With so many diverse groups and unique islands scattered throughout Ecuador, there are many interesting facts about Indonesia; some may surprise you.
Indonesia is the largest nation in Southeast Asia (by size) and the fourth most populous country on earth. It is a geological wonderland. Take the equator, add hundreds of volcanoes at the meeting point of the Indian and Pacific oceans, and well, you end up with a very interesting and exotic destination.
Although Bali, a honeymoon spot in Asia, gets a lot of attention, most people don’t know much about the rest of Indonesia. If you have the patience to dig deep, Indonesia has the rewards.
Indonesia is busy and young
Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world (261.1 million people according to a 2016 estimate). Indonesia is surpassed in population only by China, India and the United States, in that order.
Taking outbound migration into account (many Indonesians find work abroad), the population growth in Indonesia for 2012 was around 1.04 percent.
Between 1971 and 2010, Indonesia’s population literally doubled in 40 years. In 2016, the average age in Indonesia was estimated at 28.6 years. In the United States, the median age was 37.8 years in 2015.
Religion is diverse
Indonesia is the most populous Islamic nation in the world; Most are Sunni. But religion can vary from island to island, especially the further east Jakarta you travel.
The missionaries visited many islands and towns in Indonesia and converted to Christianity. Dutch settlers spread beliefs. The old superstitions and animistic beliefs related to the spirit world were not totally abandoned. Instead, they mixed with Christianity on some islands. People with crosses can be seen along with talismans and other charms.
Bali, an exception in many ways for Indonesia, is predominantly Hindu.
Indonesia is the largest island country in the world
Indonesia is the largest island nation in the world. At 735,358 square miles of land, it is the 14th largest country in the world by available land. When both land and sea are taken into account, it is the seventh largest in the world.
Nobody knows how many islands
Indonesia is spread over an archipelago of thousands of islands, yet no one can agree on how many there are. Some islands appear only at low tide, and different surveying techniques produce different counts.
The Indonesian government claims 17,504 islands, but a three-year survey by Indonesia found only 13,466 islands. The CIA believes that Indonesia has 17,508 islands, which is less than the estimated 18,307 islands counted by the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space in 2002.
Of the 8,844 estimated islands that were named, only about 922 are believed to be permanently settled.
The segregation and isolation of the island made the culture less homogeneous throughout the country. As a traveler, you can switch islands and enjoy a relatively new experience on each with different dialects, customs, and special foods.
Bali is the busiest
Despite the abundance of islands, tourists tend to focus on just one and fight for space: Bali. The most famous tourist island is the usual entry point for travelers who want to visit Indonesia. Cheap flights can be found from major hubs in Asia and Australia.
Bali is roughly in the center of the archipelago, making it convenient as a starting point for exploring further afield. Other airports may be better options if you intend to visit distant or remote locations.
Jungle tribes are one thing
It can be hard to believe while standing in modern, metropolitan Jakarta that uncontacted tribes are supposed to still exist in the jungles of Sumatra, a short distance to the west. It is estimated that 44 of the more than 100 uncontacted tribes in the world live in Papua and West Papua, provinces in eastern Indonesia.
Although he behaved much more in modern times, there are still living scouts in Indonesia. The practice has been extinct decades ago, but some indigenous families have even kept the “trophies” of their grandparents stored in the closets of modern homes. Headhunting and ritual cannibalism were practiced in Pulau Samosir in Sumatra and in Kalimantan, the Indonesian side of Borneo.
Volcanoes are definitely a thing
Indonesia has around 127 active volcanoes, some of which have been erupting since recorded history. With Indonesia so populated, it is inevitable that millions of people will live within eruption zones at any given time. Gunung Agung on the busy island of Bali spooked many tourists when it blew up in 2017 and 2018.
The 1883 Krakatoa eruption between Java and Sumatra produced one of the loudest sounds in history. It broke the eardrums of people more than 40 miles away. Air waves from the explosion circled the globe seven times and were recorded in barographs five days later. The tidal waves of the cataclysmic event were measured as far away as the English Channel.
The largest volcanic lake in the world, Lake Toba, is located in North Sumatra. The explosive eruption that formed the lake is believed to have been a catastrophic event that resulted in 1,000 years of colder temperatures on land due to the amount of debris thrown into the atmosphere.
A new island fueled by volcanic activity, Pulau Samosir, formed in the center of Lake Toba and is home to the Batak people.
Indonesia is the home of Komodo dragons
Indonesia is the only place in the world to see Komodo dragons in the wild. The two most popular islands to see Komodo dragons are Rinca Island and Komodo Island. Both islands are in a national park and are part of the East Nusa Tenggara province, between Flores and Sumbawa.
Despite their ferocity, Komodo dragons are listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List. For decades, its highly bacterial saliva was assumed to be responsible for making Komodo dragon bites so dangerous. Only in 2009 did researchers find what the poisonous glands could be.
Komodo dragons occasionally attack rangers and locals who share the islands. In 2017, a tourist from Singapore was attacked and survived a dangerous leg bite. Ironically, the many cobras that live on the islands are considered much more dangerous by the locals who live there.
Indonesia is the home of orangutans
Sumatra and Borneo are the only places in the world to see wild orangutans. Sumatra belongs entirely to Indonesia, and Borneo is shared between Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.
An easy place for travelers in Indonesia to possibly see Sumatran orangutans (semi-wild and wild) living in the jungle is the Gunung Leuser National Park near the town of Bukit Lawang.
There are many languages
Although Bahasa Indonesia is the official language, more than 700 languages and dialects are spoken throughout the Indonesian archipelago. Papua, just one province, has more than 270 dialects spoken.
With over 84 million speakers, Javanese is the second most prominent language in Indonesia.
The Dutch left a few words for items that were not present before their colonization. Handuk (towel) and askbak (ashtray) are two examples.