, a degree of coverage is expected.

Criminality

The centres of population, Nadi and Suva, are the most likely spots for trouble on the street. Avoiding flashing your expensive accessories, not walking alone at night in dimly lit streets, and being circumspect about your socialising partners will help you to avoid trouble. Beware of touts at airports. If you have transport just ignore them, as you should those guys who start carving your name into a sword as they chat to you. Leave before they get past the first letter or introduce yourself as Lord Persimus Brampton Nicholas Tarrigon Eckilthwaite III, otherwise they may expect you to buy it.

Marijuana is commonplace although illegal. The risk is higher than the effect and you may find yourself in a psychiatric hospital if you are caught. Drink driving is equally commonplace and also illegal.

Officials

Where possible bring a receipt for expensive items that you bring in to the country otherwise you may experience problems at customs on the way out. As responsible divers we hope you wouldn't dream of taking away banned items such as coral, turtle shells or clam shells. Copies of all your vital documents are a good idea as officials often like to see things in black and white.

The police may not be the most corrupt force but their efficiency and inclination to help may be found wanting. Using safety deposit boxes and otherwise exercising due caution should see you join the overwhelming majority who leave here with memories of an exclusively positive nature.

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Interested?

If you're keen to discover the fantastic waters of Fiji, then click below to check your options now for:

Be sure to book up in plenty of time to avoid limited choice! The best opportunities are booked by repeat customers who book well in advance to ensure their reservation!


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