The Bajau Laut of Borneo

The Bajau Laut of Borneo

The Bajau Laut traditionally live on boats and are nomadic. This life style has earned them the nick name of “Sea Gypsies”.


Yes, the water really is this color. It is amazing how clear the water is here. It varies in shades from green to deep blue. I’m here in Sabah, on the island of Borneo uncovering the story of the nomadic Bajau Laut and their complicated relationship with the sea. The Bajau Laut are mostly from Southern Philippines and have migrated and settled in the waters off of Sabah, as well as throughout Borneo and Indonesia. They seem to be a timid people, shy and not ready to talk to strangers like me. The Bajau are dependent on the ocean and it’s resources, yet their dependency is damaging the very thing that feeds them. It is very complicated and as such is taking a lot of time for us to fully understand how this cycle works. I hope to be able to tell you more about these fascinating people as the week progresses. But for now here are a few images from today (the first image if from yesterday).


Bajau Laut. Children of the sea.


Many Bajau Laut are settling. Several families are finding a home in the marine park off the cost of Sabah.


Their houses are built on stilts and next to the island where they can find wood and fresh water.


There are no schools for the Bajau Laut children, so the young play all day on the sea and help around the home.


A Bajau Laut village.

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About The Author

Matt Brandon

Matt is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by business and organizations around the globe. Matt also on the design board for Think Tank Photo, a camera bag manufacturer. In 2013 Matt founded the On Field Media Project to train the staff of non-profits to use appropriate technology to produce timely as well as quality images.


  1. Travis

    Wow! These are great wide angle shots Matt! I’ve been using my new wide angle lens for about a month and love how much it can capture. Looking forward to hearing more about these people.

  2. Karl Grobl

    Beautiful work Matt, I’m anxious to see more of your reportage on the Bajau Laut!

  3. Brad

    After getting over the fact that I got the way short-end of this week’s work detail(!), I must say that these are among my all-time favorite shots, Matt. Stunning! May these inspire many to protect the remaining reefs and the livelihood of those who depend on them.


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