November 25, 2012 6:58 pm

Indonesia is a tropical country made up entirely of islands. How many islands? It’s got more than 13,600 of them! Tigers, pythons, and crocodiles live in thick rain forests that cover some of the islands. Towering mountains and active volcanoes rise across Indonesia, the world’s largest island nation.
People live on about half of Indonesia’s islands. The main islands include Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi. Thousands of Indonesia’s smaller islands are little more than tiny dots of land. Indonesia also owns parts of the islands of Borneo, New Guinea, and Timor. Many Indonesians use boats for fishing and traveling between the islands.
Facts About Indonesia
Official name
Republic of Indonesia
Official language
Bahasa Indonesia
238,000,000 people
Rank among countries in population
Major cities
Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya
735,000 square miles
1,900,000 square kilometers
Rank among countries in area
Highest point
Mt. Jaya
16,503 feet/5,030 meters
Indonesian rupiah
The Indonesian islands lie near the equator, the imaginary line that encircles Earth around its middle. They stretch for thousands of miles, from the Malay Peninsula almost to Australia. The islands form a chain that separates the Indian and Pacific oceans.
For centuries, traders sailing between India and China had to pass through Indonesian waters. Most traders sailed through the Straits of Malacca, a narrow waterway between Sumatra and Malaysia. Over time, many different people settled in Indonesia. The islands have many native tribes, too. Today, about 300 different languages are spoken across Indonesia.
Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country, after China, India, and the United States. Some Indonesian islands are very crowded. More than half of Indonesia’s 238 million people live on just one island, Java. Java covers an area about the size of New York state. Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital and largest city, is located on Java.
Indonesia is in the tropics, so the climate is hot and humid all year round. Instead of hot and cold seasons, Indonesia has wet seasons and dry seasons.
Winds called monsoons cause Indonesia’s wet and dry seasons. From November through March, the winds carry heavy rains to Indonesia. From June to October, the winds bring dry air to the islands.
Mountains and volcanoes cover much of Indonesia. In fact, Indonesia has more volcanoes than any other place in the world. Volcanoes rise on all the major islands except Borneo and New Guinea. A volcano erupts somewhere in Indonesia at least once a year.
Many Indonesian people live near volcanoes. That’s because volcanic ash (dust that falls from the air after an eruption) makes the soil good for farming. When volcanoes erupt, they can kill many people.
One of the worst volcanic eruptions in history occurred in Indonesia. In 1883, a volcano blew up the island of Krakatau. The eruption caused huge tsunamis (tidal waves) that killed thousands of people. The explosion made one of history’s loudest noises. It could be heard 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) away!
Wildlife flourishes in Indonesia, especially on islands where few people live. Indonesia is home to many rare animals, including rhinoceroses, elephants, and dwarf buffaloes. Brightly colored parrots, parakeets, and birds of paradise can be seen in the tropical forests.
The dangerous Komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard, lives only on several small Indonesian islands, including the island of Komodo. It can grow more than 10 feet (3 meters) long and weigh 365 pounds (165 kilograms)!
Another rare animal found only in Indonesia is an ape called the orangutan. The name orangutan means “man of the jungle” in the Malay language. Orangutans spend most of their time in trees. Today, orangutans are endangered because Indonesian loggers have cut down so much of the tropical forest.
Long ago, Indonesia was famous for its spices. Part of Indonesia was known as the Spice Islands. The people of Europe greatly prized the spices of Indonesia. Merchants carried the spices back to Europe, where black pepper was more valuable than gold!
Europeans fought over Indonesia throughout the 1500s and early 1600s. The Dutch eventually won, and they took control of Indonesia. The Dutch forced Indonesian people to grow spices and other valuable crops, and they took all the wealth back to Europe. Indonesia did not gain its freedom until 1949.
Rice is the main food of Indonesians. Rice is grown throughout Indonesia, and it is usually eaten at every meal. Black tea is a popular beverage.
One of Indonesia’s best-known arts is called batik. It’s a method of dyeing cloth to make beautiful patterns. Batik is cloth painted with melted wax and then dyed. The waxed areas do not absorb the dye. When the wax is removed, the patterns remain.
Puppet shows are another famous art form of Indonesia. The puppets are usually made from wood or leather. Yet the audience never sees the puppets. The puppeteer moves the puppets behind a white screen to act out a story. The audience sits on the other side. It sees only the shadows of the puppets on the screen.
The shadow puppet plays often tell stories from Hindu poems. The people of Bali, a small Indonesian island, follow a form of Hinduism. Hinduism is a religion that came to Bali from India. Hinduism has greatly influenced the culture of Indonesia.
Yet most Indonesians are not Hindus. They are Muslims, or followers of Islam. In fact, nearly 90 percent of Indonesians are Muslim. That makes Indonesia the largest Muslim country in the world.

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