5 Strange Things You Might Not Know About Indonesia

Indonesia is a huge, mysterious archipelago of disparate islands and cultures. Sparkling seas teeming with life, volcanoes, dense jungles and cultural wonders all await the intrepid traveler.


Photo © iStock/Gondronk

Gavin Macaulay from Dive the World shares five strange things he learnt about the islands of Indonesia.

1. Indonesia Is More a Continent Than a Country

Indonesia is big. Very big. It covers a territorial area of over 5 million square kilometers.

Look at it on the map, and you'll see that the distance between Banda in the west, and Irian Jaya in the east, makes it as wide as Southeast Asia itself. This is reflected in the variety of its population, geography, marine life, cuisine, religious beliefs and economy.

2. The Population of Indonesia is Incredibly Diverse

With a country so enormous, it's no wonder that there's a wide spread of people. Given the landmass is fragmented into so many islands, the diversity of the cultures should come as no great surprise.

However, if you're in a room with a typical Jakartan, a Bajau from Sulawesi, and a Papuan – you wouldn‘t believe they all live under the one flag!

3. Some Indonesian Flavours May Not Be Your Cup of Tea

Coffee and tea are big in Indonesia, with some of the coffee from Java, Aceh and Sumatra gaining a reputation worldwide.

Most unusual is probably the very expensive Kopi Luwak, whose beans must go through the intestines of Asian Palm Civets to have removed the bitterness.

From the faeces comes coffee that sells for a fortune in Europe and elsewhere. But, please don’t support the kopi luwak trade. Civets are intelligent, sensitive animals. Caging them and feeding them only beans is cruel.

4. Indonesia is at the Heart of the World's Marine Biodiversity

The coral triangle, the world's most biodiverse region of sea includes Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the East of Borneo and the Philippines.

It's believed this is where life in the sea began. It's home to 76% of the world‘s coral species, 37% of the world's fish species, and a high level of endemism.

There's little wonder why so many places in Indonesia are of interest to conservationists and scuba divers. Places such as Bali, Raja Ampat, Komodo and North Sulawesi especially.

5. The Spice Islands of Indonesia Were Once Traded for New York

In 1667 the Treaty of Breda was signed, bringing an end to Dutch-English hostilities over the coveted Spice Islands in Indonesia‘s Banda Sea.

It transpired to be a hugely significant moment in history, as the agreement was based around a property swap of the then English Run Island with the then Dutch New Amsterdam - Manhattan, New Jersey and Delaware Estuary. So New Amsterdam became New York.

Have you been to Indonesia? What do you wish you had known before you went?

Want to know more about Indonesia? Listen to the World Nomads podcast. With around 17,000 islands to choose from, where are the must visits, and if you have your surfboard, best surf breaks? Hear the tale of a man chased by headhunters, and tips for traveling the world solo.

Related articles

Travel Insurance

Simple and flexible travel insurance

You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.

Get a quote


  • Aislinn Teixeira said

    I would just like to point out, in reference to 2.) The population is incredibly diverse, that not all Timorese are Indonesian. Only those who live in West Timor are Indonesian. The East Timorese live in an Independant country after 24/5 years of oppression. <br><br>Other than that this is a great piece :) I'm a little sad that I haven't seen anything in Indonesia past Bali but hey, I have YEARS of life and travel to go.<br><br>Ais. <br>

  • Boma said

    Thanks for write this info on your blog, yeah during my first 3 years of being a host in airbnb i heard so many question food, tourist myth, or any price mark up from any agent. But hopefully you will always updating your blog so will give as many tourist an info before they come to my country...keep rock and keep updating you are great!

  • Sergio said

    I would also add that it is extremely rude to:

    1- touch someone's head

    2- poibt wuth your feet at something (as improbable as it may sound)

    Lovely article, thank you!

Add a Comment