Island Details: Viti Levu

Viti Levu
Number of Islands (approx.)
Island Details
largest island of the Republic of Fiji*
Type of Islands
oceanic, coral*
Surface Area (km²)
Mainly flat coasts and a rugged, mountainous interior of volcanic origin. The island is divided into roughly equal halves by a north-south mountain range. The eastern side of the island experiences high rates of precipitation, while the western side is noticeably drier. The distribution of rainfall is the determining factor in the country’s vegetation. Dense forests and coastal mangrove swamps are found in the east and grasslands, with coconut palms on the coasts, in the west. Large parts of the island’s coastline is naturally protected by coral reefs.*
Highest Elevation (m)
Highest Elevation (name)
Mount Tomanivi*
Isolation Index
Climate Risk Index Rank (1993-2012)
Mean Sea Level Trends (mm/year)
Mean Sea Level (meta)
Time span: 1972-2011; Completeness: 95%; Station ID: 742-012*
Population (total)
Census Year [Population (total)]
Population Density (p/km²)
Census Year [Population Density (p/km²)]
Population Growth (annual %)
Census Year [Population Growth (annual %)]
GDP (per capita in current US$)
Census Year (GDP)
Dominant Economic Sector
agriculture, cocoa, copra, fishing, remittances, timber, tourism*
Census Year (HDI)
dependent (territory of Fiji)
Viti Levu has by far the largest land mass of the 332 islands that make up Fiji. Europeans have known about the islands since the 17th century, but its inhabitants, variously feared as cannibals or glorified as “noble savages”, did not lose their political independence until 1874 to the British crown. After a short period the new colonial power established the same sugar cane economy that had become such a success story on other islands under Crown rule, helping to sweeten the tea that people back home in British towns and cities had grown so very fond of. The warm humid climate of Viti Levu was perfectly suited for growing sugar cane, so large parts of the wooded island were cleared to create huge sugar cane plantations. There was just one small problem: The indigenous population, stripped of its political freedom, refused to work on the white settler’s plantations. As a result, between 1879 and 1916 the British brought around 61,000 Indian contract workers to the island to do the hard labour in the fields. Most of these economic migrants had come to stay, and so Hindu temples soon characterised many coastal settlements. From the mid-20th century onwards the descendants of the Indian workers represented the majority of the population, leading to increasing ethnic tensions with the indigenous population who saw the privileged position they had enjoyed under the British increasing threatened. When the archipelago gained its independence in 1970, a constitution was drawn up that structurally disadvantaged the Indian population, triggering an ongoing phase of political unrest. Between 1987 and 2006 alone four coups took place, and international media repeatedly reported on the scenario of a “failed state”. Exclusion from the British Commonwealth and low world market prices for sugar put huge pressure on the local economy, leading to a mass exodus of the politically suppressed but economically dominant Indian population. Today tourism has replaced sugar as the most important economic factor. Suva on the southeast coast of Viti Levu is Fiji's political and administrative capital as well as the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the southern Pacific Ocean (total urban population 2007: 330,000).*