Lesser Sunda Islands
Native name:
Kepulauan Nusa Tenggara
Kepulauan Sunda Kecil
LocationSoutheast Asia
Southwestern Pacific
Indian Ocean
Coordinates9°00′S 120°00′E / 9.000°S 120.000°E / -9.000; 120.000
ArchipelagoSunda Islands
Total islands975
Major islandsBali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Sumba, Flores, Timor
Highest elevation3,726 m (12224 ft)
Highest pointMount Rinjani
Ethnic groupsBalinese, Sasak, Sumbawan, Bimanese, Atoni, Manggaraian, Sumbese, Lamaholot, Tetum, Mambai, Kemak, Moluccans, Alfur, Javanese, Bugis
Map of Lesser Sunda Islands, east of Java
Satellite picture of the Lesser Sunda Islands

The Lesser Sunda Islands, also known as Nusa Tenggara Islands (Indonesian: Kepulauan Nusa Tenggara, formerly Kepulauan Sunda Kecil),[1] are an archipelago in Maritime Southeast Asia, most of the Lesser Sunda Islands are located within the Wallacea region, except for the Bali province which is west of the Wallace Line and is within the Sunda Shelf. 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 Sunda Trench in the Java Sea. Slightly over 20 million people live on the islands. Etymologically, Nusa Tenggara means "Southeast Islands" from the words of nusa which means 'island' from Old Javanese language and tenggara means 'southeast'.

The main Lesser Sunda Islands are, from west to east: Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, Sumba, Savu, Rote, Timor, Atauro, Alor archipelago, Barat Daya Islands, and Tanimbar Islands.


The Lesser Sunda Islands consist of two geologically distinct archipelagos.[2] The northern archipelago, which includes Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores and Wetar, is volcanic in origin. A number of these volcanoes, like Mount Rinjani on Lombok, are still active while others, such as Ilikedeka on Flores, 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.[2] The islands of the southern archipelago, including Sumba, Timor and Babar, are non-volcanic and appear to belong to the Australian plate.[3] The geology and ecology of the northern archipelago share similar history, characteristics, and processes with the southern 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.[4]

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. The province of Bali is the only province located on the Sunda Shelf and that is not within the Wallacea region and that is west of the Wallace Line.[4]

There are a number of volcanoes located on the Lesser Sunda Islands.[5]


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.[4] 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.[6] 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, and tropical dry broadleaf forests are predominant, in contrast to the tropical moist forests that prevail in most of Indonesia.


The Lesser Sunda Islands are divided among six ecoregions:[7]

Threats and preservation

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.

While many ecological problems affect both small islands and large landmasses, small islands suffer their particular problems and are highly exposed to external forces. Development pressures on small islands are increasing, although their effects are not always anticipated. Although Indonesia is richly endowed with natural resources, the resources of the small islands of Nusa Tenggara are limited and specialised; furthermore human resources in particular are limited.[8]

General observations[9] about small islands that can be applied to Nusa Tenggara include:[8]


The Lesser Sundas comprise many islands stretching east of Java, most of which are part of Indonesia and from 1945 were administered (apart from the easternmost islands which have been always administered as part of Maluku Province) as the Lesser Sunda Islands (Sunda Kecil) Province of Indonesia, later called Nusa Tenggara. In 1958 this was split into three new provinces, as the provinces of Bali, West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara.

The eastern half of Timor is the separate nation of East Timor.



Religion in Lesser Sunda Islands (2022)[10]

  Islam (41.09%)
  Roman Catholicism (19.61%)
  Protestantism (13.61%)
  Hinduism (25.16%)
  Buddhism (0.30%)
  Folk religion (0.23%)
  Confucianism (0.004%)

See also


  1. ^ "Badak Sunda dan Harimau Sunda". "[...] Mr. M. Yamin yang pada 1950-an ketika menjadi Menteri P.P. dan K. mengganti istilah Kepulauan Sunda Kecil menjadi Kepulauan Nusa Tenggara. Sebab, istilah Kepulauan Sunda Kecil diganti dengan Kepulauan Nusa Tenggara, maka istilah Kepulauan Sunda Besar juga tidak lagi digunakan dalam ilmu bumi dan perpetaan nasional Indonesia – meskipun dalam perpetaan Internasional istilah Greater Sunda Islands dan Lesser Sunda Islands masih tetap digunakan." - Ajip Rosidi: Penulis, budayawan. Pikiran Rakyat, 21 August 2010. Archived from the original on 8 July 2015. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  2. ^ a b Audley-Charles, M.G. (1987) "Dispersal of Gondwanaland: relevance to evolution of the Angiosperms" In: Whitmore, T.C. (ed.) (1987) Biogeographical Evolution of the Malay Archipelago Oxford Monographs on Biogeography 4, Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp. 5–25, ISBN 0-19-854185-6
  3. ^ Veevers, J.J. (1991) "Phanerozoic Australia in the changing configuration of ProtoPangea through Gondwanaland and Pangea to the present dispersed continents" Australian Systematic Botany 4: pp. 1–11
  4. ^ a b c Monk, K.A.; Fretes, Y.; Reksodiharjo-Lilley, G. (1996). The Ecology of Nusa Tenggara and Maluku. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions Ltd. p. 9. ISBN 962-593-076-0.
  5. ^ "Volcanoes of Indonesia: Lesser Sunda Islands". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 1 January 2013.
  6. ^ Monk (1996), page 4
  7. ^ Wikramanayake, Eric; Eric Dinerstein; Colby J. Loucks; et al. (2002). Terrestrial Ecoregions of the Indo-Pacific: a Conservation Assessment. Washington, DC: Island Press
  8. ^ a b Monk (1996), page 1
  9. ^ Beller, W., P. d'Ayala, and P. Hein. 1990. Sustainable development and environmental management of small islands. Paris and New Jersey: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation and Parthenon Publishing Group Inc.; Hess, A, 1990. Overview: sustainable development and environmental management of small islands. In Sustainable development and environmental management of small islands. eds W. Beller, P. d'Ayala, and P. Hein, Paris and New Jersey: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation and Parthenon Publishing Group Inc. (both cited in Monk)
  10. ^ "Jumlah Penduduk Menurut Agama" (in Indonesian). Ministry of Religious Affairs. 31 August 2022. Retrieved 29 October 2023. Muslim 241 Million (87), Christianity 29.1 Million (10.5), Hindu 4.69 million (1.7), Buddhist 2.02 million (0.7), Folk, Confucianism, and others 192.311 (0.1), Total 277.749.673 Million