The Bajau People – Gypsies of The Sea

Indonesia has vast territorial waters with unlimited underwater natural resources. Well, the vast territory of Indonesian waters, turned out to be used by a tribe whose daily life is above the sea. They are indeed known as the ocean wanderers. The Bajau people are definitely the gypsies of the sea. a nomadic sea tribe that can be found in South-Eastern Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. They are estimated to be around 100 000 people, traditionally living on the sea but this is very difficult to determine if it is accurate because they do not have official identification papers.

Where do the Bajau live?

Sometimes known as “sea nomads,” the Bajau have lived at sea for more than 1,000 years, on small houseboats that float in the waters off Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The Bajau rarely venture far of the coast.

How long can Bajau hold their breath?

Bajau takes free diving to the extreme, staying underwater for as long as 13 minutes at depths of around 200 feet.

What do the Bajau eat?

The Bajau free dive, mostly catching coral fish. However, they still eat various kind of fish, mussels and a lot of rice.

What language does the Bajau speak?


The Bajau are a culturally and linguistically diverse people living in the southern Philippines, eastern Indonesia and Sabah, Malaysia. The Bajaus speak a Malayo-Polynesian language which they themselves call ‘Sama‘. The ‘Sama’ language is spoken in the Philippines and Malaysia.

Bajau people spend most of their lives on the boat. They give birth on the sea and die also on the sea. Everything happened on their boat. But because most of them are Muslims, they usually will bury their families on the mainland. All the funeral process will usually follow the Islamic tradition, from bathing to burial process.

Sea nomad life makes the Bajau Tribe is not so concerned with the education of their offspring. The result, of course, the majority of them do not know letters, aka illiterate. In fact, they do not really know their own actual age.

The Sama-Bajau children live their whole lives on and in the ocean. For them, the sea is their home and heaven. They learn to dive at an early age. For these young kids, not only do they have expert-level swimming and diving skills, but they also have an excellent and clear underwater vision. Some of them have learned to fish using a harpoon.

The Sama-Bajau women have their own roles in their community, especially in farm work. While the men are involved in smithing, building boats and trading among the islands, the women are usually engaged in weaving as well as making and selling pottery. For the exception of all-nomadic groups, the fishing is purely done by the men, while their wives and children engage in the inshore gathering.

Thank you for reading… #TheSomethingGuy #SouthAfrica

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