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Met Indonesian Sea Gypsies: the Bajau Laut tribe

Met the Indonesian Sea Gypsies

Cruise Indonesian Islands like Togean, Banggai, the Lesser Sunda Islands or around the Banda Sea may encounter the Bajau Laut Sea Gypsies.The tribe particularly lives on the waters off the southwestern coast of the Philippines and in various seas that surround the Indonesian islands of Sulawesi. They are a sea tribe deeply connected to the ocean, but under their natural way of living is under threat by modern society. This tribe is one of the last nomadic sea gypsies and has lived on the ocean for centuries. The Indonesian Sea Gypsies live on longboats, known as lepa lepa, for several months in ancient times. Although some people of the Bajau tribe still preserve this nomadic sea fare life, many of them now live in government founded pile dwellings on the water.

the Bajau Laut tribe Indonesia
Indonesian Sea Gypsies: the Bajau Laut tribe
the Bajau Laut tribe

Enigmatic abilities of sea gypsies

At first, you may be not notice their inexplicable abilities. But when you see them diving and catching fish, you surely will be astounded. Did you know that the sea gypsies can just consume a fraction of oxygen as compared to the normal humans? Their body has adapted to the marine environment! New studies indicate that our hands wrinkle in water as a result of a reflex in order to increase our grip on underwater objects. In addition to their highly adapted dive reflexes, sea gypsies can see clearly under water – without wearing any goggles.They are truly aquatic human beings!

Their deep-rooted beliefs and traditions

Isolated and small sea gypsy families have thrived for several centuries by maintaining a perfect equilibrium with the ocean. They just take what they require. However, modern society threatens to disconnect this bond. Unfortunately, the Indonesian Sea Gypsies are encouraged to use unsustainable fishing methods –such as dynamite fishing and shark finning. Even with modernization and its influence, the gypsies greatly hold on to their ancient traditions. Although, the Bajau tribe follows the religion of Sunni Muslims, most of them still trust the sea’s spirit world, which they mollify through offerings and rituals.

Is this the end of sea gypsies?

The Bajau Laut tribe is one of the last nomadic sea tribes in Indonesia. Their life is changing now, with the developments of the modern world, including economic pressure. Government and aid organizations pressure the community to follow education standards for their kids and move to permanent settlements.

However, the deep connection to the ocean is still very vivid today!

See this documentary for more insight into the world of the Bajau or contact Barefoot Yachts to Cruise on a liveaboard through Indonesian Islands and experiencing them first hand.

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