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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 and lakes

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 country. 

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 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 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 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 Isles 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 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 Jaya. 

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. 



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: 

  • coastal plains: 28°C 
  • in land 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. 



    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 Laki-laki 1990. 



    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 hitam (Macacanigra)

    Among the vast variety of birds in Sulawesi, the Maleo fowl and the shrub hen 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 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 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 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. 

    Ornamental Fish 

    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 to mention. 

    Pearl Shells 

    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 Indonesia. 

    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 Java. 

    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 rites. 



    As of January 1, 1988, Indonesia's three time zones are as follow: 

    1. 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. 
    2. 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. 
    3. 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 millions.



    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 Indonesian citizenship. 

    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 their request. 

    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: 

    1. Have reached the age of 21 or over; 
    2. Were born in Indonesia or have lived in Indonesia continuously for 5 years, or interruptedly for 10 years; 
    3. 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; 
    4. Have the consent ofi the wife/husband; 
    5. Are mentally and physically healthy; 
    6. 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; 
    7. Have permanent employment; 
    8. 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.

    An 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 Indonesian nationality. 

    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 mission abroad. 

    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.



    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 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.