At 1,919,440 km2 with total 17,508 islands and over 238 million peoples, Indonesia is the world's 16th largest country in terms of land area. The five main islands are: Sumatra, which is about 473,481 km2 in size; the most fertile and densely populated islands, Java/Madura, 132,107 km2; Kalimantan, which comprises two-thirds of the island of Borneo and measures 539,460 km2; Sulawesi, 189,216 km2; and Irian Jaya, 421,981 km2, which is part of the world's second largest island, New Guinea.
The archipelago is on a crossroad between two oceans, the Pacific and the Indian, and bridges two continents, Asia and Australia. This strategic position has always influenced the cultural, social, political, and economic life of the country.
Indonesia is a republic, with an elected legislature and president. The nation's capital city is Jakarta. While religious freedom is stipulated in the Indonesian constitution, the government officially recognizes only six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
There are about 583 languages and dialects spoken in the archipelago. There normally belong to the different ethnic groups of the population. Some of the distinctly different local languages are: Acehnese, Batak, Sundanese, Javanese, Sasak, Tetum of Timor, Dayak, Minahasa, Toraja, Buginese, Halmahera, Ambonese, Ceramese, and several Irianese languages. To make the picture even more colorful, these languages are also spoken in different dialects. Although Bahasa Indonesia has become the lingua franca, local languages and dialects continue to be spoken and will not be abolished.
The climate changes every six months, the rainy season is from June to September and the dry season from December to March. The transitional periods between the two seasons are April to May and October to November.