(The Friendly Islands, Kingdom of Tonga, Puleanga Fakatui’ O Tonga)
- Location: Southwestern Pacific
- Capital: Nukualofa
- Language(s): English, Tongan
- Population: 106,465
- Total Area: 748 sq km
- Currency: Pa’anga
- Curious Alcohol Fact: Kava is a popular local brew made from ground plant roots.
- Annual Average Liquor Consumption Per Capita: 3.78 liters
- Most Popular Drink(s): Tea, coffee, kava
Tonga is an independent island nation in the southwestern Pacific Ocean and its nearby countries are Fiji, Niue and Samoa. Tonga is a unique country in the sense that it is the only kingdom in the Polynesian region and over the years, has been ruled by illustrious kings and queens. Made up of about 170 islands, Tonga is split into three island groups: Vava’u in the northern region, Tongatapu in the south while Ha’apai is located in the center of these two groups. Outside these groups, there is a number of outlying islands one of which is Tafahi. The capital city of Nukualofa is located on the island of Tongatapu and is where the ornate RoyalPalace is situated. Nukualofa is also the largest settlement in the country in addition to being a principal port.
In terms of cultural practices and language, I discovered that Tongans shared a lot with indigenes from other Polynesian nations and as a matter of fact, more than 90% of the citizens are said to be the descendants of Polynesian ancestors. Most Tongans reside on the island of Tongatapu where the capital city is located and the country’s official languages are Tongan (a Polynesian language) and English, which is also the country’s second language. The major religion in the country is Christianity and in many parts of the country, people still follow ancient forms of ancestor worship. The citizens are also into agriculture and they cultivate mainly corn, cassava, yam and various kinds of fruits and vegetables. Tongans are very tourist-friendly and I surely enjoyed my stay in the country.
Food in Tonga goes beyond just eating and smacking of lips. It is an integral part of the culture and the Tongans take time to prepare fantastic meals. The most visible ingredient is the white yam and is known as ufi on the island. Yam is very important to the Tongans who have identified about eight different types and these include the kahukahu ufi, kulo ufi and kao meile ufi. There is also a traditional meal called lu pulu and is made using chicken, coconut milk and onions and is heated in a buried oven called the umu. If you feel that is all, then wait until you consume the feke, an irresistible dish of octopus broiled in coconut condiments. You can also enjoy fried seafood –lobsters (U'o), mussels (kuku), fish (ika) and sea snails (ililii). If you are also a lover of fruits, you will tinker with the idea of permanently settling in Tonga as the island is richly blessed with fresh and delicious fruits –passion fruits, grapefruits, oranges, mangoes, avocado, mandarins, apples and coconuts.
When it comes to refreshing drinks, Tonga has no rival. Starting with fresh coconut milk and the local brew called kava, Tongans know how to enjoy. Tea and coffee are also widely consumed and imported beers are available. As far as I am concerned, Tonga is the ideal tourist spot.
Sports in Tonga
Although Tonga is a monarchy, I thoroughly enjoyed the sporting events in the country and I must confess that of all the nations I visited in the Pacific/Oceania region, Tonga is the most interesting when it comes to sports especially netball, basketball, football, rugby and cricket.
Story By World By Shotglass
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Special thanks to our contributors:
Adebayo Ahmed Adebola (Ilorin, Nigeria).
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