For many years, the Bajau kept to themselves with few even knowing they existed. In more recent times, some have chosen to leave their nomadic existence—thus the Sea Gypsies moniker—and settle in places like Malaysia and Indonesia. There are two legends that indicate that the Bajau originated in Malaysia; however, their recent history places them as Filipinos.
Many have remained at sea only coming ashore to bury their dead or gather supplies, for which, they barter their sea catch. They live single-mast Lepas (boats) and venture between Sabah, the southern Philippines, and northern Sulawesi. Having been born at sea, many of the children swim with great ease and grace. They can maintain a free-dive for extended periods of time. Free diving from an early age enables them to become expert fisherman.
The Bajau tribe makes up 13.4 percent of the population of Sabah. They’re fairly religious with most worshipping in the Sunni Islamic faith, but small portions do worship as Christians. During celebratory times, they will bring their boats together to share the communal excitement. They are one group referred to as Sea Gypsies, while the others are from Burma, Sumatra, and Indonesia.
In a Tom Sawyer way of thinking—to live as the Sea Gypsies do without need for money or jobs and living simply from what you catch and hunt—life would be divine. One can only imagine the thrill of awakening to sun on the water instead of an alarm clock. The perks are incredible. There’s no traffic jam in a commute you hate, a job that’s boring, and a boss who’s never satisfied. The only job you have is to survive, and you can spend the day with the people you love most, your family. The life they live is one to be envied by all the 9 to 5 working Joes, who do know the exact number of birthdays they’ve had in life.
Caption (The Sea Gypsies are not claimed by their neighbors nor are they accepted by any countries)
None of the adults have attended school and the children will not either. They have no use for reading or writing
As nomads, time has no meaning for the Sea Gypsies, and therefore, none can tell you when they were born.
They live in the moment eating, sleeping, and swimming throughout their days on earth
Even the very young fish for food
Special huts built on stilts are where their children are born. Some live in the huts, while others never leave their boats
While older children and adults will leave the boats to hunt, younger children spend their days fishing
They live by their own rules and enjoy a voluntary life at sea