“You never run out of adventures in the sea,” said a sponge hunter I interviewed years ago. He earned a living by selling the gold-colored sponges he collected from the depths of the sea. It was apparent that for him the underwater was a passion, a living space where he collected unique memories.
The Bajau in Malaysia also set out after this passion, making their lives one with the sea. In fact, these sea nomads surprise everyone with their extraordinary lifestyle in which they are born and raised in wooden/bamboo huts built on poles above the sea and connected to each other with wooden bridges.
Known as the “Sama” people, the Bajau live on land in Southeast Asia and on the coast of the Borneo Island of Malaysia. They start diving at a very young age and can even learn to walk underwater. As a result of this challenging task, the Bajau, who can hold their breath underwater for minutes, have a 50% larger spleen compared to those living on land because it serves as a small aqualung.
Every day, the Bajau set sail with slender handmade boats called lepa-lepa, dive 20-25 meters deep, and hunt for fish with spears. Meanwhile, they collect plants that have an appreciable value in local trade, like sea cucumbers and seaweeds, and make knickknacks with seashells.
Though they seem to lead a simple life as a tribe in a spectacular landscape, the Bajau are the sages of the sea. Despite the modern life outside, they manage to preserve a peaceful lifestyle by exploring new secrets and the boundaries of nature every day.