It was only four days ago that I bragged and crowed that I’d recorded a website visitor from the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. Apparently Christmas came a little late on the Twelve Mile Circle because someone just landed here from Tonga! It wasn’t a grab-and-dash either. Our mystery visitor stuck around for three page views. It’s been months, literally months, since I’ve collected two new countries in the same week.
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Tonga is an oceanic archipelago east of Fiji. The nation stretches about 800 kilometres over 169 islands, of which 36 are inhabited. There are three primary island groups, Ha’apai, Tongatapu, Vava’u, with the capital city Nuku’alofa found on the northern coast of the island of Tongatapu.
It’s a small country. The total land area is only 747 square kilometers which places it way down on the world list in 189th place. I got this from the CIA World FactBook, a resource I reference frequently because it compares nation sizes to familiar geographic areas (albeit with a U.S. slant). According to them Tonga is about four times the size of the District of Columbia. It’s so small that the United States does not even maintain an embassy here. Consular affairs are handled from Fiji instead.
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To put that into a little better perspective, that’s not much larger than the "Inside the Beltway" portion of the Washington, DC metropolitan area, i.e., the area enclosed by Interstate 495. That is tiny, almost inconceivably tiny for an independent nation. Wow.
Every time I examine these first-time visitors I learn something absolutely fascinating about their nation, maybe some point of trivia that resonates with me although maybe not anyone else. Here I discovered that If someone ever dreamed of becoming king of a tropical archipelago in the South Pacific, this would be the only place it could probably happen.
Tonga has hereditary royalty and in fact the nation’s full name is the Kingdom of Tonga. It is the only one of the Pacific island nations that retained its indigenous monarchs and never fully bowed to colonial domination. Sure, it remained a British protectorate for much of the 20th Century, but it retained a level of independence unrivaled by its neighbors. The current monarch, King George Tupou V descends directly from that long unbroken line of Tongan royalty.
Only about 120,000 people live here. Probably a similar number live abroad and the money they send back to Tonga is a major driver of its economy. Of those physically inhabiting Tonga, however, about a third of them live in its capital city of Nuku’alofa
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That was the originating point of my visitor, too. The CIA World FactBook estimates that there are only 8,400 Internet users in the entire nation so once again I’m surprised and impressed that a visitor made it to my humble little site. They were looking for information about New Zealand ferries. So, Mr. or Ms. Tonga Visitor, I hope you found what you needed and enjoy your holiday in New Zealand.