Indonesia is the largest archipelago and the forth populous country in the world, consisting of five main islands namely Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua. It has a total of 17,508 islands, among which 6,000 are inhabited. It stretches 5,150 km between the Australian and Asian continental mainland, and divides the Pacific and Indian Oceans at the Equator.
The east monsoon from June to September brings dry weather while the west monsoon from December to March brings rainy season. Transitional period between these two are interposed by occasional rain showers, but even in the midst of west monsoon, temperature range from 210 C (700F) to 330 C (900F), except at the higher altitudes, the temperature is cooler.
Heavy rainfalls are recorded in December and January. Humidity is between 60%-100%.
Language and Dialects
There are more than 483 languages and dialects spoken in Indonesia, belong to 350 different ethnic groups of population. Bahasa Indonesia is the national language, written in Roman script and based on European orthography. In all tourist destination areas, English is widely spoken and written.
The staple food of most Indonesian is “nasi” (rice). On some of the island in eastern Indonesia, the staple food traditionally ranged from corn, sago and cassava to sweet potatoes. Fishes feature prominently in the diet as fresh, salted, dried, smoked or a paste. Coconuts are found everywhere and besides being produced as cooking oil, its milk is an ingredient for many dishes. Spices and hot chili peppers are the essence of most cooking and in some areas they are used generously such as in West Sumatra and North Sulawesi.
Each province or area has its own cuisine, which vary in the method of cooking and ingredients. The Javanese cuisines are probably more palatable to the general taste and consist of vegetables, soybeans, beef, chicken and other varieties. Further to the east, seafood features on the daily diet, either grilled or made into curries. In Bali, Papua and the highlands of North Sumatra and North Sulawesi pork dishes are special. Pork is usually served in Chinese restaurants or in non-Moslem regions. Most common and nationwide dishes are “sate” (skewered grilled meat), “gado-gado” (vegetable salad with peanut sauce), “nasi goring” (fried rice served at any time) and “bakmi” (fried noodle).
Fruits and Speciality
There is a wide variety of tropical and sub-tropical fruits and vegetables all year round. Coffee and tea plantations are plentiful, grown on several islands and served everywhere from restaurants to small village stalls. There are several breweries, which produce local beer. Bali produces “brem” which rice wine, whereas Toraja people has their “tuak” which also known to people in North Sumatra.
Fauna & Flora
Within the Indonesian archipelago lies one of the most remarkable zoogeographical boundaries in the world, which dates back to the glacial period when the sea level fell worldwide. The original geographical segregation caused the typical fauna species found in Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan are completely different from fauna in Papua.
The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) which is the largest lizard in the world, reaching a length of 2 to 3 meters, has its home in the Komodo group of reserves, comprising Komodo, Padar, and Rinca Islands, eastward of Java, off the west coast of Flores. Meantime, Sulawesi has a unique fauna comprising of many endemic species and many variations namely Babirusa (pigdeer) and Anoa, a forest-dwelling dwarf. Papua and Maluku areas are rich in colorful birds, ranging from the great flightless cassowaries (Casuarius-casuarius) to brilliantly plumaged birds of paradise of the family Paradiseidae and Ptilinorhynhidae (more than 40 species altogether) and many numbers of the parrot family.
Other members of the Indonesian fauna are the Orang Utan, the hornbills, elephants (Elephas indicus), the Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris Sumatrae), and the Java tigers (Panthera Tigris Sondaica), the Mentawai Macaquel and leaf monkey Mentawai (Macoca pagensis and Prebystis potenziani), the one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus), banteng (Boss Javanicus), tree kangaroo (Dorcopsis mulleri)and fresh-water dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) from Mahakam River.
Indonesia lays within the botanical region of Melanesia, which is covered by the luxuriant growth of the characteristically tropical rainforest vegetation, a type of ever-wet vegetation containing a large number of timber species harboring various kinds of epiphytes, saprophytes and lianas. These characteristic features and the high number of genera and species endemic within this region make the flora of Indonesia completely different from that of neighboring continental Asia and Australia, as well as from the flora of other tropical areas in the world.
As might be expected, the rich flora of Indonesia contains many unique examples of tropical plant life and manifestations. Rafflesia Arnoldi, which is found only in certain parts of Sumatra, is the plant with the largest flower in the world; this parasitic plant grows on certain lianas but does not produce leaves. From the same area in Sumatra comes another giant, Amorphoplalus Titanum, with the largest inflorescence of its kind. The insect trapping pitcher plants (Nepenthea Spp.) are represented by different kinds of species from many areas in western Indonesia. The myriad of orchids found in Indonesia are rich in size and from including the largest of all orchids, the tiger orchid Grammatophyllum Speciosum, to the tiny and leafless species of Taeniophyllum used by the local people as a source of food and handicraft.
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