With its iridescent blue waters and unique culture, Fiji begs for more than a short stopover. Below, five things you might not know about this country.
1. Fijians may have originated from Southeast Asia
Most ethnographers believe that the Fijian people migrated to the Pacific from Southeast Asia via the Malay Peninsula. The Melanesians (from Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu and Solomon Islands) and the Polynesians (from Tonga, Samoa and Hawaii) integrated to create their very own culture and society. Hence Fiji represents the melting point of the various South Pacific cultures. Evidence of this unique indigenous culture can been seen in Fijian food, language, traditions, practices, and political systems. Fijian Indians also make up a large portion of the current population, who first entered Fiji in the late 1800s when they were migrated to work in the island's sugar plantations.
2. A land of villages
Still today over 80 per cent of land in Fiji remains occupied by its indigenous people and many travellers are surprised to see that most of Fiji's landscape consists of village-towns. Often there is an appointed Ratu (Village Chief) or Turaga Ni Koro Koro (Village Headman) who represents the village in provincial matters. These self-governed villages are also guardians of ancient Fijian traditions and folklores. For example, in Fijian villages it is considered an insult for anyone other than the village chief to don hats or sunglasses. It is also considered impertinent to touch someone's head as the top of the head is deemed sacred. These interesting cultural beliefs and traditions truly make Fiji a great cultural heritage travel destination for travellers who are keen to immerse themselves in a unique culture.
3. Beyond blue waters, Fiji has volcanoes and sand dunes
Fiji is more than just endless blue sea and sandy beaches. There are 333 islands that make up Fiji and many of the islands offer unique landscapes such as waterfalls, lakes and volcanoes, features that surprise many travellers. Take for example the Sigatoka Sand Dunes on the island of Viti Levu. Aside from its magnificent beauty, the Sigatoka Sand Dunes have a rich history. Buried under these sands, archaeologists have uncovered pottery and human bones more than two millennia old. Legend has it that those unfortunate enough to find a bone will be cursed for life.
4. Interesting local cuisine
Fiji's blended heritage has led to a variety of exotic fusion food. Traditional Fijian meals include three elements — namely relishes, starches and a beverage. Called "real food" by Fijians, the starchy component can be sweet potatoes, yams or taro. Seafood, meat, leafy vegetables and fish are the "relishes" and water is typically the beverage of choice. The traditional Fijian cooking style — lovo — is the Fijian name for a feast cooked in the earth. Lovo often gives the food a smokey flavour and is an efficient way to cook large quantities of food. Over the years, the influx of Indian immigrants has led to even greater mingling of cuisines, with Indian curries and roti's also popular in the country. Needless to say, Fiji has a mouth-watering array of dishes that is bound to satisfy any foodie.
5. Diverse ethnic heritage
Fiji's cornucopia of cultures mean there are three official Fijian languages on the islands — ijian, Fiji Hindi, and English. But that's not all — beyond the lingua franca there are approximately 10 languages that are commonly heard in Fiji. Examples include Pitcairn-Norfolk, Samoan, Tamil, Telugu and Tongan.
Fiji Airways flies twice weekly from Singapore to Fiji. From now till 7 December, you'll find return flights on Fiji Airways for SGD599.