(Published by http://gubsphotologue.com/blog/visit-the-bajau-part01/)

The Bajau are an indigenous tribe from the islands of the Sulu Archipelago, South Philippines. They are nomadic people live a seaborne lifestyle as sometimes been referred to as the Sea Gypsies. The Bajau speak in Sama-Bajau language. Since hundred years ago they spread over to the state of Sabah and many territories of Indonesia. They are the second largest ethnic group in Sabah.

My journey began in Kuala Lumpur and took me to the Tawau Airport, Sabah, an about 3 hour flight from Kuala Lumpur. In city of Tawau I took about 2 hours road trip to Semporna, a little town in Tawau.

For the information, the majority of Semporna population are the Bajau people. Most of them live in the suburb floating villages. Around the coasts of Semporna also live thousands of the Bajau Laut. They are one of many nomadic ethnics living off the sea by trading and subsistence fishing, spending most of their lives on the boats.

There are many alternative routes from Semporna. From here the trip can only be continued by boat. I chose to visit the islands of Labuan Haji, Salakan, Budgaya, Bohey Dolang, Sibuan, Maiga, Omadal, Bintang Biru, Mabul and Kapalai.

It took 5 days at least to visit and explore all the mentioned islands. The trip started at 05:30 and returned when sun set. To make it easier, I made a stay in the villager’s house in Salakan island. The island is strategically located since it has relatively close distance to other surrounding islands.

My note about the islands I visit, generally inhabited by many Bajau people. They live in the floating houses and boats on the islands’ offshore. When there is a family member dies, they will bury him in the land.

Maiga island – I think – is the island with the most beautiful Bajau people lives. There are so many Bajau children spending time by playing on the sea. Their happy laughs give such beautiful colors to the villagers.

Omadal is the island with the most Bajau people. Bohey Dolang is the most beautiful island with crystal clear water and amazing hills. No Bajau people live there because of the island’s status as the nature conservation zone by the Malaysian authority.

Kapalai is the island with so beautiful sea garden. Paradise for diving and snorkeling lovers. Mabul is a tourism destination. There are many resorts there. They have electricity powered by diesel engine.

Bintang Biru is actually an island that doesn’t exist on the map because it is located in the middle of deep sea which apparently getting shallow. There are some Bajau houses in the area. The name Bintang Biru was given by a famous Malaysian photographer who had visited the island long time ago.

That was my short trip to see the life of Bajau people.

Best regards,

Faizal Ortho

Faizal Ortho

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To be continued..


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