Bajau of Southeastern Asia

Bajau of Southeastern Asia

They learn to swim before they walk, legend says. They intentionally rupture their eardrums at an early age so they can dive deeper and longer. They spend their lives at sea, living on boats and plunging to improbable depths in search of pearls, sea cucumbers and fish.

They are the Bajau. They live in the Coral Triangle, an oceanic region off Southeast Asia. And they are among the last surviving communities of seafaring nomads in the world.

It is their intimacy with the sea that protects them, said the British photojournalist James Morgan, 24, who is currently based in Bali. He followed the Bajau last year with a grant from the Royal Photographic Society.

Mr. Morgan first heard about the marine cultures of Southeast Asia in 2004 as an anthropology student. The Bajau and other nomadic seafarers suffered almost no casualties from the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Sensing the earthquake, they had enough time to seek protection.
James Morgan Pak Lapoli uses cyanide to catch a grouper.

Mr. Morgan grew up by the sea and has always loved the ocean. But he had to specially prepare himself for this project by making deep dives off England?s south coast, practicing in the bathtub and teaching himself Malaysian and Indonesian.

Mr. Morgan followed the Bajau around clusters of islands off the coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia.

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