Sumatra is a large island in western
Indonesia that is part of the
Sunda Islands. It is the largest island that is located entirely in
Indonesia (after Borneo, which is shared between
Indonesia and other
countries) and the sixth-largest island in the world at
473,481 km2 (not including adjacent islands such as the Riau
Islands and Bangka Belitung Islands).
Sumatra is an elongated landmass spanning a diagonal
northwest-southeast axis. The
Indian Ocean borders the west,
northwest, and southwest coasts of
Sumatra with the island chain of
Nias and Mentawai off the western coast. In the northeast
Strait of Malacca
Strait of Malacca separates the island from the Malay
Peninsula, which is an extension of the Eurasian continent. In the
southeast the narrow
Sunda Strait separates
Sumatra from Java. The
northern tip of
Sumatra borders the Andaman Islands, while off the
southeastern coast lie the islands of Bangka and Belitung, Karimata
Strait and the
Java Sea. The
Bukit Barisan mountains, which contain
several active volcanoes, form the backbone of the island, while the
northeastern area contains large plains and lowlands with swamps,
mangrove forest and complex river systems. The equator crosses the
island at its center in
West Sumatra and
Riau provinces. The climate
of the island is tropical, hot and humid. Lush tropical rain forest
once dominated the landscape.
Sumatra has a wide range of plant and animal species but has lost
almost 50% of its tropical rainforest in the last 35
years[clarification needed]. Many species are now critically
endangered, such as the Sumatran ground cuckoo, the Sumatran tiger,
the Sumatran elephant, the Sumatran rhinoceros, and the Sumatran
Deforestation on the island has also resulted in serious
seasonal smoke haze over neighbouring countries, such as the 2013
Southeast Asian haze causing considerable tensions between Indonesia
and affected countries
Malaysia and Singapore.
5 Largest cities
6 Flora and fauna
8 Rail transport
9 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
Sumatra was known in ancient times by the
Sanskrit names of
Swarnadwīpa ("Island of Gold") and Swarnabhūmi ("Land of Gold"),
because of the gold deposits in the island's highlands. The first
mention of the name of
Sumatra was in the name of
(king) Sumatrabhumi ("King of the land of Sumatra"), who sent an
China in 1017.
Arab geographers referred to the island as
Lamri (Lamuri, Lambri or Ramni) in the tenth through thirteenth
centuries, in reference to a kingdom near modern-day Banda
was the first landfall for traders. The island is also known by other
names namely, Andalas or Percha Island.
Late in the 14th century the name
Sumatra became popular in reference
to the kingdom of
Samudra Pasai, a rising power until replaced by the
Sultanate of Aceh. Sultan Alauddin Shah of Aceh, in letters addressed
Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1602, referred to himself as "king
Aceh and Samudra". The word itself is from
(समुद्र), meaning "gathering together of waters, sea or
Marco Polo named the kingdom Samara or Samarcha in the late
13th century, while the 14th century traveller Odoric of Pordenone
used Sumoltra for Samudra. Subsequent European writers then used
similar forms of the name for the entire island.
European writers in the 19th century found that the indigenous
inhabitants did not have a name for the island.
Melayu Kingdom was absorbed by Srivijaya.:79–80
Batak warriors, 1870
Srivijayan influence waned in the 11th century after it was defeated
Chola Empire of southern India. At the same time, Islam made
its way to
Arabs and Indian traders in the 6th and 7th
centuries AD. By the late 13th century, the monarch of the Samudra
kingdom had converted to Islam.
Marco Polo visited the island in 1292,
Ibn Battuta visited twice during 1345–1346.
succeeded by the powerful
Aceh Sultanate, which survived to the 20th
century. With the coming of the Dutch, the many Sumatran princely
states gradually fell under their control. Aceh, in the north, was the
major obstacle, as the Dutch were involved in the long and costly Aceh
Aceh Movement fought against Indonesian government forces in
Aceh Insurgency from 1976 to 2005. Security crackdowns in 2001
and 2002 resulted in several thousand civilian deaths.
Traditional house in
Nias North Sumatra
(Kepulauan Bangka Belitung)
Map of geological formation of
The longest axis of the island runs approximately 1,790 km
(1,110 mi) northwest–southeast, crossing the equator near the
centre. At its widest point, the island spans 435 km
(270 mi). The interior of the island is dominated by two
geographical regions: the
Barisan Mountains in the west and swampy
plains in the east.
Sumatra is the closest Indonesian island to
To the southeast is Java, separated by the Sunda Strait. To the north
Malay Peninsula (located on the Asian mainland), separated by
the Strait of Malacca. To the east is Borneo, across the Karimata
Strait. West of the island is the Indian Ocean.
Great Sumatran fault (a strike-slip fault), and the Sunda
megathrust (a subduction zone), run the entire length of the island
along its west coast. On 26 December 2004, the western coast and
islands of Sumatra, particularly
Aceh province, were struck by a
tsunami following the
Indian Ocean earthquake. This was the longest
earthquake recorded, lasting between 500 and 600 seconds. More
than 170,000 Indonesians were killed, primarily in Aceh. Other recent
earthquakes to strike
Sumatra include the 2005 Nias–Simeulue
earthquake and the 2010 Mentawai earthquake and tsunami.
Mount Sinabung, North Sumatra
To the east, big rivers carry silt from the mountains, forming the
vast lowland interspersed by swamps. Even if mostly unsuitable for
farming, the area is currently of great economic importance for
Indonesia. It produces oil from both above and below the soil – palm
oil and petroleum.
Sumatra is the largest producer of Indonesian coffee. Small-holders
grow Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) in the highlands, while Robusta
(Coffea canephora) is found in the lowlands. Arabica coffee from the
regions of Gayo, Lintong and Sidikilang is typically processed using
Giling Basah (wet hulling) technique, which gives it a heavy body
and low acidity.
Medan, the largest city in Sumatra
The largest cities in
Sumatra by population, listed by their 2010
census populations, are:
1 July 1590
17 June 1683
18 December 1829
23 June 1784
17 June 1682
7 August 1669
17 May 1946
18 March 1719
20 April 1999
24 April 1871
22 April 1205
17 August 2001
Flora and fauna
See also: List of national parks of Indonesia
Sumatra supports a wide range of vegetation types which are home to a
rich variety of species, including 17 endemic genera of plants.
Unique species include the
Sumatran pine which dominates the Sumatran
tropical pine forests of the higher mountainsides in the north of the
island and rainforest plants such as
Rafflesia arnoldii (the world's
largest individual flower), and the titan arum (the world's largest
The island is home to 201 mammal species and 580 bird species, such as
the Sumatran ground cuckoo. There are 9 endemic mammal species on
Sumatra and 14 more endemic to the nearby Mentawai
Islands. There are about 300 freshwater fish species in
Sumatra. There are 93 amphibian species in Sumatra, 21 of which
are endemic to Sumatra. (See also: List of amphibians of Sumatra)
The Sumatran tiger, Sumatran rhinoceros, Sumatran elephant, Sumatran
ground cuckoo, and
Sumatran orangutan are all critically endangered,
indicating the highest level of threat to their survival. In October
2008, the Indonesian government announced a plan to protect Sumatra's
The island includes more than 10 national parks, including 3 which are
listed as the
Tropical Rainforest Heritage of
Sumatra World Heritage
Site – Gunung Leuser National Park,
Kerinci Seblat National Park
Kerinci Seblat National Park and
Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park. The
Berbak National Park
Berbak National Park is one
of three national parks in
Indonesia listed as a wetland of
international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
Minangkabau women carrying platters of food to a ceremony
Sumatra is not particularly densely populated, with just over 100
people per km2 – more than 50 million people in total. Because
of its great extent, it is nonetheless the fourth most populous
island in the world.
There are over 52 languages spoken, all of them (except Chinese and
Indians) belong to the Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian sub-branch of
Malayo-Polynesian which in turn is a branch of the Austronesian
language family. Within Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian, they were divided
into several sub-branches that is Chamic (which are represented by
Acehnese in which its closest relatives are languages spoken by Ethnic
Chams in Cambodia and Vietnam), Malayic (Malay, Minangkabau and other
closely related languages), Northwest Sumatran (Batak languages, Gayo
and others), Lampungic (includes Proper
Lampung and Komering) and
Bornean (represented by Rejang in which its closest linguistic
relatives are Bukar Sadong and Land Dayak spoken in West Kalimantan
Sarawak (Malaysia)). Northwest Sumatran and Lampungic branches are
endemic to the island. Like all parts of Indonesia, Indonesian (which
was based on
Riau Malay) is the official language and the main Lingua
Sumatra has its own local Lingua franca, variants of
Medan Malay and
Palembang Malay are popular in North
and South Sumatra, especially in urban areas. Minangkabau (Padang
dialect) is popular in West Sumatra, some parts of North Sumatra,
Riau (especially in
Pekanbaru and areas bordered
with West Sumatra) while Acehnese is also used as an inter-ethnic
means of communication in some parts of
Baiturrahman Grand Mosque
Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh
The majority of people in
Sumatra are Muslims (91%), while 8% are
Christians, less than 2% are Buddhist and Hindus .
Several unconnected railway networks built during Netherlands East
Indies exist in Sumatra, such as the ones connecting Banda
Prapat in Northern
Sumatra (the Banda Aceh-Besitang section was closed
in 1971, but is currently being rebuilt). Padang-Solok-Bukittinggi
in West Sumatra, and Bandar Lampung-Palembang-Lahat-Lubuk Linggau in
Architecture of Sumatra
Communism in Sumatra
Music of Sumatra
^ CNN, By Peter Shadbolt. "
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palm oil, pulp and planet: four perspectives on Indonesia’s
fire-stricken peatlands, The Conversation
William Marsden, The History of Sumatra, (1783); 3rd ed. (1811) freely
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sumatra.
Sumatra travel guide from Wikivoyage
Provinces of Indonesia
East Nusa Tenggara
West Nusa Tenggara
GRP per capita