Java & Bali-Lesser Sunda


Java
Java (Indonesian: Jawa) is the 13th largest island in the world and the fifth largest island in Indonesia. Java is the world’s most populous island, and one of the most densely populated places in the world. Java is the home of 57 percent of the Indonesian population. It has three main languages, with Javanese being the dominant language; it is the native language of about 60 million people in Indonesia, most of whom live on Java. Most of its residents are bilingual, with Indonesian as their first or second languages. While the majority of the people of Java are Muslim, Java has a diverse mixture of religious beliefs, ethnicities, and cultures. Much of Indonesian history took place on Java. It was the center of powerful Hindu-Buddhist empires, the Islamic sultanates, and the core of the colonial Dutch East Indies.

Java is divided into four provinces, West Java, Central Java, East Java, and Banten, and also two special regions, Jakarta (Indonesian capital city) and Yogyakarta.

Java lies between Sumatra to the west and Bali to the east. Borneo lies to the north and Christmas Island is to the south. Java is surrounded by Java Sea in the north, Sunda Strait in the west, Indian Ocean in the south and Bali Strait and Madura Strait in the east.Java_Island

Java is almost entirely of volcanic origin; it contains thirty-eight mountains forming an east-west spine which have at one time or another been active volcanoes. The highest volcano in Java is Mount Semeru (3,676 m). The most active volcano in Java and also in Indonesia is Mount Merapi (2,930 m).

More mountains and highlands help to split the interior into a series of relatively isolated regions suitable for wet-rice cultivation; the rice lands of Java are among the richest in the world. Java was the first place where Indonesian coffee was grown, starting in 1699. Today, Coffea arabica is grown on the Ijen Plateau by small-holders and larger plantations.

The average temperature ranges from 22°C to 29°C; average humidity is 75%. The northern coastal plains are normally hotter, averaging 34°C during the day in the dry season. The south coast is generally cooler than the north, and highland areas inland are even cooler. The wet season begins in October and ends in April during which rain falls mostly in the afternoons and intermittently during other parts of the year. The wettest months are January and February.

West Java is wetter than East Java and mountainous regions receive much higher rainfall. The Parahyangan highlands of West Java receive over 4,000 mm annually, while the north coast of East Java receives 900 mm annually.

The natural environment of Java is tropical rainforest, with ecosystems ranging from coastal mangrove forests on the north coast, rocky coastal cliffs on the southern coast, and low-lying tropical forests to high altitude rainforests on the slopes of mountainous volcanic regions in the interior. The Javan environment and climate gradually alters from west to east; from wet and humid dense rainforest in western parts, to a dry savanna environment in the east, corresponding to the climate and rainfall in these regions.

Originally Javan wildlife supported a rich biodiversity, where numbers of endemic species of flora and fauna flourished; such as the Javan rhinoceros, Javan banteng, Javan warty pig, Javan hawk-eagle, Javan peafowl, Javan silvery gibbon, Javan lutung, Java mouse-deer, Javan rusa, and Javan leopard. With over 450 species of birds and 37 endemic species, Java is a birdwatcher’s paradise. There are about 130 freshwater fish species in Java. Some of Java’s endemic species are now critically endangered, with some already extinct; Java used to have its own endemic tiger subspecies that went extinct in the mid-1970s. Today, several national parks exist in Java that protect the remnants of its fragile wildlife, such as Ujung Kulon, Mount Halimun-Salak, Gede Pangrango, Baluran, Meru Betiri and Alas Purwo.

Bali-Lesser Sunda

Bali is an island and province of Indonesia, and includes a few smaller neighbouring islands, notably Nusa Penida. It is located at the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, between Java to the west and Lombok to the east, and has its capital of Denpasar at the southern part of the island. Its population are the most of Indonesia’s Hindu minority. Balinese culture was strongly influenced by Indian, Chinese, and particularly Hindu culture, beginning around the 1st century AD. The name Bali dwipa (“Bali island”) has been discovered from various inscriptions, including the Blanjong pillar inscription written by Sri Kesari Warmadewa in 914 AD and mentioning “Walidwipa”. It was during this time that the complex irrigation system subak (designated by UNESCO as the World Herritage Site), as the developed to grow rice. Some religious and cultural traditions still in existence today can be traced back to this period. The Hindu Majapahit Empire (1293–1520 AD) on eastern Java founded a Balinese colony in 1343. When the empire declined, there was an exodus of intellectuals, artists, priests, and musicians from Java to Bali in the 15th century.

Bali is also the largest tourist destination in the country and is renowned for its highly developed arts, including traditional and modern dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking, and music. A tourist heaven for decades, the province has seen a further surge in tourist numbers in recent years.

Bali is part of the Coral Triangle, the area with the highest biodiversity of marine species. In this area alone over 500 reef building coral species can be found. For comparison, this is about 7 times as many as in the entire Caribbean. There is a wide range of dive sites with high quality reefs, all with their own specific attractions. Many sites can have strong currents and swell, so diving without a knowledgeable guide is unadvisable.

Bali_IslandThe rich coral reefs around the coast, particularly around popular diving spots such as Tulamben, Amed, Menjangan or neighbouring Nusa Penida, host a wide range of marine life, for instance Hawksbill Turtle, Giant Sunfish, Giant Manta Ray, Giant Moray Eel, Bumphead Parrotfish, Hammerhead Shark, Reef Shark, Barracuda, and sea snakes. Dolphins are commonly encountered on the north coast near Singaraja and Lovina.

A team of scientists conducted a survey from 29 April 2011 to 11 May 2011 at 33 sea sites around Bali. They discovered 952 species of reef fish of which 8 were new discoveries at Pemuteran, Gilimanuk, Nusa Dua, Tulamben and Candidasa, and 393 coral species, including two new ones at Padangbai and between Padangbai and Amed. The average coverage level of healthy coral was 36% (better than in Raja Ampat and Halmahera by 29% or in Fakfak and Kaimana by 25%) with the highest coverage found in Gili Selang and Gili Mimpang in Candidasa, Karangasem regency.

Bali lies just to the west of the Wallace Line, and thus has a fauna that is Asian in character, with very little Australasian influence, and has more in common with Java than with Lombok. An exception is the Yellow-crested Cockatoo, a member of a primarily Australasian family. There are around 280 species of birds, including the critically endangered Bali Starling, which is endemic. Others include Barn Swallow, Black-naped Oriole, Black Racket-tailed Treepie, Crested Serpent-eagle, Crested Treeswift, Dollarbird, Java Sparrow, Lesser Adjutant, Long-tailed Shrike, Milky Stork, Pacific Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Sacred Kingfisher, Sea Eagle, Woodswallow, Savanna Nightjar, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Yellow-vented Bulbul, White Heron, Great Egret, etc.

Until the early 20th century, Bali was home to several large mammals: the wild Banteng, leopard and the endemic Bali tiger. The Banteng still occurs in its domestic form, whereas leopards are found only in neighbouring Java, and the Bali tiger is extinct. The last definite record of a tiger on Bali dates from 1937. Today, the largest mammals are the Javan Rusa deer and the Wild Boar. A second, smaller species of deer, the Indian Muntjac, also occurs. Saltwater crocodiles were once present on the island, but became locally extinct sometime during the last century.

Many plants have been introduced by humans within the last centuries, particularly since the 20th century, making it sometimes hard to distinguish what plants are really native. Among the larger trees the most common are: Banyan trees, Jackfruit, coconuts, bamboo species, acacia trees and also endless rows of coconuts and banana species. Numerous flowers can be seen: hibiscus, frangipani, bougainvillea, poinsettia, oleander, jasmine, water lily, lotus, roses, begonias, orchids and hydrangeas exist. On higher grounds that receive more moisture, for instance around Kintamani, certain species of fern trees, mushrooms and even pine trees thrive well. Rice comes in many varieties. Other plants with agricultural value include: salak, mangosteen, corn, Kintamani orange, coffee and water spinach.

The Lesser Sunda Islands or Nusa Tenggara(“Southeastern Islands”) are a group of islands in Maritime Southeast Asia, north of Australia. Together with the Greater Sunda Islands to the west they make up the Sunda Islands. The islands are part of a volcanic arc, the Sunda Arc, formed by subduction along the Java Trench in the Java Sea.

The Lesser Sunda Islands consist of two geologically distinct archipelagos. The northern archipelago, which includes Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores and Wetar, is volcanic in origin, a number of these, like Mount Rinjani on Lombok, are still active while others, such as Kelimutu on Flores with its three multi-coloured crater lakes, are extinct. The northern archipelago began to be formed during the Pliocene, about 15 million years ago, as a result of the collision between the Australian and the Asian plates. The islands of the southern archipelago, including Sumba, Timor and Babar, are non-volcanic and appear to belong to the Australian plate. The geology and ecology of the northern archipelago share a similar history, characteristics and processes with the southern Moluccas (Maluku) Islands, which continue the same island arc to the east.

There is a long history of geological study of these regions since Indonesian colonial times; however, the geological formation and progression is not fully understood, and theories of the geological evolution of the islands changed extensively during the last decades of the 20th century.

Lying at the collision of two tectonic plates, the Lesser Sunda Islands comprise some of the most geologically complex and active regions in the world.  There are a number of volcanoes located on the Lesser Sunda Islands.

The Lesser Sunda Islands differ from the large islands of Java or Sumatra in consisting of many small islands, sometimes divided by deep oceanic trenches. Movement of flora and fauna between islands is limited, leading to the evolution of a high rate of localized species, most famously the Komodo dragon. As described by Alfred Wallace in The Malay Archipelago, the Wallace Line passes between Bali and Lombok, along the deep waters of the Lombok Strait which formed a water barrier even when lower sea levels linked the now-separated islands and landmasses on either side. The islands east of the Lombok Strait are part of Wallacea, and are thus characterised by a blend of wildlife of Asian and Australasian origin in this region. Asian species predominate in the Lesser Sundas: Weber’s Line, which marks the boundary between the parts of Wallacea with mainly Asian and Australasian species respectively, runs to the east of the group. These islands have the driest climate in Indonesia.

A number of the islands east of the Wallace line, from Lombok and Sumbawa east to Flores and Alor, having original vegetation of dry forest rather than the rain forest that covers much of the Indonesian region, have been designated by the World Wildlife Fund as the Lesser Sundas deciduous forests ecoregion. The higher slopes of the islands contain forests of tall Podocarpus conifers and Engelhardias with an undergrowth of lianas, epiphytes, and orchids such as Corybas, Corymborkis, and Malaxis (Adder’s Mouth), while the coastal plains were originally savanna grasses such as the savanna with Borassus flabellifer palm trees on the coasts of Komodo, Rincah and Flores. Although most of the vegetation on these islands is dry forest there are patches of rainforest on these islands too, especially in lowland areas and riverbanks on Komodo, and there is a particular area of dry thorny forest on the southeast coast of Lombok. Thorn trees used to be more common in coastal areas of the islands but have largely been cleared.

These islands are home to unique species including seventeen endemic birds (of the 273 birds found on the islands). The endemic mammals are the endangered Flores Shrew (Suncus mertensi), the vulnerable Komodo Rat (Komodomys rintjanus), and Lombok Flying Fox (Pteropus lombocensis), Sunda Long-eared Bat (Nyctophilus heran) while the carnivorous Komodo dragon, which at three metres long and ninety kilograms in weight is the world’s largest lizard, is found on Komodo, Rincah, Gili Motang, and the coast of northwestern Flores.

More than half of the original vegetation of the islands has been cleared for planting of rice and other crops, for settlement and by consequent forest fires. Only Sumbawa now contains a large area of intact natural forest, while Komodo, Rincah and Padar are now protected as Komodo National Park.