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The Republic of Indonesia - Introduction

East Indies - Insula India Orientalis et Molucae, from: Hulsius, Levinus, ca. 1550-1606. Click to enlarge  With Compliments - James Ford Bell Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USAThe name Indonesia has its roots in two Greek words: "Indos" meaning Indian and "Nesos" which means islands. The largest archipelago in the world, Indonesia lies at the crossroads between the Indian and Pacific oceans and bridges the continental landmasses of Asia and Australia.

It is one of the most volcanic and the most seismically active regions in the world: of its more than 400 volcanoes, 128 are considered active and 75 had erupted in historic times with more or less disastrous effects to the surrounding populations. Even today eruptions of varying magnitude occur regularly, rejuvenating the soil to make it among the most fertile on earth. Flanked by the tepid equatorial waters of two of the world's great oceans, the land rises from the darkest depths of some of the world's deepest oceans through to the towering peaks of the volcanoes and the realm of perennial snow of the Jayawijaya mountain range in Irian Jaya.

It seems natural that the migratory waves of peoples from the Asian mainland in search of new dwellings began millennia ago. They found these islands a most ideal place to settle down. In the course of time, distinct ethnic groups evolved in the regions where they settled down. Tourism has taken on a slightly different connotation in the Indonesian archipelago. Originally referring especially to small-scale, low impact visits to wildlife reserves; the Tourism now encompasses any form of that minimizes impact on the social and natural environment. The concept is especially important in Indonesia, as only a handful of areas are equipped to accommodate visitors in any number.

Bali, Yogyakarta, Lake Toba and Toraja can handle the peak season hordes in stride, with established facilities and people well acquainted with the requirement and attitudes of visiting foreigners. But a few steps off the beaten tourist trail, a whole archipelago waits to be explored. Spectacular vistas, vibrant cultures and unique experiences will conjure memories a visitor will cherish for life, but those memories may be all that remains if uncontrolled tourism rides roughshod over unprepared communities and fragile ecosystem. In view of the great diversity of Indonesia's physical and cultural make-up, a careful selection of the subjects of interest is recommended, as well as prior contact with the proper private or government organizations and agencies. The Directorate General of Culture, for example, may provide the necessary guidance for special interest visits pertaining to culture or history.

The Indonesia Institute of Sciences (LIPI) is the overall organization in charge of scientific research. In some cases, special permits have to be obtained, such as from the Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (PHPA) for visits to the nature reserves. The Department of Industry, the Department of Trade, the Indonesian Foreign Investment Board and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KADIN/CCI) are all concerned with trade and industry. In case of doubt, it is well advised to contact the nearest Indonesian Tourist Information Offices or Diplomatic Missions where special requirements may have to be met.

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