Fiji is an island group in the South Pacific located northeast of New Zealand, near the International Date Line. A long-time British Colony, Fiji has enjoyed independence since 1970. Captain Bligh once found refuge here after the "Mutiny on the Bounty."
With the most landmass in all of Polynesia, Fiji boasts 333 islands, but only about 100 are actually inhabited. The islands are mainly volcanic, with some smaller islands being made up from coral atolls and reefs. Viti Levu is the biggest island, with an interior highland plateau mostly over 1000 feet in elevation, and villages and towns scattered around its coastline.
Suva is the capitol of Fiji, and the largest city with a population of several hundred thousand. Vanua Levu is the second-largest island, and is mainly residential, filled with native villagers living in a tribal society.
The islands were once covered with lush virgin rainforest, but this has been heavily logged over the years. Almost all the native sandalwood trees are long gone, and mahogany is the next victim of the lumberjacks. You'll see the logging trucks as you drive around Viti Levu. In the drier areas of the islands, people have been growing sugar cane for decades, and the destruction of the native flora and fauna continues. There are very few pockets of original rainforest left, but there is an active campaign to reforest the island with pine trees.
It is wonderful to see the many thousands of beautiful fern trees of Fiji thriving. They seem to be growing everywhere, and not just being used as the timbers in the traditional Bure huts the Fijians build.
Bats are the only native mammals to the islands, and the mongeese you see were imported from India in a vain attempt to control the snake population on the islands. Otherwise, Fiji is known for the thousands of bird varieties that are to be found here. The best islands for birdwatching are Taveuni, Kadavu and Vanua Levu. Species to look for are Fiji petrels, peregrine falcons, silktail and long-legged warblers, and of course the many parrots of the islands.
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