Suva, on the southeast edge of Viti Levu, is Fiji’s capital city, chief port and tourist centre. It is surrounded by a deep water harbour and rainforest.
Founded by native Fijians, the first Europeans arrived in Suva in the 1860s. Fiji was ceded to Britain in the mid-1870s and Suva, with its strategically located port, was selected as colonial capital in 1882. The population was swelled by Indian immigrants brought in by the British to work on sugar plantations. Racial tensions became strained between the Europeans, Fijians and Indians.
Suva was an Allied air and naval base during World War II and in 1952 it won city status. In 1970 it became capital of newly independent Fiji. Racial tensions sporadically erupted, as in 2000 when businessman George Speight led an unsuccessful coup which attempted to exclude Indians from government.
Suva’s population is a mix of Fijian, Hindi and English. The port is a major staging post for trans-Pacific traffic. The city is well served by road and air connections, including Nadi international airport 200 km away. The economy relies on its free port activities and the tourist industry. Also important are soap and cigarette making, food processing and brewing. The University of the South Pacific was founded here in 1968.
Places of Interest
Pacific Harbour, a short distance from Suva’s centre, is the focus of much tourist activity. Within the city, major attractions include: the Fiji Museum, with historical and ethnological collections; several churches, the best known of which is the Catholic Cathedral; Parliament and Government House (home of the president); the Suva Municipal Market (renowned for its fruit, vegetables and seafood); the tropical Thurston Gardens; and the traditional handicraft centre. Also popular is Orchid Island, close to the city centre, with a large array of indigenous flora and fauna.