Java Sparrow. (Lonchura oryzivora),
Java Sparrow. (Lonchura oryzivora), by Bernard Spragg

20 Unusual, Interesting and Fun Facts About Indonesia

Home to diverse natural landscapes and inhabitants that are culturally and spiritually fascinating, Indonesia is also home to many funny things, quirky idiosyncrasies and fun facts that’ll only make you fall further in love with the massive archipelago of diverse islands. This article will explore twenty interesting, curious and downright bizarre facts about Indonesia.

1. Indonesia is home to over 100 endangered animals

Known as the Lost World of Asia, Indonesia is the playing ground of increasingly rare, exotic and absolutely beautiful animals that are slowly reaching critically dangerous levels of endangerment. These animals include, the Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Rhinoceros, the Komodo Dragon, Orang-utans, the anoa (the smallest buffalo in the world), the beautiful Merak or Peafowl, sea turtles and the Tarsius Tarsier (a small, adorable, big-eyed primate not unlike Dobby the house elf in Harry Potter). Astoundingly, despite Indonesia only making up 1% of the Earth’s land area, its rainforests are home to 10% of the entire world’s known plant species, 12% of all mammal species and 17% of all known bird species.

2. Indonesia has the world’s biggest ‘young’ population

Indonesia is the home to 165 million people under the age of 30, compared to only 8% of the Indonesian population being older than 60 years of age. Although a relatively effective family planning programme was implemented in Indonesia in 1964, Indonesia’s population growth is projected to surpass the present population of the United States should nothing change.

3. The world’s biggest flower lives in Indonesia

The Rafflessia Arnoldia, also known as the ‘corpse lily’, due to its foul odour upon blooming, is the largest flower in the world. These huge flowers mostly grow in Indonesia’s rainforests, are very tricky to find and after months of the bud developing, only last a short few days. The orangey, red, parasitic, five-petalled flower has no observable stem or leaves, can grow up to 3 feet and can weigh a hefty ten kilograms. The flower was discovered by the Italian botanist and explorer, Dr Oroardo Beccari in 1878 in the rainforest of central Sumatra Island.

4. Home to over 700 different languages and dialects

This shocking number of languages is spoken throughout the Indonesian archipelago, with Bahasa Indonesia being the official language of Indonesia. Just the Papua Province alone, boasts over 270 spoken dialets. The total population for Indonesia is around 242 million people and Indonesia is also the largest Muslim-majority nation in the world.

5. Indonesia is the hottest spot on the Pacific Ring of Fire

The Pacific Ring of Fire, also known as the circum-Pacific belt, is the world’s largest earthquake belt with fault lines running from Chile to Japan and Southeast Asia. With Indonesia having roughly 130 active volcanoes, approximately four small earthquakes that occur daily, and sitting between the most active seismic area on earth, it is the hottest spot on the Ring of Fire. As a result of population density, many Indonesians live dangerously close to active volcanoes where rumblings occur frequently.

6. Home to the tallest island peak on earth

Puncak Jaya is the tallest summit of Mount Jayawijaya in the Papua Province of Indonesia. It sits 4,884 metres above sea level and is also the highest island peak in the whole world. It is also the only place in Indonesia where you can find any snow to frolic in.

7. It’s also home to the largest volcanic lake on earth

Lake Toba is the world’s biggest natural, volcanic lake and is located inside a super-volcano in northern Sumatra in Indonesia. The lake is simply enormous and has been measured to be roughly 500 metres deep, 100 kilometres long and 30 kilometres wide. Lake Toba is thought to be the site of a monster eruption that occurred around 70,000 years ago and is thought to be the largest-known explosive eruption on earth and killed the majority of humans alive at that time.

8. And, it’s also got the second longest coastline in the world

At 54,716 kilometers, Indonesia's coral-fringed, palm-tree edged coastline is second to Canada for being the longest coastline on earth. The dizzying number of over 17,000 islands in Indonesia is the reason that the country’s coastline is considered to be this long.

9. And, it’s home to a former head-hunter island

In the centre of Lake Toba lies a new island called, Pulau Samosir that is approximately the size of Singapore. Other than swimming in the soothing, volcano-heated water of Lake Toba, adventurous travellers visit Pulau Samosir to learn about the ancient Bataks that lived here who were cannibalistic head-hunters. Today however, the Bataks who live on the island are friendly, welcoming and all too pleased to show visitors around the grim, yet fascinating Batak ruins and teach travellers about their grisly history.

10. Indonesia is made up of 17,504 islands

As it stands today the lands of Indonesia consist of 17,504 islands although as climate change occurs and sea levels rise, this will change in time. Although many officials still debate the exact number, the Indonesian government has declared that this is the number for right now according to the Indonesian Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs. From palm-fringed tiny islets, to dense-jungle volcanoes reaching up from the frothy sea waters, Indonesia’s unbelievable amount of islands make up the earth’s largest archipelago.

11. Indonesia has a macabre and bizarre history with head-hunting

Head-hunting is the grisly practice of killing a person by cutting off their head and then preserving the ‘trophy’ and displaying it. Indonesian head-hunters have a long history of enjoying a terrifying reputation as fierce and unforgiving warriors. Although not practiced today, some Indonesian families with head-hunting ancestors have kept their grandfather’s ‘trophies’ and are stored today in modern-day homes. Just a tad creepy, right?

12. Indonesia is the only place on earth to observe the Komodo dragon in the wild

The Komodo Dragon is the world’s largest species of lizard and this 3 meter long, fierce, scaly creature exists on just five Indonesian islands – Padar, Gili Motang, Flores, Rinca and naturally, Komodo. These animals are truly terrifying with their toxic bites, huge stature and carnivorous diets. They hunt and kill animals that are far bigger than them, including humans.

13. Sumatra is one of just two places in the world to observe wild orang-utans

In Indonesian ‘orang’ means person and ‘utan’ means forest and so orang-utan quite literally means, ‘person of the forest’. Aside from Borneo, Sumatra in Indonesia allows travellers the opportunity to witness and marvel at wild orang-utans residing in the jungle of Gunung Leuser National Park close to the village of Bukit Lawang.

14. Home to the biggest Buddhist temple in the world

Constructed during the 9th century, the Borobudur Temple, located in Central Java is the world’s largest Buddhist Temple and has 1,460 relief panels on the walls, which is the biggest and most complete collection of Buddhist reliefs on earth. The shrine with its 504 Buddha statues, dedicated to Lord Buddha, is a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The pilgrimage starts at the base, follows a footpath around the temple, and climbs through levels representing Buddhist cosmology: The world of desire, the world of forms, and the world of formlessness.

15. Indonesia and Monaco have the exact same flag

A strip of red at the top and a strip of white at the bottom, the Indonesian flag hardly seems the most creative or the most painstakingly thought-out in the world. While Poland’s flag is the reverse flag (white on top and red on the bottom), Indonesia and Monaco have completely identical flags, the only difference being that Indonesia’s flag is slightly wider.

16. Guinness World Record holder for the “Largest packet of instant noodles

In 2005, PT Indofood Sukses Makmur Tbk from Indonesia broke the Guinness Book of World Records of making the largest packet of instant noodles. The packet of the noodles measured 3.4 meters x 0,47m, with a net weight of 664,938 kilograms, which is around 8,000 times larger than the weight of a regular packet of instant noodles. The massive packet was an exact scaled-up replica of a regular packet of Mi Goreng flavour Indomie instant noodles, with the same ingredients being used. The packet even included the usual sachet of seasoning and was declared fit for human consumption.

17. First developing country to operate their own domestic satellite system

From giant instant noodles to outer space, Indonesia holds many fascinating records in the world. After the first release of ‘Palapa’ on the 8th July 1976, Indonesia became the world’s first developing country to conduct its own domestic satellite system. ‘Palapa’ is a succession of communication satellites that belong to Indosat, an Indonesian telecommunications company that were launched by the United States of America.

18. Home to one of the world’s largest modern volcano eruptions

Although Indonesia has the third most volcanoes in the world (behind Russia and the United States), Indonesia is home to one of biggest, boldest and loudest eruptions of recent times. Between Java and Sumatra lies the famous volcanic island of Krakatoa. When this volcano erupted in 1883, it let loose two gigantic tsunamis that killed over 36,000 people and destroyed 165 coastal villages. It was said that the sound that was emitted by the erupting volcano has been considered to be the loudest sound ever heard. The explosion was heard over 4653 kilometres away and over 1/13 of the earth’s surface. Ash from the explosion fell on Singapore, 840 kilometres north; Cocos Island, 1155 kilometres southwest; and onto ships that were as far away as 6076 kilometres west-northwest.The Sundra Straits was covered in darkness for around 20 hours the next day, waves reached heights of 40 metres, and unusual sunsets occurred in New York, Poughkeepsie, and New Haven for an unbelievable, 3 years after.

19. Indonesia still enforces the death penalty - by firing squad

Capital punishment methods in Indonesia have not changed since 1964 and the death penalty is enforced only in very severe cases of drug trafficking or murder. Prisoners often spend a long time in jail before their death sentence penalty is carried out. This occurs after trial court, two appellate courts and then the consideration of clemency by the Indonesian president. Failing all of this, prisoners and their families are given 72-hours’ notice of their pending execution that usually takes place on Nusa Kambangan Island. The prisoner is woken up in the middle of the night, blindfolded and taken to an unknown, remote location where they have the option of standing or sitting, and are executed by a firing squad of armed soldiers.

20. Its capital is the most Instagrammed in Asia

Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta is the most Instagrammed city in Asia and number 8 throughout the world. The sprawling metropolis, Jakarta is home to over 9 million people and offers an abundance of photographic material which is clearly evident when Instagram recently (2017) revealed, that Jakarta is the number one city in Asia, which is most often geotagged in its Stories format.