Home / Oceania / Tonga / Tonga: the Friendly islands of Captain Cook

Tonga: the Friendly islands of Captain Cook

This post is also available in: Deutsch

The Tonga Islands (Pule’anga Tonga) are a group of tropical islands located in the southern Pacific Ocean (Polynesia) between Fiji, Samoa and the Cook Islands. These islands are a constitutional monarchy associated with the British Commonwealth. The islands – inhabited by a Polynesian population – were discovered by the Europeans in 1616. In that year it was the Dutch ships led by Willem Schouten and Jacob Le Maire who first sighted the islands. Later in 1643 some islands of the archipelago were visited by the Dutch captain Abel Tasman. In 1773 and 1777 it was the English captain James Cook to visit the archipelago and for the reception received he baptized them Friendly Islands.


The state of the Tonga islands is formed by the archipelagos of Tongatapu, Ha’apai and Vava’u as well as some scattered islands (Niuatoputapu, Niuafo’ou and Tafahi) for a total of about 150 islands. The islands emerge from one of the deepest ocean pits, the Tonga Trench (-10,882 meters), second only to the Mariana Trench. The capital is Nuku’alofa on the island of Tongatapu (260 sq km), which is the largest and most densely populated island. Other important islands are those of Vava’u, ‘Eau, Lifuka and Foa.

Most of the islands are flat islands of coral origin, mostly atolls. But some are high volcanic islands, with active volcanoes, such as the islands of Kao (1,030 meters), Tafahi (560 meters), Niuafo’ou (260 meters), Late (540 meters), and Tofua (515 meters). There are also numerous underwater volcanoes such as Curacoa, whose summit is only 33 meters deep. Or as the Home Reef, which emerged in 2006, the Metis Shoal and the Fonualei.

Agriculture is the basis of the island’s economy where cassava, bananas, coconuts, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, and vanilla are grown. Fishing and breeding (pigs, cattle, horses) are also relevant. Tourism is a decent source of income for the Tonga islands.

The climate of the Tonga Islands.

The official page of the Government of Tonga.

  • Area: 748 sqkm. (Arable 67%, Pastures 6%, Forests and Woodlands 11%, Uncultivated and Unproductive 16%)
  • Population: 112,000 (2005 data) (Polinesians 98%, Europeans 1%, Asian 1%).
  • State Capital: Nuku’alofa.
  • Languages: English and Tongan.
  • Religion: Christian 100% (Mormon 43%, Methodist 26%, Roman Catholic 13%).
  • Currency: Pa’anga (TOP).
  • Time: UTC +13 hours.

This post is also available in: Deutsch