Tonga, officially Kingdom of Tonga is an island nation in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. 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.
The islands are famous for picturesque sandy beaches volcanic mountains and coral reefs. Let’s try to know the country a little better.
Interesting facts about Tonga
1. Tonga is an archipelago of 169 islands of which only 36 are inhabited. This island nation is scattered over a vast area of ocean about 700,000 square kilometers.
2. Tonga is the only Pacific country which was never colonised.
3. Tonga is the home of the humpback whales. They migrate every year to the warm waters of Tonga to breed, give birth and raise their young before returning to the Antarctic. They are one of the reasons why people flock to this island nation.
4. Sunday is a day of rest in Tonga. I know you are wondering how’s that any different from here. But it is. Most of Tonga shuts down on Sunday in favour of family, church, resting and eating. Conducting any kind of business is banned. You are even prohibited to play sports, exercise or even swim. It is a day of rest and that’s what you should do.
5. British explorer James Cook visited Tonga in 1773. The local people threw a lavish feast in his honour and Cook was so impressed with the hospitality that he nicknamed it the “Friendly Islands”. Little did he know that the village chief had planned to capture his ship and other belongings but due to some confusion their plan didn’t pan out and they decided to enjoy the feast with others. However the name “Friendly Islands” is still being used by the tourism board to attract the outside world.
6. There is a disappearing island in Tonga. In 1867, a new coral reef was found which later grew to 50 m in height and 2 km in length. This island was called Fonuafo’ou which means “New Island”. In 1894, the island went missing but reappeared again two years later before disappearing again. It reemerged in 1927 then disappeared again by 1949. It feels like the island loves playing hide and seek. Currently it in the hiding phase.
7. Niuafo’ou is a tiny island in the kingdom of Tonga. Many many years ago, the island did not have any postal service so to receive any mails/supplies from outside world the people came up with a unique idea. A strong swimmer would swim out to ships that would throw mail stuffed in a biscuit tin for the swimmer to retrieve. For outward mail, the swimmer would tie the tin box to the end of a long stick to pass to the ships’ crew. Soon the island was known as “Tin Can Island”. This ritual stopped when the swimmer was attacked by a shark.
8. In 1963, Tonga issued the world’s first self adhesive stamps. Many of the stamps were so big that they could not be placed in a normal mailing envelope. Still, the unusual postage stamp is legendary among stamp collectors even today.
9. Tonga is the second most obese country in the world. Ninety per cent of the population of Tonga is overweight; 70 per cent of the people are obese. Up to 40% of the population is thought to have type 2 diabetes and life expectancy is falling. One of the main causes is the cheap fatty meat which is imported mainly from New Zealand. The traditional Tongan diet is healthy and constitutes fish, coconuts, and root vegetables. In the 20th century, US started sending turkey tails while New Zealand was sending mutton flaps to the islands. Both contained a lot of fat (and were not considered suitable for consumption in US and NZ, hence dumped here) and both were extremely cheap. The diet of people shifted and today it has affected majority of the population.
11. In Tonga, if a woman has only sons, she would raise at least one of them as a daughter to help out with chores such as cooking and cleaning. These boys are called fakaleiti. Faka means “in the manner of” or “like” and leiti means “lady”. Unlike most of the countries, there is no stigma attached to it and they mix easily with the society. Fakaleiti can also be a lifestyle choice today.
Trip leader Sakshi’s Recommendations if you are visiting Tonga:
Swim with the humpback whales in Tongatapu. Yes you can get a rare chance to swim with these magnificent creatures. Plan your trip between July and October when they migrate to Tonga.
Visit Mapu a Vaea to witness a majestic natural wonder. It is a collection of natural blow holes on the island of Tongatapu. When waves crash into the reef, natural channels in the volcanic rock allow water to forcefully blow through up to 30m in the air.
Spend a day relaxing at Ha’atafu Beach. One of the prettiest beches, it is located on the main island of Tongapatu. Start your holiday with a glass of margarita while lazing on the beach.
Visa Process: Check https://onhisowntrip.com/visa-tonga/ for details