The 7,107 islands of the Philippines stretch 1,850 kilometres from north to south (equivalent to Melbourne to Bundaberg) and 1,100 kilometres east to west (equivalent to Sydney to Broken Hill). Many of the islands are mountainous and many of the mountains are volcanic. The two largest islands, Luzon and Mindanao, make up 65% of the country’s total land mass. The highest mountain, Mount Apo, which is 2,954 metres, is on the island of Mindanao.
The climate of the Philippines is tropical with high rainfall and consistently high temperatures, with local variations according to altitude. Monsoon winds and rains affect the country all year round – from the north-east from November to April, and from the south-west from May to October. On average, 20 typhoons, or tropical cyclones, cross the Philippine region each year between June and December.
The Philippine archipelago is one of the most biologically diverse regions of the planet. The tropical rainforests and coral reefs are home to many wonderful plants and animals, including the world's largest fish, the whale shark; the world's second-largest eagle, the Philippine eagle; the world's smallest primate, the tarsier; and the world's longest snake, the reticulated python.
Deforestation; soil erosion in rural areas; air and water pollution in the cities; and pollution of the fish-breeding grounds in the coastal mangrove swamps are major environmental issues facing the Philippines.
The Philippines is home to the World-Heritage listed Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park, which features an underground river and a full 'mountain-to-sea' ecosystem; and the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, an atoll reef with a large number of marine species, including turtles, tiger sharks, barracuda and trevally fish.
Of the more than 94 million people, two-thirds live in urban areas. The capital city, Manila, is the largest city with a population of 11.5 million. Other cities with more than one million inhabitants are Davao and Caloocan. Rapid population growth and pressure on land means more people are moving from agricultural areas to the cities in search of a better life.