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Educators Programs in Fiji Islands

Exploring Fiji

Fiji is well-known for having some of the warmest and most friendly people in the world. Fijian society centers around sharing, so this extends to their welcoming of guests. Being immersed in this culture is among the most memorable parts of traveling to Fiji.

On top of this, the stunning scenery naturally washes away worries. White sand beaches, turquoise waters, and rolling hills offer many opportunities for exploration. To prepare for the journey, here are some details about the country.

Country Basics

The Fiji Islands are in the South Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and New Zealand, though the nation is not particularly close to either of them. Fiji’s main island is more than 1000 miles from New Zealand and about 3000 miles from Hawaii.

There are more than 330 islands in the archipelago. 106 are officially occupied. Across these islands, there is a population of about 900,000 people. About 70% of them live on Viti Levu, which is the largest island and includes the capital city Suva. The nation also includes more than 500 islets.


Fiji has three official languages: English, Fijian, & Fiji Hindi. The Fijian language has nearly 200 different dialects. The Fiji Hindi language began after Indians were brought to Fiji as indentured servants during British colonial rule.

Since English is an official language, it’s easier for English speakers to navigate around the country. Still, it’s good to know some Fijian words and phrases before traveling. Here are some that may help:

  • Hello: Bula
  • How are you? Sa vakacava? Good: Sa donu
  • Good morning: Yandra; Good night: Moce
  • Welcome: Vinaka; Goodbye: Moce
  • Please: Kerekere; Thank you: Vinaka
  • Excuse me: Tilo (pronounced chi-lo)
  • Sorry: Vosoti au
  • What is your name? O cei nayacamu? My name is ___. Na yacaqu o __.
  • Where are you from? O lako mai vei? I am from ___. O au mai ___.
  • Do you speak English? O iko vosa vavalagi?
  • I don’t understand. Ao senga ni kila.
  • Where is ___? Sai vei o ___?
  • How much is it? E vica na?


June, July and August are winter months in Fiji, but it’s still rather warm. June also is one of the months with the most sunshine. Here are the average weather conditions you may expect in Fiji:

June July August
High Temperature 80.6 F 78.8 F 78.8 F
Low Temperature 69.8 F 68 F 68 F
Average Daylight 11 hrs. 4 minutes 11 hrs. 10 minutes 11 hrs. 31 minutes
Average Rainfall 6.69 inches 4.92 inches 8.31 inches
Monthly Rainy Days 18 days 19 days 19 days

Food & Drink

Aside from kava, other foods and drink you may have in Fiji are:

  • Lovo – meats, fish, and vegetables cooked underground in banana leaves (lovo pit)
  • Rourou – a dish made of taro leaves
  • Tavioka – a baked dish made of tapioca and mashed bananas
  • Duruka – asparagus-like vegetable
  • Palusami – fish or pork steamed with coconut milk and taro leaves
  • Black tea and crackers during afternoon tea time


The national currency is the Fijian dollar (FJD). The symbol FJ$ is used to distinguish it from the U.S. Dollar. Like the U.S. currency, the Fijian dollar is divided into 100 cents. One Fijian dollar is worth about 46 U.S. cents.

Coins come in the following denominations: 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 dollar, 2 dollars. Notes are in these denominations: 5 dollars, 10 dollars, 20 dollars, 50 dollars, 100 dollars

Credit cards are accepted at many locations, but we recommend having cash for souvenirs, particularly in remote locations. Since Fiji is a communal culture, tipping is not expected.

Social Norms

While in Fiji, you’ll be greeted with warm hospitality. Fijians have a strong respect for community and a culture that’s tied to the land and sea. Here are some social norms to keep in mind while traveling:

  • Take off your shoes and cover your knees and shoulders while in a local household. You will given a “sulu,” which is a traditional Fijian sarong that you’ll wear for some gatherings.
  • Follow the rules of the village.
  • Don’t wear a hat or put anything else on your head like sunglasses. Only village chiefs can wear hats.
  • Do not touch people’s heads.
  • Wear long, loose fitting shorts during service (not leggings).
  • Keep in mind that Fijians commonly raise their eyebrows for a “yes” rather than nodding.

When guests enter a Fijian village, they’re expected to bring a small gift. This is often kava, which is a national drink made from a pepper plant. Rustic Pathways students don’t need to worry about this social norm, but awareness of it helps.

The students will be welcomed with a traditional kava ceremony. For this event everyone sits on the floor in a circle. Participants will clap at certain moments during the ceremony, which will be explained.

Keep in mind when you receive the kava you’re expected to drink the whole serving and not just sip it. If you want a smaller serving, ask the leader for “low tide.”

Whenever in doubt while in Fiji, just say “Bula!” and all will be well.


There are a variety of religions practiced in Fiji. Here is the estimated breakdown based on a 2007 census: Protestant 45%, Hindu 27.9%, other Christian 10.4%, Roman Catholic 9.1%, Muslim 6.3%, Sikh 0.3%

Ethnic Groups

Much of the population is descended from the islands’ original settlers. Others are Indo-Fijians who trace their ancestry to various South Asian regions. Most Indo-Fijians have an ancestor from India. Indians first came to Fiji in the late 1800s as indentured servants, when Fiji was under British colonial rule. They predominantly worked in the sugarcane sector.

The breakdown of the population as of 2007 was: iTaukei (Fijian) 56.8% (predominantly Melanesian with a Polynesian admixture), Indo-Fijian 37.5%, Rotuman 1.2%, other 4.5% (European, other Pacific Islanders, Chinese)

Other Fun Facts About Fiji

There are several stories about how Fijians ended up in the islands. In one, Fijians trace back their arrival to the snake god Degei. Storytellers say Degei went on an ocean journey to Lautoka, Fiji, where he established the first human settlement.

Today it’s said the snake god lives in a cave. Some Fijians believe they pass through that cave when they die so that Dejei can judge them. Another story credits Chief Lutunasobasoba. Storytellers say he came to the islands by canoe in 1500 B.C. Regardless, eventually people from all over Polynesia came to Fiji.

Here are other tidbits about the nation:

  • It’s said the name Fiji was born after Captain Cook misheard the Tongans name for islands, which was Viti.
  • The first European settlements were established in the early 1800s, and Fiji was a colony of Britain until 1970.
  • After some tumultuous years, Fiji held free elections in 2014, prompting Australia and New Zealand to restore full diplomatic ties. The voter turnout for that election was 80 percent.
  • Tourism is the primary industry in Fiji, followed by agriculture.
  • About 24% of the people in Fiji live in poverty.
  • Fiji is home to the third-largest reef system in the world. There are over 1,000 reefs covering an estimated 10,000 square kilometers throughout the islands. These reefs are home to more than 1,200 varieties of fish.
  • About 87 per cent of Fijian land is communal land, owned by indigenous Fijians and held in a statutory trust by the iTaukei Land Trust Board.
  • Fiji was once known as the Cannibal Isles. Archaeological evidence suggests that cannibalism dates back more than 2,500 years in Fiji. Locals believed that consuming an enemy allowed you to gain their knowledge. The practice stopped when Christianity spread. The last known act occurred in 1867, when Methodist missionary Reverend Thomas Baker and six Fijian teachers were killed.
  • The popular bottled water, “Fiji Water” is in fact bottled in Fiji.
  • In Fiji, palm trees are considered dangerous. There’s a saying that a coconut has eyes and spies for someone to fall on.
  • Fiji’s rugby team won gold in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
  • The practice of walking on hot stones began in Fiji. Traditional firewalkers believe a spirit god trapped in an eel gave warriors the power to walk without being burned. The eel granted the power in exchange for freedom.
  • Fiji is on the International Date Line, which means it’s one of the first places in the world to usher in a new day. There’s a spot on Taveuni Island where a person can stand with one foot in the current day and one foot in the day before.

Rustic Pathways in Fiji

Island Adventure: Why Students Thrive During the Big Fiji Explorer Program

The Big Fiji Explorer program includes action-packed activities on the main island of Viti Levu and on other exotic islands in the region.

Service Accomplishments in Fiji: How Local Communities Benefited from Student Projects
Students provided hundreds of hours of service in Fiji during the summer of 2022, making a big impact in the local community.

Countdown to Travel – Fiji

The student programs in Fiji provide plenty of time for service, beach relaxation, and cultural immersion. Here are some highlights!

A to Z: Everything You Need to Know About Traveling to Fiji
From archipelago to zip lining, a brief overview of everything Fiji!

5 Innovative Ideas Rustic Students Have Pitched to Combat Climate Change Problems in Fiji

Students from 21 countries participating in Rustic and Stanford’s Global Youth Climate Summit set out to find solutions to environmental problems in Fiji after an eye-opening presentation.

A Mom Writes About Her Son’s First International Service Trip
Read what one mother wrote about her son’s travels abroad.

Fiji Captured on Camera
Beautiful photos and stories of our time in Fiji to remind us of the happiness and kindness the communities of Fiji share with our students and the beauty of the country that still stands strong after Cyclone Winston in 2016 and Cyclone Harold in 2020.

6 Things You Can Learn From The Happiest Place On Earth
93 percent of Fijians answered they were happy or very happy in a Gallup Poll. Find out their secret here!


How to Make Kokonda (Fijian Ceviche)
Learn how to make Kokoda – a traditional Fijian dish made from freshly caught local fish.

The Top 17 Most Popular Foods That You Must Try in Fiji
Traditional Fiji food is the ultimate comfort food, passed down from generation to generation. It features the best of the local and seasonal ingredients of the region. Some of the popular ingredients in Fijian food is coconut, cassava, sea grapes, fresh local fish, breadfruit, taro and more.


Spotify Fijian Music Playlist
Traditional Songs and Meke’s of Fiji.

Bula Song with Rustic Pathways Staff
Sing along to the famous Bula Song with our local Rustic Pathways Staff.

History and Environment

How Fiji is Affected by Climate Change
Fiji—like its neighbors across the South Pacific—remains one of the smallest contributors to global carbon emissions, yet faces some of the most devastating consequences of extreme weather patterns.

Kava in the Blood: A Personal & Political Memoir from the Heart of Fiji
Kava in the Blood is an intriguing story of hurricanes, haunted houses and copious kava consumption, set within the dramatic landscapes and vibrant cultures of the Fiji Islands.

Fiji and the Sustainable Development Goals
Fiji has partnered with United Nations efforts to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals.


The Fiji Experience
An inside look at Rustic Pathways programs in the Fiji Islands. Escape to the Fiji Islands where you can swim in the turquoise waters, work with locals on meaningful service projects, teach English to schoolchildren, conduct marine conservation, and enjoy the laid back, island life.

Fiji’s 7s Gold Medal Homecoming
Fijians celebrate the homecoming of Fiji’s first Olympic Gold for Rugby 7s.