Malaysia 14 Feb 2014 11:45
The Bajau Laut are one of the last nomads of the sea left. An ethnic group of Malay origin, these "sea gypsies" live on their boats for their entire lives, roaming in between the Coral Triangle (marine waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste). There might be anywhere from five to over 20 people living on one boat, spending all of their time together, moving from one place to another. The ocean is everything to the Bajau.
They live out their lives on the sea, and are so accustomed to the water that when they are on solid ground, some of Bajau say they start to feel 'island sickness' and hurry back to their home on the ocean. Though the number of these nomads is decreasing, as the fish that they depend on disappear from the seas with dynamite or cyanid fishing. Exploitive fishing was very popular up to a few years ago. Now cyanide and dynamite are prohibited in the area, though, as locals report, explosions still can be heard. Living in unity with the ocean allows the Bajau to develop extraordinary ability to free dive. They can go as deep as 20 meters down to look for seafood. They also used to dive for pearls. Studies on some children from Thailand and Burma, living in similar communities, show that they have unusually good underwater-vision because their eyes have adapted to the liquid environment.
Most of the Bajau doesn't have any documents, they doesn't know their age nor where they were born. Alee came to Mabul from Philippines and was working in one of the resorts on the island. He asked his boss to help him create a school for stateless children after he saw that so many kids in the island donâ€™t have a possibility to learn. In the beginning Alee worked with only 4 children, but now over 80 students come to his classes.
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