Miko the Kitty
: Tonga is an island nation located about 1,250 miles north of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean. Comprised of 176 islands some of which are still inhabited, the Kingdom of Tonga has a long history that dates back to its first colonizers 1500-1000 BCE. Due to the lack of a writing system by Tonga’s first inhabitants, little is known of Tonga before European arrival. The first record of European contact with the Tongan people dates back to 1616 when the Dutch vessel Eendracht made a short visit to the islands to trade.
One of the smallest countries in the world both in terms of area and population, modern-day Tonga has a population of over 100,000, most of which are Polynesians or Europeans. The islands’ immediate neighbors are Fiji to the west and Samoa to the northeast. The predominant languages are Tongan, an Austronesian language, and English.
The main economic activities in Tonga are fishing and agriculture where coconut, copra, banana, vanilla beans and pumpkin crops are at the head of the list. Pumpkins alone account for an important part of the islands’ exports. Moreover tourism also contributes importantly to Tonga’s economy, offering its tourists countless of beaches to enjoy and sporting activities such as sailing, snorkeling and diving.
Tonga has had a long line of monarchs that could well date back to thousands of years according to oral history. This makes of Tonga the only Pacific island nation never to have been formally colonized by a foreign power. As we said before, Tongans had no writing system and the first recorded king in this long-existing line of monarchs is King George Tupou I. He is said to have first abolished serfdom in Vava’u, one of the three island groups in Tonga (Tongatapu and Ha'apai being the other two), back in the 1830s. In 1862 he took another extraordinary step by abolishing serfdom in the rest of Tonga and creating a parliamentary system of government. His newly established system gave every Tongan male, upon reaching the age of 16, the possibility to rent for life at a minimal cost a plot of bush land to grow his food and a village allotment for his home. It is for this reason that the first modern king of Tonga, King George Tupou I, is regarded as Tonga’s national hero.
As of today’s life in Tonga, many people still live lives that follow traditional customs. Traditional garments include the ‘ta’ovala,’ woven waist mats which are worn by both men and women for all formal occasions. Furthermore, earth ovens called ‘Umus’ still serve many Tongans to cook fish and vegetables and ‘kava’ drinking, a drink made with the roots of a plant by the same name and with sedative and anesthetic properties, is a ceremonial tradition still widely held. Another aspect of Tongan culture one still encounters today is bone and wood carving as well as basket making and fine weaving. This and many other aspects of Tongan culture make of the island nation a paradise for travelers who expect a direct contact with the local culture and people and to enjoy the exquisite beaches of the Pacific.
Welcome to the beautiful kingdom of Tonga: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mo2d_QQFHaE