Tonga is an island country located in the southern Pacific Ocean.
The official name of the country is the Kingdom of Tonga.
Its closest neighbours are Fiji and Wallis and Futuna (France) to the northwest, Samoa to the northeast, Niue to the east, Kermadec (part of New Zealand) to the southwest, and New Caledonia (France) and Vanuatu to the farther west.
Tonga is located about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand.
Tonga has two official languages: Tongan and English.
As of 1 January 2017, the population of Tonga was estimated to be 106,776 people.
It is the 175th largest country in the world in terms of area with 748 square kilometers (289 square miles).
Tonga is scattered over a vast area of ocean about 700,000 square kilometers (270,000 square miles).
Tonga is an archipelago of 169 islands of which 36 are inhabited.
The islands are divided into three main groups – Vava’u, Ha’apai, and Tongatapu.
Nukuʻalofa is the capital and the largest city in Tonga. It is located on the north coast of the island of Tongatapu. The city is the economic hub of the country.
Geologically the Tongan islands are of two types: most have a limestone base formed from uplifted coral formations; others consist of limestone overlaying a volcanic base.
Tonga’s highest point is unnamed location on Kao Island, in the Ha’apai group, at an altitude of
1,033 meters (3,389 feet).
The coastline of the islands total 419 kilometers (260 miles) in length.
Tonga has many white and golden sandy beaches and magnificent swimming, diving, and snorkeling locations.
The Mapu a Vaea or “Whistle of the Noble” are natural blowholes on the island of Tongatapu in the village of Houma in the Kingdom of Tonga. When waves crash into the reef, natural channels in the volcanic rock allow water to forcefully blow through and create a plume-like effect.
Located in Haveluliku, on the Eastern side of Tongatapu, ‘Anahulu Cave is made up of a network of large limestone caverns, as well as Tongatapu’s only freshwater pools. ‘Anahulu Cave is approximately 400 meters (1,300 feet) long and has freshwater pools and the biggest pool is the most popular bathing area.
Haʻamonga ʻa Maui (Burden of Maui) is a stone trilithon located in Tonga, on the north of the island of Tongatapu, near the village of Niutōua, in Heketā. It was built at the beginning of the 13th century under the 11th Tuʻi Tonga Tuʻitātui (king strike the knee), most likely as a gateway to his royal compound Heketā.
The Royal Palace of the Kingdom of Tonga is located in the northwest of the capital, Nukuʻalofa, close to the Pacific Ocean. The wooden Palace, which was built in 1867, is the official residence of the King of Tonga. Although the Palace is not open to the public, it is easily visible from the waterfront.
The Kingdom of Tonga’s history stretches back over 3000 years, beginning with the migration of the Lapita people from the mainland and islands of Southeast Asia.
The Tongan people first encountered Europeans in 1616 when the Dutch vessel Eendracht, captained by Willem Schouten, made a short visit to trade.
In 1845, the ambitious young warrior, strategist, and orator Tāufaʻāhau [photo below] united Tonga into a kingdom. He held the chiefly title of Tuʻi Kanokupolu, but had been baptised by Methodist missionaries with the name Siaosi (“George”) in 1831.
In 1875, with the help of missionary Shirley Baker, he declared Tonga a constitutional monarchy, at which time he emancipated the serfs, enshrined a code of law, land tenure, and freedom of the press, and limited the power of the chiefs.
The coat of arms of Tonga was designed in 1875 with the creation of the constitution.
Tonga became a British protected state under a Treaty of Friendship on May 18, 1900, when European settlers and rival Tongan chiefs tried to oust the second king.
Tonga joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1970, jettisoning the protectorate status in 1970, but still retaining its unique position as the only monarchy in Polynesia.
Tonga’s economy is characterised by a large non-monetary sector and a heavy dependence on remittances from the half of the country’s population who live abroad (chiefly in Australia, New Zealand and the United States).
In Tonga, agriculture and forestry (together with fisheries) provide the majority of employment, foreign exchange earnings and food.
The climate is tropical with a distinct warm period (December–April), during which the temperatures rise above 32 °C (89.6 °F), and a cooler period (May–November), with temperatures rarely rising above 27 °C (80.6 °F).
In Tonga, dating back to Tongan legend, flying bats are considered sacred and are the property of the monarchy. Thus they are protected and can not be harmed or hunted. As a result, flying fox bats have thrived in many of the islands of Tonga.
Migrating humpback whales bear their young and breed in Tongan waters from June to November.
The mutiny on the British ship Bounty occurred in Tongan waters in 1789.
Tonga’s postage stamps, which feature colourful and often unusual designs (including heart-shaped and banana-shaped stamps), are popular with philatelists around the world.
Rugby is the national sport, and the national team (ʻIkale Tahi, or Sea Eagles) has performed quite well on the international stage.