The Best Fijian Souvenirs for Gifts
That obligatory task of buying gifts for the people that you left in your “real life” back home while you are living the high life on holiday is always a pain! There are only so many magnets and keyrings you can buy people until it looks like you’re not really trying. Luckily, Fiji just happens to be a country where arts and crafts are all part of the culture, which means it’s not hard to find amazing souvenirs in Fiji! Walk into any souvenir shop or handicraft market and you’ll find a wide array of authentically Fijian souvenirs that are ideal for friends and family back home. Find out where are the best places to buy Fijian souvenirs here.
An important note before we get started: many of the souvenirs in Fiji are made from wood. If you are going back to a country with strict biosecurity rules at the airport, such as Australia or New Zealand, it will be worth declaring your Fijian souvenirs just to be safe.
1. Sulu (Sarong)
The traditional Fijian attire can be found in most gift shops and handicraft markets around Fiji and make for the perfect gift. Extremely colourful, typically Fijian and super easy to pack, it is a traveller’s favourite. Fijian sulus are usually made of cotton and some come with a handy coconut knot holder. If you are planning to visit a local village and have not packed any items of clothing to cover your legs, it would be worth purchasing one for yourself on arrival as it is customary to cover your legs when visiting a Fijian village.
2. Carved Mask
Usually depicting local deities or legendary creatures, the Fijian carved masks make for an impressive gift. We love the intricate details unique to each and every mask available. Many masks have colourful highlights painted over the carving but traditionally no painting is added to the mask making careful carving all the more important. Be aware though, some shops have started to sell Chinese versions of those masks that are of much lower quality.
3. Lali Drums
Lali drums are a staple of island life. The huge hollow wooden trunks are used as drums to send a message to an entire village, should it be under attack or upon the visit of a local dignitary. You will see them in use in multiple ceremonies such as the Meke Ceremony or to announce church services during village stays. Ok, ok, ok… You will not be able to carry a whole drum with you back home. But many gift shops sell replicas that are much smaller. Check out more staples of life in Fiji in 10 Best Ways to Experience the Fijian Culture.
4. Tapa Cloth
One of the largest presents that you will be able to carry with you is tapa paintings or tapa “cloth”. The “cloth” refers to the bark of a local tree (the mulberry tree) that has been stripped off careful and laid flat to be used as a canvas by local artists. This makes for some of the most delicate examples of Fijian art as they use natural colourant from forest products to create tapestries of tribal symbols, local fauna or flower patterns. Some parts of Fiji have a different name for those pieces of art called masi cloths.
5. Black Pearls
Although some other South Pacific islands are more famous for their pearl, Fiji has its fair share of the jewels. In fact, the Fijian pearl has such a low production that it is one of the rarest in the world or at least this is what we have been told during our pearl farm tour in Savusavu. Pearls have different grades depending on their colouration and shape and are priced accordingly, but most travellers choose jewellery made with pearls such as earrings or necklaces.
6. Woven Mat or Basket
From large mats allowing the whole family to sit, eat and chat to small baskets for the hunters and gatherers, weaving is a part of both traditional and contemporary Fijian life. As such, craft markets and gift shops are filled with tote bags, small containers, woven items and other great examples of the skills of the local women. Don’t mistake those items for plastic replicas. If you get a traditional Fijian woven item, it will be made with local plants and truly is a piece of Fiji to take home.
7. “That One Island Shirt”
Go on, be “that” guy that wears “that” during every casual Friday to let everybody knows that he has experienced island time and his life values have forever changed since then… Jokes aside, Fijians love bright colours and intricate patterns making their clothing out of the boldest patterns you’ll find. If you ever needed a shirt to showcase your inner joy, this will be the one. Simply browsing through souvenir shops puts a smile on your face!
8. Cannibal Fork
Yet another wooden carved item testament to Fiji’s culture, the cannibal fork is quite a talking piece. Fiji is not ashamed of its colourful history and cannibalism was still common in Fiji only 150 years ago. The four-pronged item is not only carved by the most skilled workmen, but it features incredibly precise shapes. And yes, this is the design of fork that was used by cannibals all over Fiji until cannibalism was outlawed in the mid-19th Century.
9. Kava Kit
If there is only one ceremony that you will get to witness in Fiji it probably will be the kava ceremony. From the presentation of the yaqona roots to the bitter earthy taste of the drink, it sure is memorable! By getting yourself your own kava bowl and yaqona root sachets you will be able to replicate this experience at home and give a taste of Fiji to your friends and family. Make sure to declare the power at the airport to avoid any confusion though. For those looking for something more fitting with everyday Western lives, smaller versions of the kava bowl are available in most gift shops and make for a great “hallway plate” in which to throw your house keys, that pack of buttons that came with that suit that you don’t wear anymore, and that battery that you meant to change two years ago… Learn more about kava ceremonies in our 10 Fascinating Historical Sites in Fiji.
10. “Fiji Time” Memorabilia
“Fiji Time” is something that Fijians are very proud of. It’s their own version of island time and it’s going to be a core part of your trip. So much, in fact, that we took the time to create a whole article dedicated to it just so you come to Fiji prepared! But after a few days, you’ll learn to truly make the most of your time, to live life at a slower pace, and embrace each moment. This is what Fiji time is all about and getting yourself or that very stressed friend some “Fiji time” memorabilia, such as this clock pictured below, is a great way to put things back into perspective when the chaos catches up with you upon returning to work.
11. Traditional Fijian Pottery
The people of the southeast of Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island, and Kadavu Island are world-famous for their expert pottery skills and produce some of the most interesting indigenous pottery items. If you ever get a chance to browse around the local craft markets, those items are well worth seeking. However, shipping will be an issue. Airline companies cannot be trusted with such fragile items so we recommend organising international shipping through a local post shop. It would be a shame to leave Fiji with a superb pottery souvenir and arrive home with an incredibly hard clay puzzle…