Fiji is an archipelago of more than 332 islands, of which 110 are permanently inhabited, and more than 500 islets, amounting to a total land area of about 18,300 square kilometres. The two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for 87% of the population of almost 860,000. The capital and largest city, Suva, is on Viti Levu. About three-quarters of Fijians live on Viti Levu's coasts, either in Suva or in smaller urban centres like Nadi (tourism) or Lautoka (sugar cane industry).

Viti Levu's interior is sparsely inhabited due to its terrain. The majority of Fiji's islands were formed through volcanic activity starting around 150 million years ago. Today, some geothermal activity still occurs on the islands of Vanua Levu and Taveuni. Fiji has been inhabited since the second millennium BC. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch and the British explored Fiji,which was a Crown Colony until 1970, this administration lasting almost a century.

The population of Fiji is mostly made up of native Fijians, who are Melanesians (54.3%), although many also have Polynesian ancestry, and Indo-Fijians (38.1%), descendants of Indian contract labourers brought to the islands by the British colonial powers in the 19th century. The percentage of the population of Indo-Fijian descent has declined significantly over the last two decades due to migration

A republic was declared in 1987, following a series of coups d'état. In a coup in 2006, Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power. When the High Court ruled in 2009 that the military leadership was unlawful, President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, whom the military had retained as the nominal Head of State, formally abrogated the Constitution and reappointed Bainimarama. Later in 2009, Iloilo was replaced as President by Ratu Epeli Nailatikau. After years of delays, a democratic election was held on 17 September 2014. Bainimarama's FijiFirst party won with 59.2% of the vote, and the election was deemed credible by international observers. And Fiji's suspension from The Commonwealth was lifted


Sea Winds Villas is where were stayed on Fiji. We really enjoyed our six night stay here. The small boutique hotel has only been open less than a year, but it's standards in both accommodation and service are high

It is set ten minutes walk from the beach, so you are not right on the beach, but you get the benefit of a superb view over the coast from the hotel. It has a very pleasant pool and plenty of sun beds, so it did not worry us that there was not a direct beach access. There was a lot of wind while we were there - they do call it Sea Winds - but it was very breezy a lot of the time

We were pleasantly surprised to find they had a restaurant, open every day except Sunday. It had not been mentioned on their web site, but I think Beverly is updating the site

For things to do, we took a day trip into Suva with our rented car. A half day to Sigatoka and up the Central Valley road. And a half day to the Sand Dunes National Park. With various other short trips and walks. TripAdvisor list of things to do on Fiji

As well as the hotel restaurant there are a number of other local restaurants, but they require using a car. Given Fiji roads are pretty dark at night, we opted to eat out some days at lunch time, and cook ourselves something light in the kitchenette in the villa - there is a small supermarket five minutes away to get ingredients

The Australian owner, Beverly, and the Fijian staff are helpful and friendly, and will enhance your stay here

The only real problem we had was finding the hotel. We rented a car at Nadi airport, and discovered that the map downloaded from the hotel web site was not very accurate, and the sign off the main road was so small as to be invisible, That it took us ages to find the hotel. I think Beverly has put right the web site, and has commissioned a new sign for the road, so hopefully future guests will find it without difficulty

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Our room overlooked the sea and we had a private verandah, as well as direct access to the pool. The boys liked their stay here as well.

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They will also put on a traditional Fijian Lomo, food baked in an underground oven, if enough people request it. In addition to the food there is local dancing, and a cava drinking ceremony. We ate in their restaurant a couple of nights.

And had a meal plus a take away from Eco Cafe Votua Village Pizzas. It is a small bar/ restaurant by the sea, they do not serve alcohol. You don't get the view of the sea after dark, and it is very, very dark, with the drive back being a bit dicey with pedestrians walking along the edge of the road, and very difficult to see them. The food is more Italian (one of the owners is Italian) than Fijian. Their pizzas are very good. We had one there and had another as a takeaway

They do not have a liquor license so you can BYO at a modest cost, I think it is 1$ Fiji for beer and 5$ Fiji for a bottle of wine As we did not know of the lack of liquor beforehand, their fresh fruit juices are to be commended. The service was more Fijian than Italian

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We took a day trip to Sigatoka and then on up the valley. The town itself is just a small town with a couple of department stores and a large number of small souvenir shops. Mainly run by Indians, they tend to push "Can I help you" a little too far. Be that as it might, Chris bought a new bikini, the colours of which are still running two months later. The town has the above bridge that used to carry one of the sugar railways, but half was washed away by floods, and stands as a forlorn monument to a disappearing sugar industry. The Sigatoka Valley is known for its high production of vegetables, and thus referred to as Fiji's "Salad Bowl".

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The recently restored Grand Pacific Hotel is now one of the sights of Suva. A smart, white colonial building right on the harbour side in Suva. You enter via an impressive reception area, and there is a choice of eating venues within the hotel. We opted to take lunch in the pool area, and had a table and sun umbrella by the seafront. A perfect setting, in memorable surroundings. The food, we had tapas, was not gourmet. It was overlooked. But the beer was cold and remarkably reasonably priced. Chris ordered one of their ice cream desserts, but was told half an hour later that the kitchen said it was not available

The service was ""Fijian". In other words a bit slow and laid back. That is the rub, that is why many reviews of the restaurant on Tripadvisor complain about the service. Travelers are used to higher standards, and fail to realize that this is Fiji, and that the staff are, well, Fijian. Overall we had a memorable lunch, because of the setting. I would also add that I thought it was very reasonably priced, given the location.

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The Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park is located at the mouth of the Sigatoka River. They are approximately 3 km West of the town of Sigatoka. They are the product of erosion in the coastal hinterland and coastal dune forming processes. The extensive dune system covers an area of 650 hectares and comprises a series of parabolic sand dunes of various ages and activities. The dunes range from around 20-60m tall. We climbed the big one - albeit with some difficulty

The dunes have been forming over thousands of years and archaeological excavations here have uncovered pottery more than 2600 years old, as well as one of the largest burial sites in the Pacific. Evidence of the past is clearly visible throughout the dune system as pottery scatters, stone tools, human remains and other archaeological relics continue to be uncovered by natural processes.

The dunes were designated Fiji's first National Park in July 1989 and consequently came under the management of the National Trust of Fiji Islands.The dunes are now an important educational and recreational point for locals and tourists.

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And we wandered locally. The Coral Coast is the main tourist area on the mainland of Fiji (there are other resorts on the smaller off-shore islands) , but driving around one hardly notices the larger hotels, of which there are not more than about ten over a 100 km stretch of coast. The result is that there is no infrastructure around the hotels of shops or restaurants. In fact we only found a couple of local restaurants, and no shops outside the towns

On to the Silver Explorer and its next stop at Levuka

South Seas Holiday