Indonesia is a vast archipelago in southeast Asia comprising over 17,000 islands, located between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The most sizeable islands are Sumatra (425,000m2), Celebes (174,600m2) and Java (126,700km2). The islands boast imposing mountains and verdant rainforests, as well as active volcanoes. The smaller islands tend to be clustered into a larger group, such as the Spice Islands. Of Indonesia’s many islands, only 6,000 are inhabited.
Indonesia is split by the equator and its climate is considered tropical, with flat land on the coast having an average temperature of 28ºC, mountainous areas and inland zones averaging 26ºC and the higher mountain zones a cool 23ºC. There are large variations in rainfall, related to the monsoons. The rainy season lasts from December to March and the dry season from June to September.
Indonesia is one of the world’s most visited holiday destinations and it is perhaps best known for the island of Bali, which is home to stunning beaches, a vibrant surfing culture and Hindu influences. Borneo is another popular island, cloaked in rainforest and serene beaches. Indonesia is famous worldwide for its delicious coffee, which initially hailed from the island of Java but which is grown all over the country today. Indonesia’s most famous coffees are Sumatra and Luwak. Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, is known for its beautiful Old City, known as Kota Tua.
Indonesia has been inhabited for a long time – as far back as two million years ago. One of the first kingdoms to make its power felt in the area was the Srivajay naval kingdom, which brought Buddhism and Hinduism to the islands. In 700 A.D., natives established trading routes with China and India. In the 13th and 14th centuries, Javanese Hindu and Buddhist Kingdoms asserted their influence and power, though by the 1500s, Islam was firmly established as the country’s primary religion. From the 17th until the 19th century, the Dutch established an empire, only to lose their economic influence. During World War II, the Japanese occupied Indonesia; following Japan’s loss, Indonesia requested its independence, achieving the latter in 1949. Indonesia has struggled to develop, owing to poverty, over-population and suppressive military rule.
The flora in Indonesia comprises a wide variety of tropical plants, which reflect the marriage of Asian, Australian, and native plant species. The great biodiversity is due to the fact that Indonesia is wedged between two continents and to the variety of regions in the archipelago (including seasonal forests and rainforests). The shoreline in Indonesia is extensive, giving rise to many swamp areas and zones with seaside vegetation. Indonesia is, perhaps, best known for its colourful flowers; it is home to thousands of orchid species and medicinal plants. Bamboo, rattan, ebony, sandalwood and teakwood abound, which explains this country’s burgeoning furniture industry. The animals in Indonesia are equally eye-catching and include the Imposing Komodo dragon (a giant lizard which can reach the length of three metres) and the orangutan, which can currently be found only in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. This reddish-brown ape is known for its intelligence and friendly behaviour.
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