The geography of Indonesia is quite
magnificent, supported by tropical climate
and weather. With an archipelago form, Indonesia maintains Territorial Waters and Exclusive
Economic Zone (EEZ). The relief of Indonesia is filled
with volcanoes, rivers
As one of the world's most remarkable geographical boundaries
in its distribution of animals, Indonesia has a lot of
variety of different species of animals.
Komodo reptile (Varanus Komodoensis) has been designated
as Indonesia's National Animal, the red fresh water Siluk/Arwana (Scleropage formosus) as the Fascinating Animal
and the flying Elang Jawa (Javan Hawk Eagle,
Spizaetus bartelsi) as the Rare (Endangered) Species.
November 5th has been designated as the National Flora
and Fauna Day.
Indonesia is also rich in tropical plants including the ever famous Rafflesia Arnoldi, the
largest flower in the world, and Amorphophallus Tatinum,
the largest inflorescence of its kind.
Indonesia has about 500 tribes and correspondingly, it
has about 500 languages and dialects spoken in the archipelago. The population in Indonesia has now reach the fourth most populated country
in the world after China, India, and the United States
of America. The people of Indonesia are a mix between
the native people and the newcomers that came during the
Neolitic Period (3000-2000 BC) from the Asian mainland
to the south through a large-scale migration. The citizenship
of Indonesia is governed by the Nationality
Act to distinguish the qualification of a person of
being an Indonesian since the beginning of independence
on August 17, 1945.
Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world. It
consists of five major islands and about 30 smaller groups.
The figure for the total number of islands is 17,508 according
to the Indonesian Naval Hydro-Oceanographic Office. The
archipelago is on a crossroad between two oceans, the
Pacific and the Indian, and bridges two continents, Asia
and Australia. This strategic position has always influenced
the cultural, social, political, and economic life of
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 are is
about 7.9 million sq. km (including an exclusive economic
zone) and constitutes about 81% of the total area of the
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 islands 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
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 Isles lie on the
Sahul Shelf, which stretches northwards from the Australian
coast. Here the sea depth is similar to that of the Sunda
Located between these two shelves is the island group
of Nusa Tenggara, 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
The land area is generally covered by thick tropical rain
forest, where fertile soils are continuously replenished
by volcanic eruptions like those on the island of Java.
CLIMATE AND WEATHER
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 form 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:
land and mountain areas: 26°C
mountain areas: 23°C, varying with the altitude.
a tropical zone, Indonesia has an average relative humidity
between 70% and 90%, with a minimum of 73% and a maximum
TERRITORIAL WATERS AND EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE
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.
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. Gede, Mt. Tangkubanperahu,
Mt. Ciremai, Mt. Kawi, Mt. Kelud, Mt. Semeru 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.
Recorded eruptions of volcanoes over the last two decades
are: Sumatra - Dempo 1973, and 1974, Merapi 1978, Sorik
Merapi 1989, Kerinci 1990; Sunda Strait Anak Krakatau
1978 and 1979; Java - Bromo 1972, Merapi 1972 and 1976,
Raung 1978, Semeru 1978 and 1979, Butak Petarangan (Sinila
and Sigludar) 1979; Paluweh - Rokatenda 1978, Galunggung
1982, Slamet 1988, Kelud 1990; Sulawesi - Lokon 1978,
1979 and 1991, Siau - Karangetang 1978 and 1979, Colo
1983, Soputan 1989; Maluku - Dukono 1978, Gamalama Kie
Besi 1987, Banda Api 1988; East Nusa Tenggara - Lewotobi
RIVERS AND LAKES
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, Mahakam and Rejang rivers in Kalimantan;
and the Memberamo and Digul rivers in Irian Jaya. On 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 on Sumatra; the
Tempe, Towuti, Sidenreng, Poso, Limboto, Tondano, and
Matana lakes on Sulawesi; and the Paniai and Sentani lakes
on Irian Jaya.
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 Bali 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 neighbours.
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 RUSSELL
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".
At the present stage of Indonesia's social and economic
development, wildlife is not likely to survive without
protection. To this end, the Directorate General of Forest
Protection and Nature Conservation has planned to designate
about 10% of the country's land area, or about 18.7 million
ha, as reserved areas. Until fiscal year 1991/92 there
were 184 units of nature conservation covering a total
area of 8,494,118 ha, 73 units of wildlife reserve with
a total area of 5,586,209 ha, 56 recreational parks with
a total area of 263,470 ha, 13 units hunting game with
a total are of 241,387 ha, 7 marine gardens with a total
area of 72,930 ha, and 30 units national park covering
a total area of 7,688,640 ha.
The Directorate General has adopted a national strategy
on natural conservation whereby the entire ecosystem is
conserved. This is necessary because it is often impossible
to preserve wildlife outside its natural habitat. For
example, the orang utan, which literally means
"jungle man" (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 Wildlife Fund (WWF),
established orang utan rehabilitation centers to
prepare illegally captured orang utans for return
to life in the wilderness.
The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), the world's
largest lizard, can grow to 3 metre long. Its home is
on the Komodo group of reserves, which are comprised 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, babi
russa), 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 (Macrogalidiamusshenbroeki);
a species of the tersier called binatang hantu,
which literally means "spooky animal" (Tarsius spectrum) and several species of the black monkey or monyet
Among the vast variety of birds in Sulawesi, the Maleo
fowl and the shrub hen are two notable species of the
Irian Jaya and Maluku are rich in colorful birds, varying
from the big and unable-to-fly cassowaries (Casuarius) and the brilliantly-plumaged 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 angkong/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
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 such park in the
country) located around the valley of the Alas river in
Aceh, Indonesia's northernmost 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
brevirostris) of the Mahakam 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 Corisaygula which abounds in the Bali Strait.
The most common species is the green wrasse (Thalasoma
lunare). The butterfly fish (Chaetodontidae) has a small snout, but long snouted butterfly fish 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 Zancluscanescens can measure 20 cm.
Angelfish (Pomacanthus imperator), Pomancanthus
semi-circulatus; Pygoplites-diacanthus, and Auxiphipops navarchus, or Angle fish, 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, Zebrazoma veliferum and Naso literatus.
Living a solitary life is the tiger fish or Balistidae.
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 many
Pearl oysters found in the country include the Pinctada
maxima, the P. Margaritifera and the Pteria
penquin. 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 the Maluku pearl shells are
collected and made into beautiful ornaments.
The rich flora of Indonesia includes many unique varieties
of tropical plant life in various forms. Rafflesia
arnoldi, 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
The myraid 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. Theforest 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.
On June 5, 1990, in a ceremony to mark the World Environment
Day, three flowers are declared as Indonesia's national
flowers: the melati (Jasminum sambac), a
small white sweet-smelling flower which plays an important
part in many cultural and traditional ceremonies in Indonesia,
as Nations flower; the anggrek bulan or moon orchid (Phalaenopsisamabilis), a species with pure white
flowers, as the Enchanting Flower; and the Rafflesia
arnoldi, a plant without stems and leaves that grows
on the stems and roots of other plants and spreading an
odor like that of carrion, as the Rare (endangered) species.
This parasitic plant is named after Sir Thomas Stamford
Raffles and Dr. Arnold who discovered the bloom (the largest
in the world) in 1818 in the forest of Bengkulu, southwest
Sumatra, when Raffles was serving as lieutenant governor
of Bengkulu under the British temporary rule (1814-1825)
in Indonesia following Holland's occupation by France
during the Napoleonic War.
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 production,
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
Because the flora is so rich many people in Indonesia
have made a good living out 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
INDONESIA STANDARD TIME
As of January 1, 1988, Indonesia's three time zones are
- Western Indonesia Standard Time equals GMT plus 7 hours
(meridian 105°E), covering all provinces in Sumatra
and Java, and the provinces of West and Central Kalimantan.
- Central Indonesia Standard Time equals GMT plus 8 hours
(meridian 120°E), covering the provinces of East
and South Kalimantan, all provinces in Sulawesi, and
the provinces of Bali, West and East Nusatenggara.
- Eastern Indonesia Standard Time equals GMT plus 9 hours
(meridian 135°E), covering the provinces of Maluku
and Irian Jaya.
The population policy is directed toward development
of the population as human resources in order that the
national development can be effective and valuable,
while the quality of life is gradually improving. Meanwhile,
the control of population growth is carried out through
efforts to lower the birth and mortality rate, especially
that of infants and children. These efforts in particular
have been implemented through family planning programs
which also have the purpose of improving the welfare
of mother and child and at the same time create a small,
happy, and prosperous family.
The implementation of population policy has noted significant
progress. In 1998, the life expectancy was 64.7 years,
the crude death rate was 7.7 per 1.000 people, and the
infant mortality rate was 50 per 1.000 live birth. Meanwhile,
the crude birth rate in 1998 was 22.7 per 1.000 people
and the total fertility rate was 2.59 per woman. Until
June 1999, the total population is approximately 209
THE NATIONALITY ACT
Indonesian nationality is governed by Act No. 62 of
1958. It defines an Indonesian national as a person
who, since the beginning of independence on August 17,
1945, qualifies for citizenship under existing laws.
Further, a person whose mother is an Indonesian national,
but whose father's nationality is unknown or whose father
is stateless, shall qualify for Indonesian citizenship.
Also, a person who was born in Indonesia from unknown
parents, or an orphan whose parents are unknown, or
a person born in Indonesia who does not inherit any
nationality from his/her parents, shall qualify for
A five year old child, who is adopted by foster parents
of Indonesian nationality, shall qualify for Indonesian
nationality if the foster parents apply to a court to
legitimize the adoption within one year and are granted
A child born from a legitimate marriage of an Indonesian
mother and an alien father shall, in the event a divorce
is granted by the court, qualify for Indonesian nationality
if he/she so decides.
A child born from a legitimate or illegitimate marriage
between an alien father and an Indonesian mother is
entitled to become an Indonesian national if he/she
applies to the Minister of Justice, having abandoned
his/her alien nationality according to the law of the
foreign country or in accordance with an agreement concluded
between Indonesia and a foreign country. In such case
a child shall submit the application within a year after
reaching the age of 18.
To obtain Indonesian nationality, aliens must fulfill
the following conditions:
- Have reached the age of 21 or over;
- Were born in Indonesia or have lived in Indonesia
continuously for 5 years, or interruptedly for 10
- Have a fair command of the Indonesian language and
knowledge of Indonesian history, and have never been
convicted by a court for a breach of law orfor any
act against Indonesia;
- Have the consent ofi the wife/husband;
- Are mentally and physically healthy;
- Pay a fee of not less than Rp 500 and not more than
Rp10,000, which shall be decided by the court, taking
into consideration the applicant's income;
- Have permanent employment;
- Have no other nationality or have abandoned his/her
nationality which is in conformity with an agreement
on dual nationality reached between Indonesia and
the foreign country.
alien married woman is not entitled to apply for Indonesian
citizenship. However, Indonesian nationality may be
granted to aliens who have proved meritorious and have
served the interest of Indonesia. Such nationality shall
be granted with the approval of the House of Representatives.
An alien wife of an Indonesian national is entitled
to Indonesian citizenship if she so wishes and makes
a statement to that effect within a year of the marriage.
This does not apply if the husband has abandoned his
An Indonesian woman married to an alien husband shall
lose her Indonesian nationality if she makes a statement
to this effect within a year of her marriage.
Indonesian nationality obtained by a husband shall automatically
apply to his wife except where she, after acquiring
Indonesian nationality, does not abandon her alien nationality.
If a person loses his/her Indonesian nationality, his
wife/her husband also loses it, except where both of
them are stateless.
A person who has lost his/her Indonesian nationality
by marriage can regain it if the marriage is broken
off and the person applies for it. Such an application
shall include a statement of the broken marriage and
be submitted to a court or an Indonesian diplomatic
A child under the age of 18 who is not married and retains
his/her kinship with the father who has not yet acquired
Indonesian nationality, qualifies for Indonesian nationality
if he/she lives permanently in Indonesia.
If a widow or widower obtains Indonesian nationality,
her/his child shall be entitled to the same provided
that the latter is under 18 years of age and not married.
This also applies to children under 18 and not married,
born to parents who have lost their Indonesian nationality.
LANGUAGES AND DIALECTS
There are about 500 languages and dialects spoken in
the archipelago. There normally belong to the different
ethnic groups of the population. Some of the distinctly
different local languages are: Acehnese, Batak, Sundanese,
Javanese, Sasak, Dayak, Minahasa, Toraja, Buginese,
Halmahera, Ambonese, Ceramese, and several Irianese
languages. To make the picture even more colorful, these
languages are also spoken in different dialects.
THE LINGUA FRANCA
The national language of Indonesia is "Bahasa Indonesia".
Originally it was the Malay language mainly spoken in
the Riau Islands. In its spread throughout the country,
its vocabulary and idioms have been enriched by a great
number of local languages.
To keep pace with religious, social and cultural progress,
many words and terms have been derived from foreign
languages, including Dutch, Chinese, Sanskrit, Arabic
and, later, Portuguese.
Although Bahasa Indonesia has become the lingua franca,
local languages and dialects continue to be spoken and
will not be abolished.
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