Capital | Nuku ’Alofa
Population | 105,916 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 748 SQ KM
Official Language | Tongan, English
Holidays | National Day, 4 November (1875)
Currency | Pa'anga (TOP)
Time Zone | UTC +13
Best Time to Visit | May to October is the best time to visit as summer (November to April) is the hurricane season
Connecting with the Culture | Gorging yourself at a Tongan feast, especially on Tongatapu and Vava’u. Dodging the spray at the Mapu’a ‘a Vaca Blowholes, Tongatapu- a 5km stretch of geyser-like blowholes with fountains of seawater up to 30m high. Stumbling through unexplored tropical rainforest and limestone caves on ‘Eua. Spotting breeding humpback whales who call the ocean around Ha’apai and Vava’u their boudoir. Climbing eerie, uninhabited (but still active) volcanoes that rise out of the ocean on Tofua and Kao.
Read | Tonga Islands: William Mariner’s Account by Dr John Martin, published in 1817 and still one of the best books on pre-Christian Tonga.
Listen | to Dance Music of Tonga- Malie! Beautiful, a sampler of various artists of traditional music.
Watch | The Other Side of Heaven, a Disney story of a 1950’s missionary preaching in Tonga.
Eat | a genuine Tongan feast served in an umu (underground oven), taro and sweet potato, roasted suckling pig, chicken, corned beef, fish and shellfish.
Drink | kava (Piper methysticum), the all purpose forget-your-cares-and-stare-at-the-sunset tipple, that’s widely available.
In a Word | Malo e lelei (Hello)
Characteristics | Friendly indigenous people; migrated humpback whales; kings and queens ruling an island paradise; tapa adorning the walls of every building ; packed churches on Sunday.
Surprises | Despite the sackloads of tourist dollars whale-watching brings in, Tonga has a prominent whaling lobby that believes hunting the sea mammals is a long-honoured part of Tongan culture. The king, however, outlawed whaling in the 1970’s.
NEWS ABOUT TONGA:
Tonga King George Tupou V dies in Hong Kong, age 63
(3.16.12) - Tonga's King George Tupou V, who gave up most of his powers to bring a more democratic government to his Pacific island nation, died Sunday at a Hong Kong hospital. He was 63. (READ MORE from CTVNews)