If you are planning the tropical holiday of a lifetime in Fiji paradise, you will take much more away from your trip if you know a little bit about this stunning island nation. With British and Southeast Asian influences, a confluence of Indian and Asian ethnicities, and a vast turquoise ocean separating them from the rest of the world, Fiji truly is one of a kind.
What should you know about Fiji’s history to get the most out of your holiday?
What are the do’s and don’ts of island life?
What should you bring the village chief as a welcome present?
Fiji’s First Settlers
Fiji’s first inhabitants were early Polynesians whose ancestors were from Southeast Asia. They were highly skilled in seamanship and navigation, experts at exploring the surrounding South Pacific by boat, and finding islands separated from each other by hundreds of miles of open ocean. Their descendants were Polynesians, and would eventually populate islands from Hawaii all the way to Easter Island, and possibly even reaching South America.
Fiji, Mutiny & the Story Behind the Flag
Centuries later, the Fiji islands were discovered accidentally by European explorers. Dutch explorer Abel Tasman ran ashore with the infamous James Cook in 1774, and William Bligh stopped by in 1789. Then, almost a hundred years later on October 10, 1874, the United Kingdom ceded the Fiji islands. It wasn’t until the same day in 1970 that Fiji regained its independence. Every year since, the entire country celebrates Fiji Week, a seven-day celebration of their storied and multi-cultural background.
So What is Fiji Like Today?
Village life in Fiji is an integral part of modern life on Fiji’s many islands. Traditional Fijian societies operate on the principles of communal living borne from centuries of isolated village life. Even with all the comforts of the western world, Fijian people today still share the obligations and rewards of a communal lifestyle. Small villages are led by hereditary chiefs, and these chiefs make many of the important decisions for their village.
If you would like to experience village life in Fiji for yourself, the Yaqeta village and children of the Yaqeta School are eager to welcome you in to their lives once a week on Tuesdays, when the staff at Navutu Stars Resort can take you to discover remote Fijian island living. If you really want to make a good impression, here’s an insider tip: before entering a Fijian village, ask for permission from the village chief. It shows deference and respect, so you’ll be sure to get off on the right foot.
Do Not Miss A Cup of Kava with the Chief!
It is common in Fiji to spend an afternoon among friends, chatting and drinking kava grog from the shell of half a coconut, called a bilo. Kava is a mild sedative used for medicinal, religious, political, cultural and social purposes throughout Fiji. Its people harbor immense respect for the plant and places a high importance on one of their few cash crops. A formal kava ceremony often accompanies any important events on the island and your visit definitely counts as an important event. Fijians love to share their beloved island with visitors.
What to Bring to Fiji & What to Expect
Leave your ukelele at home. Just bring a warm smile and an open heart – Fiji has everything else. The Meke is a traditional song and dance performance consisting of folk legends, Fijian history and love stories. Everyone who stays at Navutu Stars Resort is greeted with a rousing rendition of this traditional Fijian song and dance.
Usually, one group sits on the ground, playing instruments and singing while another group dances. The Meke songs use bamboo tubes, gongs and percussion sticks – even today these songs incorporate instruments that can be made from natural materials found on Fiji. The Meke can vary from men in traditional warrior outfits dancing with their spears to women in traditional Fijian costumes gently swaying and waving fans.
Showing Respect for Local Culture
When you are visiting a village in Fiji, it is customary to present a gift of yaqona, the kava root. The gift is called a sevu-sevu and costs about $10 for half a kilo. The yaqona comes in a powdered form and will be mixed with water before it’s served. You can present it to the Chief of the village before sitting down and then he, or another elder may touch the sevu-sevu as a sign of acceptance of the token of respect. Then the drinking session will begin, along with the telling of many stories. This is an incredible and unique way to meet Fiji’s locals and get a glimpse of traditional Fijian life. To truly understand Fiji, it never hurts to spend a few hours relaxing and unwinding with the people who call the islands home.
Navutu Dreams Resort staff are always happy to accommodate these village-oriented excursions and get-togethers. From traditional song and dance to kava ceremonies, snorkeling and coral gardening, discovering Fiji is a unique experience for everyone. The more you know before you arrive in paradise, the more you’re sure to get out of your holiday in the South Pacific.