In Pictures: Indonesia's nomadic sea gypsies - Al Jazeera English

In Pictures: Indonesia's nomadic sea gypsies

The Bajau are sons of the sea, but now their way of life is threatened because of overfishing.

Brian Orland, Melati Kaye |

The Bajau Laut have lived on the sea for centuries, but now the culture of these nomadic ocean dwellers is threatened because of overfishing.

They live on boats or in stilt villages out at sea off the coast of southern Sulawesi Island. As a consequence of extensive fishing, the ocean can no longer support the Bajau's unique aquatic way of life.

The "sea gypsies" are well known for being excellent free-drivers, going up to 20 metres deep and holding their breath for as long as five minutes. When they are young, boys have their eardrums pierced so they will not burst later from water pressure while diving.

The Bajau are Sunni Muslims, but many still believe in the spirit of the world sea.

With an estimated population of 800,000, the various Southeast Asian nomadic sea tribes range from the Philippines and Malaysia, through eastern Indonesia and all the way up of Myanmar.

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