Malay Archipelago

archipelago between mainland Southeast Asia and Australia

The Malay Archipelago or Nusantara Archipelago refers to the archipelago between mainland Southeastern Asia and Australia.[3]

Malay Archipelago (Nusantara Archipelago)
World map highlighting Malay Archipelago. New Guinea—not part of the Malay Archipelago by some definitions—is also included.
LocationSoutheast Asia, Oceania
Total islands25,000 - 30,000
Major islandsBorneo, Java, Luzon, Mindanao, New Guinea, Sulawesi, Sumatra
Area2,000,000 km2 (770,000 sq mi)
Highest point
Population350 million.[2]
Ethnic groupsAustronesian peoples, Malay, Overseas Chinese
Wallace's Line; Bali and Lombok, unmarked, are to the south-west end
A map of Malaya.

It has also been called the East Indies, the Indo-Australian Archipelago, Indonesian Archipelago and other names over time.

The archipelago is between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The group has over 25,000 islands. It is the largest archipelago by area, and third by number of islands in the world. It includes Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, East Malaysia and East Timor.[4]

The island of New Guinea or islands of Papua New Guinea are not always included in definitions of the Malay Archipelago.[4][5] The Indonesian Moluccas are included in the archipelago.

Natural history


The Malay Archipelago is the place where two large tectonic plates meet, and is an area where orogeny (mountains) and volcanoes are common.

The Wallace Line is a key term in biogeography. It passes between Bali and Lombok, which are separated by a passage of water which is both deep and fast. On the one side are Australasian species, and on the other side Asian species. The natural history of the area was investigated by Alfred Russel Wallace, who spent eight years in the Spice Islands.[6][7][8][9]

"In this archipelago there are two distinct faunas rigidly circumscribed, which differ as much as do those of Africa and South America... yet there is nothing on the map or on the face of the islands to mark their limits. The boundary line passes between islands closer together than others belonging to the same group. I believe the western part to be a separated portion of continental Asia, while the eastern is a fragmentary prolongation of a former west Pacific continent".


  1. Moores, Eldridge M.; Fairbridge, Rhodes Whitmore (1997). Encyclopedia of European and Asian regional geology. Springer. p. 377. ISBN 0412740400. Retrieved 30 November 2009.
  2. Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division (2006). "World Population prospects, table A.2" (PDF). 2006 revision. United Nations: 37–42. Retrieved 2007-06-30. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. Wallace, Alfred Russel (1869). The Malay Archipelago. London: Macmillan. p. 1.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Malay Archipelago Archived 2008-04-17 at the Wayback Machine." Encyclopedia Britannica. 2006. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.
  5. "Maritime Southeast Asia Archived 2007-06-13 at the Wayback Machine." Worldworx Travel. Accessed 26 May 2009.
  6. Wallace A.R. 1869. The Malay Archpelago. Macmillan, London.
  7. Wallace A.R. 1876. The geographical distribution of animals. 2 vols, Macmillan, London.
  8. Wallace A.R. 1878. Tropical nature. Macmillan, London.
  9. Wallace A.R. 1880. Island life. Macmillan, London.