Countries of the World: Indonesia - 5 Interesting Facts

Learn 5 interesting things about the mysterious islands of Indonesia. From the natural habitat and wildlife to the history and religion, it's all covered here.

This is the flag of Indonesia
This is the flag of Indonesia

Background Information

Where is it? Indonesia is made up of a group of islands (an archipelago) in South East Asia, bordered by the Indian Ocean on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other side. It has three land borders with Malaysia (on Borneo), Papua New Guinea (on New Guinea) and East Timor (on Timor).

How many people live there? The population of Indonesia is around 255 million which is spread out across 6000 of the 17,508 islands that make up this country - making Indonesia the fifth most populated country in the world.

What's the capital city? The capital city is Jakarta, which is located on the island of Java (in the North) and has a population of over 13 million.

Interesting Facts About Indonesia

1. Indonesia boasts a whopping 76 historically active volcanoes - the most of any country in the world, and it is estimated that at least 75% of it's inhabitants live within 60 miles of a Holocene volcano - that is, a volcano believed to have erupted in the last 10,000 years (a baby in volcano years). Possibly the most famous of Indonesia's volcanoes is Krakatoa, a volcanic island situated between Java and Sumatra. At 813 meters high, Krakatoa is widely believed to be responsible for the most violent volcanic event in history, when it erupted on the 27th August 1883, killing a reported 36,000 people, not just from the blast but from the resulting tsunamis. There were reports at the time that the explosion could be heard up to 3000 miles away in Mauritius, and the shock waves circled the Earth several times over.

Images of Krakatoa during the day and night

An inquisitive komodo dragon!
An inquisitive komodo dragon!

2. Indonesia is home (the only home) to the endangered Komodo Dragon. Found on only 4 of the 17.508 Indonesian islands, the current dragon population is estimated to be between 3000 and 5000.

The average male Komodo dragon would reach up to 3 meters in length, weigh more than 300 pounds and live over 30 years in the wild. They have no natural predators (nothing will eat the Komodo dragon) and as such it sits at the top of the food chain. Dragons are known to eat anything from deer and pigs to humans! There are all kinds of horror stories littering the internet about people who have gotten too close to these beasts.

Komodo dragons use a combination of strong legs, sharp claws and powerful serrated teeth to attach their prey, but they also have another weapon in their arsenal - their saliva contains bacteria so poisonous that if an animal manages to escape with just a bite they will most likely die of blood poisoning within 24 hours. The dragon's keen sense of smell will lead it right to the stricken animal where it will finally get it's meal.

Although, as mentioned, the Komodo Dragon has no natural predators it is still endangered for the same reasons that many large predators are endangered - humans. These dragons are victims of illegal hunting and poaching with their skin and feet being particularly prized possessions. In the past there were also no laws concerning the deforestation of the dragons natural habitat (to make way for human settlement) but with stricter laws that now exist this is less of a problem.

3. One of the most famous of the Indonesian islands is Bali. Known to most Westerners as an idyllic, relaxing holiday location, the island is actually more complex than that. While over 12% of the world's Muslim population live in Indonesia (the world's largest Muslim country), the island of Bali is almost exclusively Hindu. Balinese Hinduism is a mixture of the traditional Hindu beliefs and the indigenous animist customs. Since the Hindus worship so many Gods and pray for so many different things it is likely that every town or village will have at least three temples (probably more). On the island as a whole there are over 10,000 temples, shrines or general places of worship and they all face either the mountains, sea or sunrise - as these are the main gods.

All of Indonesia, but particularly the island of Bali, is well known for it's rich variety of superstitions, beliefs and traditions. As standard practise nearly every person on Bali has had their front six teeth filed down. This is because the six vices of human behaviour (think seven deadly sins) are believed to enter the body through the teeth and by filing away the ends you can prevent the vices from entering. This takes place at a 'coming of age' ceremony for Indonesian youths where (usually) a group of children will take turns having their teeth filed. It's a cause for a celebration with lots of music, fancy clothes, and of course, food.

The list of superstitions believed to be held in Bali is mind-blowing - everything from not letting a baby's feet touch the floor (in case the devil gets in) to not eating rice from a small plate (because it would cause close relations to spurn you)!

4. Indonesia is the original home of the famous Kopi Luwak coffee. Branded 'the most expensive coffee in the world', Kopi Luwak comes from the undigested stone of the coffee cherry. The coffee cherry is a favoured food of the Palm Civet Cat who eats only the best ones from the crop. While the flesh and pulp of the cherry is digested as usual, the stone (which is actually the bean) passes through the cat's digestive system untouched and comes out in it's droppings. The beans are collected from the forest floor by farmers, washed (thank goodness), dried and eventually roasted.

This uncommon production method is the reason for the high price tag, as only a small amount can be produced every year (500-1000 pounds a year, compared with 1.8million tons of standard coffee). However, as with all high demand products, the Kopi Luwak industry is littered with not only fake brands (with watered down product) but also with beans produced through unethical means. When people realised the earning potential, many farms and plantations opened up caging the civet cat and force feeding them the coffee cherries. While this is obviously unethical and cruel to the animals, it also misses one important step of the production process - the cherries eaten by the wild civet cats are the ones judged to be the best ones in the crop. When force fed to the animal their crucial choice is taking away meaning that the product is substandard (as well as unethical) from the start.

Over the past few years there has been much more awareness about this issue. UTZ Certified, Rainforest Alliance and many other groups have all amended their animal welfare criteria so that they only promote the original ethically sourced Kopi Luwak

5. Indonesia has a rich and interesting history. It was originally inhabited over 40,000 years ago when Indonesia wasn't a collection of islands, but joined to Asia by a land bridge. By 400BC Indonesia was in a position to start trading with the countries around them, like China and India and as a result, Hinduism and Buddhism flooded in. It wasn't until the 13th century that Islam came though, with Indian merchants.

In the 16th century the Portuguese came to Indonesia driven by the European demand for the spices grown on the Moluku islands. Their control of the islands didn't last long though however, as the Dutch came in the early 17th century. The Dutch East India Company was set up to control the trading routes around Asia and was grant a monopoly over the Dutch spice trade. They were the biggest company in operation at the time, and arguably the world's first multinational company. They set up base in Jakarta, which was then known as Batavia and over the next two centuries went from strength to strength. However, it wasn't long before they got too involved in the politics of the island and the corruption that came with that, and in the early 19th Century they went bankrupt and Indonesia became a Dutch colony.

It remained this way until World War II, when Indonesia was occupied by Japan. After the war ended and the Japanese left, the Dutch relinquished their claim over Indonesia and Sukarno declared independence and became President.

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