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The Kingdom of Tonga (Tongan for "south") is an archipelago in the south Pacific Ocean comprising 169 islands, 96 of them inhabited, stretching over a distance of about 800 kilometers (500 miles) in a north-south line. The islands lie south of Samoa and are about a third of the way between New Zealand and Hawaii.
Tonga is the only surviving monarchy among the island nations of the Pacific Ocean, as well as being the only island nation never to have been formally colonized.
The islands are also known as the Friendly Islands because of the friendly reception accorded to Captain Cook on his first visit in 1773. He happened to arrive at the time of the ?inasi festival, the yearly donation of the first fruits to the Tu'i Tonga, the islands' paramount chief, and was invited to the festivities. According to the writer William Mariner, in reality the chiefs had wanted to kill Cook during the gathering, but had been unable to agree on a plan.
Tonga is located in Oceania, an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, directly south of Western Samoa and about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand. Its 169 islands, 96 of them inhabited, are divided into three main groups--Vava'u, Ha'apai, and Tongatapu--and cover an 800-kilometer (500 mi.)-long north-south line. The largest island, Tongatapu, on which the capital city of Nuku'alofa is located, covers 257 square kilometers (99 sq. mi.). Geologically the Tongan islands are of two types: most have a limestone base formed from uplifted coral formations; others consist of limestone overlaying a volcanic base.
The climate is basically subtropical with a distinct warm period (December-April), during which the temperatures rise above 32 °C (90 °F), and a cooler period (May-November), with temperatures rarely rising above 27 °C (80 °F). The temperature increases from 23 °C to 27 °C (74 °F to 80 °F), and the annual rainfall is from 1,700 to 2,970 millimeters (67 to 117 in) as one moves from Tongatapu in the south to the more northerly islands closer to the Equator. The mean daily humidity is 80%.
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