Indonesia covers a vast area separating the Indian Ocean and the northern Pacific with a with more than 17,000 islands, including Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Sulawesi, western New Guinea and Bali.
A richly diverse nation of different cultures and religions, elaborate oriental architecture and exotic natural beauty, Indonesia is renowned for its warm and friendly welcome.
Highlights include Java Island, the 15th-century Sam Po Kong Temple in Semarang and the wonderful World Heritage Site of Borobudor Temple.
The island of Bali is known as the “island of the gods” and loved for its beaches, tolerant locals, dramatic mountains, temples and rice paddies, and exotic dance performances from epic Hindu tales.
To the east, the Gili Islands are a paradise of tranquillity with few cars and stunning wildlife. Snorkellers can spot Hawksbill turtles, bumphead parrotfish and manta rays swimming in the turquoise waters of the Java Sea. In the Lesser Sunda Islands, Komodo Island is one of the few remaining habitats of the formidable Komodo Dragon and home to a dazzling variety of exotic plants.
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and one of the most biodiverse areas on earth. The Kalimantan provinces belong to Indonesia, while the states of Sarawak and Sabah are Malaysian territory, and the remaining areas Bruneian territory. The island has a series of mountain ranges, including the Muller, Crocker and Kapuas Hulu Mountains, as well as several rivers, vital for trade and home to remote tribal communities.
Scientists have been fascinated by the island of Borneo for hundreds of years, and it has played a vital role in the theory of evolution. The tropical rainforest is home to thousands of endemic mammal and plant species, including the Bornean orangutan. The orangutan population has dramatically declined in recent years due to deforestation and poaching, so rehabilitation centres have been set up in the rainforest in an effort to protect this endangered species.
Other species living on the island include pygmy elephants, clouded leopards and eastern Sumatran rhinoceroses. Around 15,000 plant species thrive on Borneo, from the Rafflesia plants which produce the world's largest flowers measuring up to one metre wide, to the thousands of wild orchids. Some of the island's plants have been used in medical research, providing potential cures for certain types of cancer and strains of HIV.
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is the eastern portion of New Guinea, on the edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire. A natural wonderland of rugged mountain terrain, rainforest and vast areas of wetland, Papua New Guinea’s unique natural heritage was shown when an expedition into the huge crater of extinct volcano Mount Bosavi in 2009 uncovered numerous new species held captive by its 3000-ft walls, including a frog with fangs, geckos and a tree kangaroo.
Head-hunting and cannibalism played an important part in ceremonial and ritual practices in Papua New Guinea up until the 1950s, when after contact with the outside world it largely died out.