Borneo: Mabul island and sea gipsies

August 31, 2013 § 7 Comments

Bajau, also known as sea gipsies, are an indigenousethnic group of Maritime Southeast Asia, leading a seaborne lifestyle. These photos are taken around Mabul island (Malaysia), where some of Bajau people live in the boats or small tilt houses built on the beach or coral reef.

Bajau man can go as deep as over 20m underwater on one breath and stay there for a few minutes to catch the fish for dinner or look for pearls. After spending some time on solid ground, some of Bajau say they start to feel “land sickness” and hurry to go back to the water.

There are around 410 000 Bajau living in Sabah, Malaysia, but the number is going down, as more and more of them are moving to live on land voluntarily or forcibly.

Also, there are new fancy resorts being built around islands, where Bajau live, making them feel unwelcome around.

Borneo IV: Semporna, life on the water

August 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

Semporna is a town in the east coast of Sabah, Malaysia on the island of Borneo. There are a few stories how Semporna was founded, but I chose to believe one, that I heard while being there.

A local woman, named Lolita, told us the story of her life. “I was in my early twenties, when I lost my family in Philippines and therefore decided to look for a better place, illegally moving to Malaysia by boat. A man named Chang saved me. He said if I marry him, he will help me and other people from my country to move to Malaysia and start new life here. So I did. And since then – already over 30 years – we’re doing what he promised.

By the way, Semporna was actually founded by Chang’s grandfather. He was from China, traveling for business purposes and met a local Bajau (sea gipsy) girl, fell in love and married her. The girl was only used to live in boat, always floating on the water, meanwhile the guy was looking for some stable ground. They came to this place, where now Semporna is and saw elephants and tigers here. So they used to spend nights in the boat, where it was safer and go on land only during the day, to get some food and look around. Chang’s grandfather started to buy pearls from Bajau people and bring them for selling to Hong Kong. This is how he got rich and was the first man to buy land in Semporna district. Half of the land here now belongs to Chang’s family,” – Lolita finishes her story smiling.

Mister Chang was on vocation in Indonesia when we were there, so I couldn’t talk to him, but Lolita definitely told an interesting story. And I believe it, imagining crazy chinese traveler spending his days in the boat with a Bajau girl, buying pearls and looking for place to settle, where he and his wife, who used to always live on the water, feel good to start their new life.

Still till today there are a lot of Bajau people living in Semporna, other islands close to it and roaming waters around them. They are fishing, looking for pearls and making a living out of it. Some of them still spend the most of their time in the boats, but more and more are moving on lalnd, where they live in small shags on the beach. (More about Bajau – in the next post.)

Borneo: a longhouse village

August 27, 2013 § 2 Comments

We spend a couple of days in the longhouse village, with a local family, which was an interesting and unique experience. There are a few areas with longhouses in Borneo (Malaysia), where people live side by side, sharing one longhouse, so all community is like one big family. Longhouses  are built raised off the ground on stilts and are divided into a more or less public area along one side and a row of private living quarters lined along the other side. In modern times many of the older longhouses have been replaced with buildings using more modern materials but of similar design.

More about longhouses you can read here.


Himalaya photos on Let’s Travel Somewhere website

August 26, 2013 § 4 Comments

Himalaya on Let's travel somewhere website

Check it out here.

Full photo story from Himalaya on my website here.


Borneo waters: swimming with turtles

August 25, 2013 § 2 Comments

It was a literally breathtaking experience to meet giant turtles, swim with them, go up to get some air together and dive back into the deep blue again. Photos by me and Lucas Cwierz.

Borneo waters

August 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

Diving with turtles (©L. Cwierz) Diving with Bajau kids

The last two days were truly amazing – I spend a lot of time in water, diving with giant turtles and playing with Bajau (sea gipsies) kids around Mabul and Kapalai islands in Borneo. More pictures to come soon.


Borneo III: Batu Niah

August 22, 2013 § 2 Comments

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