The Kingdom of Tonga (English pronunciation: /ˈtɒŋɡə/; Tongan: [toŋa]) is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean comprising 169 islands, 36 of them inhabited, stretching over a distance of about 800 kilometres (500 miles) in a north-south line. The islands lie south of Samoa, about one-third of the way from New Zealand to Hawaii.
Tonga, the only sovereign monarchy among the island nations of the Pacific Ocean, has the distinction of being the only island nation in the region to have avoided formal colonization.
The world also knows the islands of Tonga 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 ʻinasi 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 were unable to agree on a plan.
Approximately 0.1% are Buddhist.