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.
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 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%.
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Populer Native "Salak" (Salacca edults) fruit
Jasmine (Jasmine sambac) one of Indonesia national flowers
INDONESIA STANDARD TIME
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.