The Republic of Indonesia is an island nation in Southeast Asia. The distance from the most westerly point of Aceh to the eastern border with Papua New Guinea is 3,100 miles, and from north to south the country stretches over 1,250 miles. There are 13,677 islands of which 6,000 are populated. The surface area of the country is 735,000 square miles, 14.5 times larger than England. The landscape varies from spectacular smoking craters in chains of volcanoes that run from Sumatra as far as Flores, to green, fertile rice fields, tropical rainforest, white beaches and the dry savannahs of the eastern islands. These different landscapes are separated by equally numerous seas. Indonesia’s rich nature encourages a huge range of flora and fauna to flourish. It is home to elephants, tigers, leopards and orang-utans. Sea tortoises live in the waters around Bali and the rafflesia, the world’s largest flower, grows on Sumatra. There are several national parks. Unfortunately, the tropical rainforest in the country is disappearing at an alarming rate.
Java: The island of Java is roughly the same size as England and has a population of over 120 million. This gives Java a population density at least twice as high as other countries in the world with a similar area. The Javanese landscape is dominated by the volcanoes, of which there are over 100 on the island, such as the Papandayan and the Bromo. About 30 of the volcanoes are still active.
Bali: Bali is dominated by the Gunung Agung, a volcano with a height of nearly 2 miles. It is a small island with very varied geography, ranging from majestic inland mountains and volcanoes to limestone and lowland on the coast. Beautiful beaches and coral reefs surround the island. Bali is also famous for its stunning rice fields in the hills.
Lombok: The predominantly Islamic island has empty beaches and a quiet, rural way of life. The Rinjani volcano dominates Lombok, with its peak at 2.3 miles above sea level.
The Lesser Sunda Islands
This chain of islands is situated east of Bali and extends over a distance of 800 miles. In modern Indonesia the islands are called Nusa Tenggara (the south-eastern islands). The archipelago is known amongst geologists as the Lesser Sunda Islands, as opposed to the Greater Sunda Islands of Sumatra, Java and Borneo. However, with regards to tourist attractions there is nothing lesser about Nusa Tenggara. A region of such small scale with such diversity and wealth of nature and culture can be found nowhere else in the world. From Lombok in the west to Timor in the east, this group of islands is blessed with calm white sandy beaches, clear water and stunning coral reefs. Nusa Tenggara has no less than 566 islands, 320 of which are so small that they are as yet unnamed. 42 of these islands are inhabited. The islands in this volcanic archipelago are potentially very fertile. Several volcanoes rise up to a height of around 2 miles and many contain deep crater lakes. Mass tourism has not quite reached these islands and the facilities are quite modest.
The predominantly Muslim island of Lombok is an island with quiet beaches and a peaceful rural community. It is dominated by the Rinjani volcano (2.3 miles high) and is a stop on our tour of the islands.
Sumbawa is larger than Lombok and Bali put together. It is a sparsely populated (just 900,000 inhabitants) series of connecting peninsulas, and the areas of forest in the western region are particularly uninhabited. The eastern side of the island is more densely populated, especially in the plains around Bima. Sumbawa is a photogenic island, ideal for travellers who wish to visit areas less trodden by tourists. Komodo is a hilly and deserted island, sandwiched between Sumbawa and Flores. The main attraction here are the numerous 10-foot long Komodo dragons. Just a few hundred people live on this island, in its only village of Kampung Komodo. The ‘dragons’ also live on the nearby islands of Rinca and Padar and on the west coast of Flores. Rinca has fewer tourists and Komodo dragon spotting is less organised here. Flores is one of the largest and most beautiful of the Sunda Islands. A chain of volcanoes runs across the island and a great number of diverse ethnic groups are native to the area, many of which follow Animist religious beliefs. The multi-coloured crater lakes of the Kelimutu volcano and the traditional Ngada village are a couple of this fascinating island’s highlights.