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Driving Directions Indonesia

INDONESIA is a republic made up of 13,677 islands, less than half of which are inhabited, scattered across the Indian and Pacific Oceans in a huge crescent. It is one of the world’s most highly populated coun­tries.

Five main islands take up three-quarters of Indonesia’s total area. They are home to 80 percent of its people: Kalimantan (part of the island of Borneo), Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi (Celebes), and Irian Jaya (the west­ern half of the island of New Guinea). Its largest landmass is the province of Kalimantan, which is part of the island of Borneo. Simultaneously, Sumatra is the largest individual island, and Java is the dominant and most densely pop­ulated island.

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The Indonesian islands have an extremely varied topography, ranging from high mountains to coastal plains. The southern ones occupy a volcanic belt containing 130 active volcanoes, 70 of which have erupted during the last 200 years. Natural vegetation varies according to each island’s exact location and topography but ranges from lowland tropical jungle to coastal mangrove swamps and upland mountain forests.

An enormous variety of wildlife can found throughout Indonesia, with some species being unique to particular islands. Their number includes the orang-utan, tapir, probosci’s monkey, black gibbon, Komodo dragon (Komodo and Rinca islands), birds of paradise cassowary.

Indonesia has a tropical climate that varies according to the exact location. In many areas, the eastern monsoon causes a dry season between June and September, while the western monsoon causes the main rains to fall between December and March. Rain and storms may, however, occur at any time of the year.

Rice, maize, and cassava are the main crops grown. Indonesia has the largest reserves of tin globally and is one of the world’s leading rubber producers. Other mineral resources found are bauxite, natural gas, nickel, and copper. Oil production is also important. Indonesia’s resources are not as yet fully developed. Still, the country’s economy needs to expand if Indonesia is to create the two million jobs needed annually to keep pace with its population growth.

Ongoing political instability and human rights abuse, such as occurred in East Timor in August 1999, has been condemned by the international community and is hampering this process.

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Indonesia consists of more than thirteen thousand islands scattered over a distance of about 5,149 kilometers (3,200 miles) above and below the equator between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the largest archipelago globally. Five major islands make up 90 percent of Indonesia’s land area. These are Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, plus parts of Borneo and New Guinea. Indonesia also contains about thirty smaller island groups, the largest of which is Nusa Tenggara, which includes Lombok, Sumba, Sumbawa, Flores, and Timor. In 1999, East Timor gained its independence from Indonesia.

Along the length of Indonesia’s island chain, the landscape is highly varied, and volcanic mountains stand out in sharp relief on most of the larger islands.

Citizens of Indonesia often refer to their country as “Tanah Air Kitah,” “Our Land and Water,” which illustrates the importance of the seas surrounding the archipelago. Indonesia forms a natural barrier between the Indian Ocean to the south and west, the open Pacific Ocean to the northeast, and the South China Sea. South of the island of Java is the lowest point in the Indian Ocean, the Java Trench, some 7,300 meters (24,000 feet) deep. Between Timor and Australia is the Timor Trough, which is approximately 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) deep. In the waters directly off Indonesia’s islands are at least 10 percent of the world’s coral reefs. Fishing practices and land erosion increasingly endangers these important marine ecosystems.

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