Tonga (pronounced [ˈtoŋa]) – officially the Kingdom of Tonga (Tongan: Puleʻanga Fakatuʻi ʻo Tonga) – an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, comprises 169 islands, 36 of them inhabited. The Kingdom stretches over a distance of about 800 kilometres (500 miles) in a north-south line, and is located about a third of the way from New Zealand to Hawaiʻi.
Tonga also became known as the Friendly Islands because of the friendly reception accorded to Captain James Cook on his first visit there in 1773. He happened to arrive at the time of the ‘inasi festival, the yearly donation of the first fruits to the Tuʻi Tonga, the islands’ paramount chief, and received an invitation to the festivities. According to the writer William Mariner, in reality the chiefs had wanted to kill Cook during the gathering, but could not agree on a plan.
Apart from being the only sovereign monarchy among the island nations of the Pacific Ocean, Tonga is also the only island nation in the region to have avoided formal colonization. Tonga plans to become a fully functioning constitutional monarchy after legislative reforms and a more fully representative election, scheduled to take place in 2010.
Notes from Wikipedia