On the land of Waterfalls, Volcanoes and Earthquakes – Indonesia

Indonesia is a colourful country in Southeast Asia with more than seventeen thousand islands and many different ethnic groups, religions, culture and nature.

The islands of Indonesia lay around the Equator, this makes the climate tropical and the temperature and the length of daylight changes very few through the year. On the coastal areas the average temperature is 28 ºC, and in the mountains it can decrease until 20 ºC. The sunrise is changing between 6 AM and 6.30 AM, and the sun sets between 6 PM and 6.40 PM. In Java there is not a big nightlife, therefore we tried to adapt to the sunlight, wake up early and use the sunny hours. There are possibilities to go out in the capital, Jakarta, there are some bars in Yogyakarta and of course in Bali, but generally the alcohol is quite expensive everywhere in the country and you can only buy it in bars and specialized shops.

In Indonesia there is a rainy and there is a dry season. The monsoon generally lasts from November to March, while there is few rain from June to October, which makes this period the high season with more tourists and travelers, especially in August and September.

Wherever we go in Indonesia we can find a bit from its historical past.

The island of Java was inhabited by a subspecies of the Homo erectus, the early human fossils discovered here are also called the Java Man. Some thought the discovery represented a transitional form, the missing link between the apes and the humans while others said that it is an extinct side branch of the evolution. The current consensus of anthropologists is that it is a subspecies of the Homo Erectus, and it is scientifically known as Homo erectus erectus. Another subspecies of the Homor erectus, the Homo erectus ergaster is considered as the ancestor of Homo sapiens.

In 2003 several fossils were found in the island of Flores and they have been identified as a different, previously unknown species of the genus Homo, the Homo floresiensis (Flores Man).

You can learn more on this topic in the National Museum in Jakarta where you can see some archaeological findings as well.

The sea always played an important role in the life of the kingdoms and city-states, there were relevant trade routes towards Asia and Africa. The Buddhism and Hinduism reached the area through the same routes as well. Several dynasties raised, ruled and collapsed, letting behind such great monuments as the Buddhist and Hindu temples, Borobudur and Prambanan.

The Islam religion spread through the country between the 13th and 16th century, mixing with previous religions. By today the country became the first with the highest Muslim population (and the fourth country with the highest population after China, India and USA). Majority of the population is religious, the main religion in most of the islands including Java is Islam, while in Bali the 85% of the people are Hindus. The Balinese Hinduism differs from the Hinduism in India, simplistically because it includes local animism, ancestor worship and reverence for Buddhist saints as well.

From Europe first the Portuguese traders had permanent contact with the area in the 16th century, followed by British and Dutch traders. The Dutch established the Dutch East India Company (VOC). You can see the effects today on colonial architecture in Jakarta in the Oldtown and in the harbor and in Bali in Singaraja.

People from the archipelago started to develop a national consciousness as “Indonesians” at the beginning of the 20th century which triggered independence movements. During the World War II Japan occupied the area ending the Dutch rule. The country’s independence was declared after the surrender of Japan in 1945.

Thanks to the tropical climate the flora and fauna is very different from Europe and it gave a great experience to explore it. Our favourite day plan was to rent a motorbike and go around the area. And while there are some interesting cultural memories in the towns, the best was to leave the inhabited areas and go to the nature. In Java, close to Yogyakarta Kalibiru is worth a visit, while in Bali the waterfall hunt was very entertaining.

Indonesia’s archipelago is separated by the Wallace Line, which defines a border between two different zoogeographic realm. This means that on the western area of the country the fauna is largely of Asian origin, while on the eastern part is of Australasian origin. This difference was discovered by Alfred Wallace, British explorer, geographer, anthropologist, and biologist, co-discoverer of natural selection.
This second zoogeographic realm is also called Wallacea.

Wallace’s interest in natural history led him to be one of the first scientists to raise concerns over the environmental impact of human activity. This impact is still huge today. Luckily nowadays we can hear more about the issue and be more aware of the impact we cause especially regarding plastic waste. This is a great problem in Indonesia as well. We saw so many plastic waste thrown on the streets, in the forests, on the beautiful beaches as we have never seen before. It is very important to raise awareness all over the world, because the majority of the population doesn’t know about the consequences.

There are many sport activities which you can try in Indonesia. While at Nusa Penida and the Gili islands the snorkeling and scuba diving are popular and there are many surfers in Bali, you can do hiking in the volcanoes or sandsurfing in the sand dunes of Java.

There is a fact which shadows this amazing place and its beautiful nature and people and it is being part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Ring of Fire is a circle formed by borders of tectonic plates causing that there are many volcanoes in the area and the earthquakes are very frequent.

During our visit Mount Merapi in Java close to Yogyakarta and Mount Agung in Bali both were likely to erupt and their surroundings were closed from public. As well there were 4 strong earthquakes (6.4, 6.9, 5.9 and 6.9 Mw) close to the island of Lombok, which forced us to change our plans and to not visit this island and as well to avoid the Gili islands and long distance boat trips.

From the 400 volcanoes of the country 150 are active.
Two of the most violent volcanic eruptions in modern times occurred in Indonesia; in 1815 Mount Tambora in Sumbawa erupted killing 92,000 and in 1883, Krakatau, erupted killing 36,000 people. This eruption of the Krakatau volcano is the ever heard loudest sound on Earth which could be heard 5000 kilometers away. The eruption caused tsunami which arrived until the coast of Africa and America. One theory says that the famous painting, The Scream from Edvard Munch, Norwegian painter shows one of the spectacular sunsets of the following years after the eruption which could be seen all over the world thanks to the volcanic ash in the air.

On the place of the famous Krakatau volcano a new island rose from volcanic activity on August 1930. Recently the Anak Krakatau (“child of Krakatoa”) erupted on 22 December 2018, the southwest sector of the volcano had collapsed and triggered a tsunami in the area. The volcano lost the two-thirds of its height.

These issues are parts of the everyday life in Indonesia and still people are happy, garteful and very kind.

We visited Java, Bali and some of the smaller islands close to them. We returned to home with many experiences, we saw amazing places, but I don’t know if ever it is possible to say that someone saw everything what Indonesia has to offer. The nature is incredible, orangutans live in Sumatra and Borneo and dragons in Comodo and Flores, there are beautiful coasts, mountains, jungles and volcanoes and colourful fishes and coral reefs in the sea. You can find different cultures and traditions in each island or at the same island as well.