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An amphibious life: Meet the sea nomads of the world

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Jakarta, June 13: Imagine water everywhere, lapping at your house and boat is your dwelling place. Well the first image strike in our mind is a scene from the movie 'Life of a pie' but here I am not talking about any fiction or any movie. It is a real 'sea gypsies' or the 'sea nomads' Bajau. Whose entire lives are focused on Ibu Laut - Mother Ocean.

Bajau people of Southeast Asia are among the most accomplished divers in the world. The Bajau spend almost all of their lives at sea.

An amphibious life: Meet the sea nomads of the world

As per the National Geographic the Bajau's dwell in larger boat - lepa-lepa. This is the original Bajau's dwelling. Some Bajua people also live in huts perched on stilts on shallow reefs, and they migrate from place to place in flotillas that carry entire clans. Women give birth on these boats. Boys become men. Their entire lives play out on their boats. They are amazingly adapted physically for harvesting the sea. They survive on a diet composed almost entirely of seafood. And to gather this they spend 60% of their working day underwater.

According to 'The Atlantic', the Bajau are also known as "sea nomads," the Bajau have lived at sea for more than 1,000 years, on small houseboats that float in the waters off Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Traditionally, they came ashore only to trade for supplies or to shelter from storms. They collect their food by free diving to depths of more than 230 feet. They have no wet suits or flippers, and use only wooden goggles and spearguns of their own making. Sometimes, they rupture their own eardrums at an early age to make diving easier.

A report by 'The Economist' says that unsurprisingly, their diving abilities are prodigious. They sometimes descend more than 70 metres, and can stay submerged for up to five minutes, using nothing more than a set of weights to reduce buoyancy and a pair of wooden goggles fitted with lenses fashioned from scrap glass that are resistant to distortion by the pressure at such depth.

Since the Bajau have lived like this for a long time (historical evidence suggests at least 1,000 years), many researchers have speculated that they carry genetic traits which adapt them to their remarkable lifestyle.

The Bajau may wear Western attire such as skinny jeans, but they still fish as they have for centuries. They travel by boat to the edge of a reef, peer into the water until they spot a fish, then dive in to spear it. They eat coral fish, scallops or sea cucumbers.

Study says due to the increasing threat to marine life in the ocean, many of the Bajau people have had to retire their adventurous ways and settle permanently on land. Although numbers are diminishing, many still call the ocean home and live on boats known as lepa-lepa.

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