Suva (soo-va), the heart of Fiji, is home to half of the country’s urban population and, as the largest city in the South Pacific, it is an important regional centre. Swimming in the urban milieu is the influence of every island and background, a vibrant Indo-Fijian community, university students from around the Pacific, Asian sailors on shore leave, and a growing expat community of Australians and New Zealanders.
Suva is on a peninsula about 3km wide by 5km long, with Laucala Bay to the east and Suva Harbour to the west. Most of the peninsula is hilly, apart from the narrow strip of land on the western edge of the city where you’ll find Suva’s main drag, Victoria Pde (which holds many of the city’s restaurants, shops and clubs), as well as the market and wharf.
The suburb of Toorak tumbles up onto the hill east of Suva Municipal Market. Originally Suva’s posh neighbourhood (named after one of Melbourne, Australia’s exclusive suburbs), it has fallen from grandeur but leads ultimately to the desirable residences and embassies of ridge-top Tamanvua.
Downtown is as diverse architecturally as the populace is culturally. A jigsaw of colonial buildings, modern shopping plazas, abundant eateries and a breezy esplanade all form the compact central business district. Small passages transport you to a city somewhere in India with curry houses, sari shops and bric-a-brac traders. Bollywood and Hollywood square off at the local cinema and within the same hour you’re likely to see politicians in traditional sulu sharing a few shells of kava and denim-clad youth heading to the hottest clubs in the country.
Beyond downtown Suva, there is a string of pretty suburbs dribbled along the hills that crowd the capital’s busy port. If Suva is indeed Fiji’s heart, there are signs that it may be sick: the ballooning settlement camps of tin sheds on the city outskirts are proof that when ‘coup-coup land’ misses a beat, the whole country shudders.
On a less serious but equally grey note, clouds tend to hover over Suva, frequently dumping rain on the city (around 300mm each year), which accounts for the lush tropical plants and comparative lack of tourists.