Perched on the east of the International Date Line, the “Friendly Islands” of Tonga, as this cluster of islands is popularly nicknamed, is a sprawling archipelago of 176 islands, huddled close together on the South Pacific Ocean, east of the Fiji Islands. A land of high cliffs, excellent beaches, active volcanic craters and coral atolls, Tonga is spread across an area of 7,700 sq km. The only Polynesian kingdom to remain impervious to colonial pressures and foreign influences, Tonga resigned itself to British protectorate in the year 1900, only to become one of the Commonwealth Nations in 1970. However, today, it’s political standing largely holds as a constitutional monarchy. Tongan economy is characterized as agricultural, though its economy bets high on non-monetary quarters as well. Some of the chief cash crops of Tonga include coconuts, bananas, vanilla beans, coffee beans and root crops. The kingdom of Tonga is dominated by Polynesian traditions and represents a culture where ancient traditions merge with the latest offerings of contemporary life in a healthy mix. Though little is known about the historical heritage of Tongans, it is debated that Polynesians discovered the island and made it their home at around 500 B.C. while migrating across the Pacific.
Image: Official U.S. Navy Imagery@flickr
Interesting And Fun Facts About Tonga
- The capital of Tonga is Nuku'alofa.
- The people of Tonga are called Polynesian.
- The name of Tonga derives from the word “Tongahahake”, which means “the wind that blows from the Southeast".
- Tonga has only two seasons, summer and winter.
- The kingdom of Tonga is perched just east of the International Date Line.
- The highest point in Tonga is apparently an extinct volcano which is 1,046 m high and is situated on the island of Kao.
- In Tonga, you will barely see men or women skimpily dressed. That is because it is against the law of the land to go around shirtless in Tonga. Even when swimming, the Tongans prefer to stay fully clothed, for legal reasons of course!
- Guns are illegal in Tonga.
- Rugby union is the national sport in Tonga.
- Gambling is a strict no-no in Tonga and you will find no casino or other form of organized gambling in Tonga.
- Tongan women are quite famous as skillful jugglers.
- The Dutch were the first European explorers to visit Tonga in the early seventeenth century.
- Captain James Cook, the famous British navigator, named Tonga the Friendly Islands.
- The Kingdom of Tonga consists of around 176 islands but only 36 of the islands are inhabited.
- Around two-thirds of Tonga's population dwells on the main island of Tongatapu.
- Tonga became a British Protectorate in 1900 and gained independence in the year 1970.
- The Kingdom of Tonga is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
- In Tonga, shaking hands is considered the most appropriate form of greeting.
- Sunday is regarded as a sacred day, an aspect of Tongan life inspired by the hullaballoo concerning the so-called 'Tongan loop'.
- Sunday is considered sacred despite the disruption caused by the Tongan Loop – a phenomenon whereby the International Dateline leaves Saturdays in dispute.
- Rhetoric has always formed a crucial part of Tongan vocabulary and is chock-a-block with proverbs, historical allusions and poetry. Men with excellent oratory skills are touted as "talking chiefs" in Tonga.
- Tonga is a member of the University of the South Pacific in Suva (Fiji) that also has Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Vanuatu as its member nations, besides, of course, Fiji itself.