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Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world with the total number of 17,508 islands according to the Indonesian Naval Hydro-Oceanographic office. The archipelago is on a crossroads between two oceans, the Pacific and the Indian ocean, and bridges twocontinents, Asia and Australia. This strategic position has always influenced the cultural, social, political and economic life of thecountry.

The territory of the Republic of Indonesia stretches from 6°08' north latitude to 11°15' south latitude, and from 94°45' to 141°05' east longitude. The Indonesian sea area is four times greater than its land area, which is about 1.9 million sq. km. The sea area is about 7.9 million sq. km (including an exclusive economic zone) and constitutes about 81% of the total area of the country. 

The five main islands are: Sumatra, which is about 473,606 sq. km. in size: the most fertile and densely populated islands. Java/Madura, 132,107 sq. km: Kalimantan, which comprises two thirds of the island of Borneo and measures 539.460 sq. km; Sulawesi. 189,216 sq. km; and Irian Jaya, 421.981 sq. km, which is part of the world's second largest island. New Guinea. Indonesia's other islands are smaller in size.

The archipelago is divided into three groups. The islands of Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan, and the small islands in-between. lie on the Sunda Shelf which begin on the coasts of Malaysia and Indo China, where the sea depth does not exceed 700 feet. Irian Jaya which is part of the island of New Guinea, and the Aru Islands lie on the Sahul Shelf, which stretches northwards from the Australian coast. Here the sea depth is similar to that of the Sunda Shelf.

Located between these two shelves is  the island group of Nusatcnggara. Maluku and Sulawesi, where the sea depth reaches 15.000 feet. Coastal plains have been developed around the islands of Sumatra. Java. Kalimantan and Irian Jaya. The land area is generally covered by  thick tropical rain forests, where fertile soils are continuously replenished by volcanic eruptions like those on the island of Java.

The country is predominantly mountainous with some 400 volcanoes. of which 100 are active. Mountains higher than 9,000 feet are found on the islands of Sumatra (Mt. Leuser and Mt. Kerinci), Java (Mt. Cede. Mt. Tangkubanperahu, Mt. Cirernai. Mt. Kawi. Mt. Kelud, Mt.  Serneru and Mt. Raung). Sulawesi (Mt. Lompobatang and Mt. Rantekombala). Bali (Mt. Batur and Mt. Agung), Lombok (Mt. Rinjani)  and Sumbawa (Mt. Tambora). The highest mountain is the perpetually  snow-capped  Mandala Top  (15,300  feet)  in  the Jaya Wijaya  mountain range of Irian Jaya.

Many rivers flow throughout the country. They serve as useful transportation routes on certain islands, for example, the Musi, Batanghari. Indragiri and Kampar rivers in Sumatra: the Kapuas, Barito. Mahakarn and Rejang rivers in Kalimantan; and the Memberarno and Digul  rivers in Irian Jaya. In Java rivers are important for irrigation purposes, i.e.. the Bengawan Solo, Citarum and Brantas rivers.

A number of islands are dotted with scenic lakes, like the Toba, Maninjau and Singkarak lakes in Sumatra; the Tempe, Towuti, Sidenreng,  Poso. Limboto, Tondano, and Matana lakes in Sulawesi: and the Paniai and Sentani lakes in Irian Jaya. 


The climate and weather of Indonesia is characterized by two tropical seasons, which vary with the equatorial air circulation (the Walker circulation) and the meridian air circulation (the Hardley circulation). The displacement of the  latter follows the north-south movement of the sun and its relative position from the earth, in particular from the continents of Asia and Australia, at certain periods of the year. These factors contribute to the displacement and intensity of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) which is an equatorial trough of  low pressure that produces rain. Thus, the west and east monsoons, or the rainy and dry seasons, are a prevalent feature of the tropical climate.

The Main Seasons

The climate changes every six months. The dry season (June to September) is influenced by the Australian continental air masses; while the rainy season (December to March) is the result of the Asian and Pacific Ocean air masses. The air contains vapor which precipitates and produces rain in the country. Tropical areas have rains almost the whole year through. However, the climate of Central Maluku is an exception. The rainy season is from June to September and the dry season from December to March. The transitional periods between  the  two seasons are April to May and October to November. 

Temperature and Humidity

Due to the large number of islands and mountains in the country, average temperatures may be classified as follows: coastal plains: 28°C inland and mountain areas: 26°C higher mountain areas: 23"C, varying with the altitude. Being in a tropical zone, Indonesia has an average relative humidity between 70% and 90%, with a minimum of 73% and a maximum of 87%.


When independence was proclaimed and sovereignty gained, Indonesia had to enact laws to govern the seas in accordance with the geographic structure of an archipelagic state. This, however, did not mean that the country would bar international passage. The laws were necessary instruments for the unity and national resilience of the country, with a territory that embraces all the islands, the islets and the seas  in between.

In view of the country's susceptibility to foreign intervention from the sea and for domestic security reasons, on December 13, 1957, the Indonesian Government issued a declaration on the territorial waters of the Republic. It stated that all the waters surrounding and between the islands in the territory came within Indonesia's sovereignty. It also determined that the country's territorial water limit was  12 miles, measured from a straight baseline drawn from the outermost points of the islands.

In the past, archipelagic states like Indonesia have unilaterally determined their 200-mile-Exclusive Economic Zones. Today such economic zones are confirmed by the International Convention on the Law of the Sea, which was ratified by the Indonesian Government on October 18. 1983. by Act No. 5 of the same year. This is the legal basis of the Indonesian-Exclusive Economic Zone.


Indonesia contains one of the world's most remarkable geographical boundaries in its distribution of animals. This dates back to the glacial period when sea level fell all over the world. During this period the islands of Java. Sumatra, Kalimantan and Ball on the Sunda Shelf were joined together with one another and with the Asian mainland, but Irian Jaya, Aru and the Australian continent of the Sahul Shelf were separated. This early geographical separation explains why the tropical animal species of Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan do not exist in Irian Jaya. For the same reason, the kangaroo of Irian Jaya is missing in the other region.

Maluku. Sulawesi and the Lesser Sunda Islands, which lie between the Sunda and Sahul shelves, have a strikingly different fauna. Most of the eastern fauna do not exist in Sulawesi even though this island is close to Kalimantan, being just across the Makassar Strait. Similarly, the animal species of Irian Jaya are not found on Seram and Halmahera. Irian Jaya's closest neighbors. One possible reason for this is that Kalimantan and Sulawesi might have been separated by a deep straight at one point, while the great depth of the Banda Sea kept them apart during the glacial period. Some scientists have attributed the phenomenon to three faunal lines. ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE (1823-1913) wrote in his book, 'The Malay Archipelago," that Nusantara was separated into an Oriental ecological area (west side) and an Australian ecological area (east side) by a Wallace Line that runs from South to North, passing the Lombok and Makassar Straits and ending in the south eastern part of the Philippines. The Weber line which passes the sea between Maluku and Sulawesi, and the Lydekker line which starts at the edge of the Sahul Shelf. Sulawesi Island is in a transition zone known as the Wallace Area. The other two faunal lines are the Weber Line. which passes the sea between Maluku and Sulawesi, and the Lydekker Line, which starts at the Sahul Shelf and skirts the western border of Irian Jaya and the Australian continent. Other scientists, however, prefer to call the area a "subtraction transition zone".

The Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation adopted a national strategy on natural conservation whereby the entire ecosystem is conserved. This is necessary because it is of-ten impossible to preserve wildlife outside its natural habitat. For example. the orangutan, which literally means "jungleman" (Pongo pygmaeus) and only lives in the jungles of Sumatra and Kalimantan. is very dependent on a primary forest habitat. For this purpose, the Directorate General, in cooperation with the World Wide Fund for Nature (W.W.F.). established "orangutan rehabilitation centers" to prepare illegally-captured orangutans for return to life in the wilderness.

The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis). the world's largest lizard, can grow to 3 meters long. Its home is on the Komodo group of reserves, which are composed of Komodo, Padar and Rinca islands, off the coast of Flores in the eastern part of the country.

The "babi rusa". a deer-like pig (Babyrousa. babirussa). and the "anoa." a forest-dwelling dwarf buffalo, are among the interesting indigenous animals of Sulawesi. Other indigenous mammals of Sulawesi are the big civet cat called "musang" (Macrogalidia musshenbroeki): a species of the tersier called "binatang hantu," which literally means "spooky animal" (Tarsius speclram). and several species of the black monkey or "monyet hitam" (Macacanigra).

Among the vast variety of birds in Sulawesi, the Maleo fowl and the shrubhen are two notable species of the megapode family. Irian Jaya and Maluku are rich in colorful birds, varying from the big and unable-to-fly cassowaries (Casuarius) and the brilliantlyplumaged birds of paradise that belong to the family of Paradiseidae and Ptilinorhynhidae and number more than 40 species, to a large variety of birds from the parrot family.

Other members of Indonesia's fauna include the hornbill bird. or "rangkong/enggang" of the Bucerotidal family, which is noted for its enormous horn-tipped beak. There are also the Sumatran tiger (Panthera Tigris Sumatrenesis) and the almost-extinct Java tiger (Panthera Tigris sondaica).

The Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra are home to the "beruk." a relatively large monkey often trained to pick coconuts: and the "lutung." or black monkey, which lives on leaves.

The "Badak Jawa" or one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) lives in Ujung Kulon National Park in West Java. but the smaller badak Sumatra or two-horned rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) has its habitat in the Mt. Leuser National Park (the largest park in the country) located around the valley of the Alas river in Aceh, Indonesia's northern-most province.

Other notable animals are the "banteng" or wild bull of Java (Bos javanicus): the tree kangaroo (Dorcopsis muelleri) of Irian Jaya: the fresh water dolphin (Orcacella breuirostris) of the Mahakarn river in East Kalimantan" and the proboscis monkey or "bekantan," also of Kalimantan.

In addition, there is a great variety of birds, including egrets, herons, kingfishers, hawks, eagles and many others. There are also thousands of species of insects and a large variety of lizards and snakes. Tortoises and turtles, as well as exotic species of fish, crabs. mollusks and other aquatic animals, living both in salt and fresh water, are also found in great abundance.

Indonesia is known worldwide for her ornamental fish species which are exported to the United States, Japan and Germany. The species most noted for their beautiful colors and shapes include the clownfish (Amphiprion), damselfish (Dascyllus). wrasse (Coris gaimardi) and the Coris aygula, which abound in the Ball Strait.

The most common species is the green wrasse (Thalasoma lunQre). The butterflyfish (Chaetodontidae) has a small snout, but longsnouted butterflyfish are also found and include the Forcipiger longirostris and Chelmon rostratus. Another species, the bannerfish (Heniochus acuminatus) has backfins longer than its body length: and the Moorish idol or Zanclus canescens can measure 20 cm.

Angelfish (Pomacanthus imperator), Pomancanthus semicirculatus: Pygoplites-diacanthus, and Auxiphipops navarchus, which belongs to the Pomancanthidae family, are all collected for their beautiful colors.

Surgeonfish (Acanthuridae) and Paracanthurus hepatus are very popular because of their distinguished bluish color. Other beautiful species are the Acanthurus leucosternon. Zebrazorna vehtenim and Naso literatus. Living a solitary life is the tiger fish or Balistidar.

Sea horses, or Hippocampus coronatus, of the syngnathidae family  are  also  among  the  ornamental  fish  sought.  Peacock  fish,  so named because of their long fins, include the pterois zebra, brachiopterus, volitans, ruselli, miles and radiata varieties. They all belong to the Scorpanidae family. There are many more species of ornamental fish in Indonesia, far too rnany to mention all.

Pearl oysters found in the country include the Pinctada maxima, the P. margaritifera and the Pteria pcnquui. these species grow in the waters around Halmahera Island, the Maluku and the Aru Islands in eastern Indonesia.

The pearls are in great demand because of their large size and high quality. In Maluku pearl shells are collected  and made into beautiful ornaments.

Orange-bellied flower pecker (Dicaeun trigonostigma)

Endangered Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus)  is only found in Sumatra and Kalimantan 


The rich flora of Indonesia includes many unique varieties of tropical plant life in various forms. Rafflesia amoldi, which is found  only in certain parts of Sumatra, is the largest flower in the world. This parasitic plant grows on certain lianas but does not produce leaves. From  the same area in Sumatra comes another giant, Amorphophallus tatinum, the largest inflorescence of its kind. The insect trapping pitcher  plant (Nepenthea spp) is represented by different species in many areas of western Indonesia.

The myriad of orchids is rich in species, varying in size from the largest of all orchids, the tiger orchid or Grammatophyllum Speciosum, to the tiny and leafless species of Taeniophyllum which is edible and taken by the local people as a medicine and is also used in handicrafts. The forest soil is rich in humus which enables the luxuriant growth of a multitude of fungi, including the horse hair blight, the luminescent species, the sooty mold and the black mildew.

Indonesia's flora also abounds in timber species. The dipterocarp family is renowned for its timber (meranti). resin, vegetable oil and tengkawang or illipe nuts. Ramin, a good-quality timber for furniture, is produced by the Gonystylus tree. Sandalwood,  ebony,  ulin and Palembang timber are other valuable forest products. Teakwood is a product of man-made forests in Java.

Because the flora is so rich many people in Indonesia have made a good living of this natural resource. About 6,000 species of plants are known to be used directly or indirectly by the people. A striking example in this modern time is the use of plants in the production of traditional herbal medicine or "Jamu". Flowers are indispensable in ceremonial, customary and traditional rites.

To care for animals and plants in the country, the fifth of November was designated as the national Flora and Fauna Day. To foster the society's love for its fauna and flora, the Komodo reptile (Varanus komodoensis) has been designated as Indonesia National Animal, the red freshwater Liluk/arwana (Scleropage formosus) as the Fascinating Animal and the flying Elang Jawa (Javan Hawk Eagle, Spizaetus barteisi) as the Rare (endangered) species. These decisions complement the previous designation of Indonesia's national flowers.

Amarillys, lilylike reddish flower, found mainly in the higer mountain areas

Populer Native "Salak" (Salacca edults) fruit

Jasmine (Jasmine sambac) one of Indonesia national flowers


As of January 1, 1988, Indonesia's three time zones have been changed as below:

1.  Western Indonesia Standard Time equals GMT plus 7 hours ridian 105°E), covering all provinces in Sumatra and Java, the provinces of West and Central Kalimantan.

2.  Central Indonesia Standard Time equals GMT plus 8 hours ridian 120°E), covering the provinces of East and South Kalimantan, all provinces in Sulawesi, and the provinces of West and East Nusatenggara and East Timor.

3.  Eastern Indonesia Standard Time equals GMT plus 9 hours (meridian 135°E), covering the provinces of Maluku and Irian Jaya.

Profile of a young Balinese (1),

Yogyakarta's woman (3),

a girl from North Sumatra (2),

an oldman of Sulawesi (4),

Woman from Central Java (5)

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