Indonesia is the world's archipelagic country, it has a total of 17.508 islands. Indonesia's territory extends along 3.977 mile between the indian ocean and the pacific ocean. If the coastal area between the islands be connected, Indonesia's area would become 1.9 million square miles.
Four-fifths of the area is sea with the major islands of Sumatera, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua. There are five large islands in indonesia, they are : Sumatera with an area of 473.606 square km, Java with an area of 132.107 square km, Borneo / Kalimantan (The third biggest island in the world) with an area of 539.460 square km, Sulawesi with an are of 189.216 square km, and Papua with an area of 421.981 square km.
The 300 ethnic groups that exist harmoniously give birth to a potpourri of cultures and fascinating people. The major ethnic groups are: Minangkabaunese, Malay, Javanese, Sundanese, Maduranese and Ambonnese. Arab, Chinese and Indian immigrants have also settled in regions throughout the country, particularly in the coastal cities.
Geographically, Indonesia's landscape is greatly varied. Java and Bali have the most fertile islands and rice fields are concentrated in these two regions, whereas Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua are still largely covered with tropical rainforest. Open savannah and grassland characterize Nusa Tenggara.
The lowland that comprise most of Indonesia has a characteristically tropical climate with abundant rainfall, high-temperatures and humidity. Rainy Indonesia's tropical climate and unique geographical character provide shelter for flora and fauna that are as diversely rich as its land and people. The plant and animals in Indonesia's western region represent that of mainland Asia while those in the eastern region are typical of Australia. Endemic species, which are the pride of Indonesia exist in the central region, such as orangutans, tigers, one-horned rhinos, elephants, dugongs, anoas and komodo dragons. The warm tropical waters of the archipelago nurture a rich marine environment that holds a myriad of fish, coral species and marine mammals.
A cultural heritage passed on through generations offers a wealth of traditional arts and crafts. Batik, wooden carvings, weavings, silverworks and many other traditional skills produce exquisitely beautiful items. Indonesia's multi-racial and multi-religious culture mean festivals steeped in traditions are celebrated throughout the year. Frequently featured in these events are dances, wayang theaters and other performing arts.
In the past, Indonesia saw the reign of hundreds of ancient kingdoms all over the archipelago. This gave birth to various traditional customs, arts, and culture, as well as historical sites and relics. For instance, by the Seventh Century, the powerful Buddhist Kingdom of Sriwijaya was expanding and it was during that period the spectacular Borobudur sanctuary was built in Central Java. The Thirteenth Century witnessed the rise of Hinduist Majapahit Empire in East Java, which united the whole of what is now modern day Indonesia and parts of the Malay Peninsula. The great empire fell after two centuries, leaving Indonesia back to separate, small kingdoms, which were easy prey for European invasions.
First, the Portuguese arrived in 1509, seeking for spices, and monopolized the trade route by force. Then, in the middle of 16th century, Dutch took over the occupation for about 350 years. The riches of Indonesian natural resources were brought over to Europe and traded for national funding. The Dutch East Indies, as it was known at the time, fell under British rule for the period of 1811-1816. Lastly, Japanese took over for three and a half years, until Indonesia proclaimed its independence at August 17th, 1945.
From approximately 210 millions people, Indonesians consist of 45% Javanese, 14% Sudanese, 7.5% Madurese and 26% other ethnic groups. Natives of the island and immigrants from Asia are living here and were called Indonesian after the independence of Indonesia in 1945.
There are about 583 languages and dialects spoken in the archipelago. They normally belong to the different ethnic groups of the population. Some of the distinctly different local languages are: Acehnese, Batak, Sundanese, Javanese, Sasak, Tetum of Timor, 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.
Bahasa Indonesia is the national language, which is akin to Malay, written in Roman script and based on European orthography. In all tourist destination areas English is the number one foreign language fairly spoken and writer, whereas some Dutch is till spoken and understood in the bigger cities and French increasing in its popularity at the better hotels and restaurants.