Indonesia is the 4th most populous country in the world, with 240 million people. The 300 ethnic groups speak 365 different languages. Bahasa Indonesia is the official language. Other languages include Acehnese, Ambonese, Batak, Buginese, Ceramese, Dayak, Halmahera, Javanese, Minahasa, Sundanese, Sasak, Tetum, and Toraja.
Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, covering an area almost the size of Australia. But only 20% (measuring 1,919,440 km²) is land – the rest is water.
There are five major islands and about 30 smaller island groups. The main islands are: Sumatra, Java/Madura, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Irian Jaya. In total, Indonesia comprises of 13,667 islands, of which about 6,000 are inhabited. The capital is Jakarta.
In the 1600’s, the Indonesian Moluccas islands were called the Spice Islands. Trade in spices promised great wealth to early Europeans, and it is the search for a route to these spices that led to the great voyages of Ferdinand Magellan, Christopher Columbus and others.
Some of the most interesting animals are found in the Indonesian tropical climate. The Komodo dragon (varanus komodoensis), the world’s largest lizard, grows to 3 metres (9,8 ft) long. The dwarf buffalo is one of the rarest animals in the world, and the Badak Jawa is a one-horned rhino. Indonesia is known worldwide for ornamental fish species and the Rafflesia arnoldi, the largest flower in the world, found only in certain parts of Sumatra.
Indonesia falls in the tropical zone, and has an average humidity of between 70% and 90%. The country is predominantly mountainous with some 400 volcanoes, of which 100 are active.
East Timor won independence from Indonesia in 1999, becoming an independent nation on 20 May 2002. It is a narrow, mountainous island covering 34,20 sq km (13,200 sq m), inhabited by about 4 million people who are of Papuan and Malay descent.
List of largest islands in the world