10 Interesting Facts About Tonga

1. 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.

2. Sunday is a day of rest in Tonga. I know you are wondering how’s that any different from other countries. However, it certainly is. Most of Tonga shuts down on Sunday in favour of family, church, resting and eating. Conducting any 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.

3. 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 boards to attract the outside world. Read some intriguing facts about New Zealand – a country discovered by James Cook here!

4. 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 re-emerged in 1927 then disappeared again by 1949. It feels like the island loves playing hide and seek. Currently it is in the hiding phase.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. In 1965 six Tongan teenagers survived for 15 months on a remote uninhabited island. The event was dubbed the “real Lord of the Flies” after the 1954 best-selling novel by William Golding. A Hollywood studio has recently bought the rights to make a film on the events.

10. Wearing a respectful dress is very important in Tonga. It is illegal for men and women to be topless in a public place. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Tongan athlete Pita Taufatofua shot to fame for breaking official rules by going shirtless during the opening ceremony.