Bajau Laut – sea gypsies

Bajau village

The Bajau Laut people of the south-western Philippines and Indonesia live their entire lives on the sea. Known as “sea gypsies” or “sea nomads”, they inhabit amazing villages built on stilts in the middle of the ocean.

Bajau laut

Many Bajau people do not set foot on land except to trade fish and sea cucumbers for rice and (ironically) water, build new boats, or bury the deceased. In fact, they sometimes report feeling “landsick” when they do!

Boy playing with pet sharkBajau boy playing with pet shark

Even when their fragile, driftwood settlements are decimated in the typhoon season, or ransacked by pirates, they just take to their boats and start to build a new house.

These amazing people are so at home in the water that their bodies have physically adapted to it, giving them better underwater vision and the ability to hold their breath for up to five minutes while free-diving for their dinner, as this member of the Bajau Laut clan happily demonstrates:

Where their bodies haven’t adapted enough, they just fashion a pair of goggles out of a passing bit of flotsam…

Bajau laut goggles

…and slap on a bit of natural sunblock.

Sea gypsy girl

That only leaves the eardrums, which might tend to cause a bit of hassle when diving to depths of up to 30m. They are simply ruptured at an early age.

“You bleed from your ears and nose, and you have to spend a week lying down because of the dizziness,” said one sea gypsy (reported the Guardian), “but after that you can dive without pain.”

Nobody said life in paradise was easy.

Bajau hut

Amazing photos via Timothy Allen and James Morgan
Amazing video via BBC Human Planet

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