'An ethnic group of Malay origin, the Bajau Laut have lived almost entirely at sea for centuries. They are some of the last true nomads of the ocean.

Living on the sea, crammed in make shifts boat, and living on floating houses above the ocean; the Bajau People are the sea gypsies of the ocean. It makes my heart shine to think that in the 21st century that we live in, people still find solace in the sea, and not much else. Their simple yet dangerous life, is driven by the ocean and its changing tides, and although Bajau kids do not go to school, they learn most of their knowledge through their ancestors.


The Bajau have been a nomadic, seafaring people for most of their history. Many Bajau still practice that same lifestyle to this day, which explains why they are still commonly called "sea gypsies." They chart particularly the waters of the Sulu Sea, off the southwestern coast of the Philippines, and the various seas that surround the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. These are among the most dangerous waters in the world with sporadic policing at best and a very high incidence of open piracy. Yet these Bajau claim never to have wielded weapons — preferring to simply flee from potential attack. They come ashore only to bury the deceased and to live temporarily while making new boats. 

Of course the seafaring Bajau make their living from fishing. Those who have abandoned that lifestyle have become farmers and cattle rearers, earning them the local nickname, "cowboys of the east." Indeed their equine skills are well known in this part of the world, and are always to be found displayed in Bajau ceremonial events. Still other Bajau live a lifestyle between nomadic and sedentary, housed in villages on the water, but not far from land.

Although they are the second largest indigenous people in Sabah, the precise origin of the Bajau is unknown. They may have come from Johore, in peninsular Malaysia, long before the two Borneo states became a part of the country. Wherever they came from their migration has been attributed in part to their pursuit of trade, particularly in a sea cucumber species called the trepang. It is considered a delicacy and is used in soups made as far away as China, where it is also used medicinally. Bajau divers can descend as deep as 30 meters (100 feet) in search of it, without using any wetsuits or advanced diving technology. 

Almost all Bajau today claim to be Sunni Muslim. They believe that among their people are direct descendants of the prophet Mohammed. Yet many — predominantly the seafaring, nomadic Bajau — retain spiritually based religious practices that pre-date any major religion. In their religion designated spirit mediums communicate with the spirit world in ritual ceremonies of celebration, worship and exorcism — in which, for example, spirit boats are sailed into the open seas to cast the offending spirit away from their community. They also worship the God of the sea, Omboh Dilaut.'


If you wanna learn more about the Bajau People, you can watch this amazing documentary: