Monday, March 27, 2017

Sabah Sea Gypsies - The masters and servants of the sea

Sabah’s east coast is an enchanting place to visit. Aside from its pristine islands with white sandy beaches and beautiful diving sites, it also boasts unique cultures and lifestyles.

The trips I make to this part of the world has never bored me.

In fact, each trip taken to document the culture and lifestyle of the islanders here, especially the Bajau people, has been an eye-opener and has given me a better insight into this seafaring community.

The Bajau Laut or sea gypsies live a seaborne lifestyle. They live in small wooden sailing vessels or stilt huts built atop coral reefs and rarely set foot on land.

If they do go ashore, it’s usually just to collect fresh drinking water or gather timber to make their boats. They never stay on land for long.

They depend greatly on the sea for their main source of income, just like their forefathers.

The Bajau Laut people trade with the locals for their livelihood, using the fish they catch, the coral and shells they pluck from the bottom of the sea, and other sea-based products.

Almost everyone from this community is stateless, living a rather carefree and easy lifestyle, not looking far beyond tomorrow.

What is really intriguing about them is not just their simple lifestyle but the ancient Sama language they speak and their culture that they practise.

The Bajau Laut are indeed the masters of the sea. They roam the waters of Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

In Sabah, this community can be found around the islands of Mabul, Bohey Dulang, Sibuan, Maiga, Mantabuan, Selakan and Omadal.

One can travel and visit these islands to see how they live.