Lautoka, Fiji City Info
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Sparkling white sand beaches, blue skies, coral reefs resplendent with marine life, and total relaxation in a lush, tropical setting.  These are the basic elements of a vacation in the islands of Fiji.  Fiji is very much untouched by the outside world and, in places; life has changed very little for centuries. About 90% of Fijians still live in villages in the countryside and the power of the vanua (one’s land and family ties) is still the most important cultural force.  Village communities own land in common through extended family units known as Matagli. Everything in the village is shared, and individual ownership is not understood or practiced.  Each village has a chief who is governed by a higher chief. 


By contrast, Fiji's capital, city, Suva, is the largest city in Melanesia and, after Auckland and Honolulu, the largest in the Pacific region. Suva is a cosmopolitan port city with a vibrant multi-cultural mix and many residents from other Pacific islands, including students at the University of the South Pacific. 


Suva is the only real urban centre in Fiji and is home to some interesting British colonial architecture. (Fiji was a British Crown colony from 1874-1970).  Suva's attractions include colorful markets, the Thurston Botanical Gardens, the  Fiji Museum, the Presidential Palace, and Parliament.


The other deep water port in Fiji is the city of Lautoka. Lautoka is bordered by the blue Pacific Ocean on the western side and green gold sugar cane together with forests of pine trees on the other sides.  Laukota  is an important hub for Fiji's sugar cane and timber industries and is a jumping off point for the resorts on islands in the Yasawa group where the best beaches can be found.


Spectacular views and historical sites can be found in Viti Levu's largest native rainforest just 30 minutes from Lautoka.  Viti Levu at 4052 square miles, and Vanua Levu at 2160 square miles are the largest of the islands. Suva, the country's capital is on the south-western coast of Viti Levu. The islands of Taveuni and Kadavu are also substantial in size, but the rest of the country is made up of small islands divided into the Lomaiviti, Lau, Moala, Yasawa, Mamanuca and Rotuma groups. Many of these islands are relatively untouched, and there are many beautiful reefs, lagoons, harbors, as well as natural vegetation.


Visitors can explore the ruins of a fascinating pre-European hill used as a battle fortification, or wander through a colonial town that has changed little in over 150 years.  It is as if time stands still or no longer matters. 


The Fiji islands are situated in the South Pacific, midway between Melanesia (Solomons, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea) and Polynesia (Tonga, Samoa, the Cooks and French Polynesia). They are south of the equator, just north of the Tropic of Capricorn and west of the International Dateline. About 300 islands make up the nation.


Thirty minutes from Lautoka, Abaca is a trekkers paradise with a wide range of trails set in a landscape of black volcanic mountains, green cloud forest and yellow grasslands. Abaca has barbecue facilities; swimming holes, a 12-bed lodge, and authentic handicrafts.  Tours with commentaries on the history and culture of the area are available. Rock climbers can make arrangements to tackle the many different cliff faces only a short distance from the lodge.


There are about 100 bird species, 23 of which are native. Sea life is abundant and varied, and many species of coral, sponges, tropical reef fish, rays, sharks, dolphins and whales call the Fijian waters home.


Most travelers go to Fiji with plans to do some swimming, snorkeling or diving, and Fiji offers these as well as some excellent surfing, river rafting, wind surfing and sailing. There are fringing reefs throughout the islands for the best in  diving and snorkeling. The Mamanucas have some dedicated surfing resorts and good waves but you need a boat to get to the offshore reefs where they break. There are also a few good breaks off Viti Levu including those near Sigatoka and the Suva lighthouse, and off Yanuca island.


On dry land you can enjoy cycling, trekking and horseback riding, or do some bird-watching and exploring of archaeological sites. Fiji is well equipped for tourists, and there are facilities everywhere offering equipment for hire, day tours and courses.


Dance is still strong in Fiji and the narrative meke performances rest on strong oral traditions. Dances are passed down from generation to generation, and in their strict forms the dancers' bodies are said to take on spirits of the netherworld. Mekes accompanied special events like births, deaths, calls to war, marriages and property exchanges. At times of war men would perform cibis with spears and clubs, while women performed deles or wates - dances which sexually humiliated enemy captives. Traditional Indian dances are still taught in Indian communities.


Popular local musical artists include Seru Serevi, Danny Costello, Michelle Rounds, Karuna Gopalan, Laisa Vulakoro, the Freelancers and the Black Roses. Recordings of local music are available in Fijian stores. Music from the so called  'Bollywood' films (Indian melodramas) is popular amongst Fijian Indians, and local bands play Indian songs. At Indian cultural centers performances and lessons are given in traditional Indian music featuring vocal, harmonium, tabla, and sitar ensembles.


Fiji is a land of ancient rituals, such as the yaqona ceremony, which is still enacted as it has been for centuries. Visitors, who are regarded as honored guests, are often welcomed to take part in these solemn occasions. The Fijian culture is based on the well-being of extended families where the interests of the group are always regarded as above those of the individual.  It is easy to become immersed in the beauty and the history that surrounds all who enter this fascinating place.   There is much to learn for those who want to come and experience the real Fiji and to discover first hand its beauty, its culture, and its welcoming people.


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