Fiji consists of about 300 islands in the South
Pacific, of which about a third are populated. Most people live on Viti
Levu (Great Fiji), the largest island. Another large island, Vanua Levu
(Great Land), lies to the northeast. Together with many smaller islands,
they form a horseshoe around the Koro Sea. The island of Rotuma, which
lies 400 kilometres north of the archipelago, is also part of the nation
Fiji is about midway between Hawaii and Australia. Its nearest neighbours are Tuvalu to the north, Tokelau Island, Wallis Island and Western Samoa to the northeast, Tonga to the southeast, New Caledonia to the southwest, Vanuatu to the west, and the Solomon Islands to the northwest. Auckland, New Zealand, the nearest large city, lies almost 2,000 kilometres directly south.
Most of the larger islands are volcanic and
mountainous. The highest peak is Mount Tomaniivi (1,323 metres) on
Viti Levu. None of the volcanoes are active. The smaller islands
are mostly formed from limestone or coral.
Fiji has a mild, tropical, maritime climate. During the rainy season (November to April), which is Fiji's summer, the temperature can reach 30°C. During the dry season (May to October), it drops to 18°C. On the mountainous islands, trade winds cause variations in climate and vegetation. The eastern side of each island receives more rain, and tropical rainforests thrive. On the dry and sunny western side, grasslands with pandanus and casuarina trees are common.
Fiji has few native land mammals-six species of bats
and one type of rat. The mongoose, brought from India to control rats on
sugar plantations, is now the most common wild animal. Of Fiji's nearly
100 species of birds, 23 are native, including several parrot species.
However, the mynah and the bulbul, two aggressive imported species,
have driven native birds deep into the forests.
Fiji has many beautiful tropical flowers. Valuable native hardwood trees (dakua and yaka) grow in the rainforests. In Fiji's coral reefs, particularly the Great Astrolabe Reef off Kadavu, hundreds of species of exotic fish abound.
Environmental problems threaten some of Fiji's natural resources. The ocean near Suva and other cities has become polluted. Poor logging and agricultural practices have caused erosion. The government has begun to safeguard parts of Fiji. Bouma National Heritage Park, for example, protects 80% of the island of Taveuni.