Visiting a Bajo (Bajau) village

The first visitor to Totem in Hoga, Pondang, picked Jamie up for a spearfishing jaunt on our second morning there. Motoring his long boat to the outside of the conservation areas, they worked with fisherman netting from their small boats. Jamie came back with tales of these efficient fishermen, who it turns out belong to an ethnic group called Bajau.

Pondang and son

Traditionally maritime nomads, the Bajau are spread across a wide area in Southeast Asia, with large numbers in Malaysian Borneo and the Philippines. Indonesia has many communities too, here called ‘bajo’- or like the village we’re next to, ‘sama.’ They have their own languages, culture, and as Jamie gets to experience firsthand- are naturals in the water, with wicked fishing expertise.

They formerly were entirly mobile, whole communities living from their boats. The moden Bajao still live on the water, but in island-like stilt villages instead of vessels. Jamie’s spearfishing buddy, Pondang, lives in the Bajo village off Pulau Kaledupa, across the channel from Hoga. Built entirely over water, with about 1/2 km separating them from the island, the community is accessible only by boat.

Pondang invies us to visit his home in Sama Bahari, the bajo village across the channel. We’re pleased to accept. It’s just a short dinghy ride away to another world. Separated from the mainland by a good distance, this island of stilt homes has almost everything they need. A mosque. A school. Many little shops.

His wife makes us delicious cups of tea and serves cookies alongside. We sit outside and talk with him (she’s a little shy, but also pulled away when his mother shows up with a dugout of fish, and crosses to another village to help prepare the catch). We make conversation and try to engage the very curious crowd that has gathered around.

Our host Pondang

Children run along narrow boardwalks over the water. These kids don’t have a soccer field, but they’ve got the water to splash and play in- we have always liked to say we have a huge backyard, and they show what it really means.

Bajo village

I’ve grossly overpaid (it happens!) for some squid purchased from a boat that came by Totem. Pondang wants me to come to the Bajo market and pay a fair price. We like squid and they are terrifically abundant here, so, no problem getting more! The little market is on Pulau Kaledupa, across the water from the stilt village. I pay a fraction for my squid compared to the boatside seller.

Village market

Pondang drives our dinghy on the way back. I’m so grateful to him for letting us into his home and his world, and for another great memory of our time in Indonesia.

Pondang drives the dink

8 Responses to Visiting a Bajo (Bajau) village

  1. The Ceol Mors April 18, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

    I just love that you and the Totem crew make connecting with the locals a priority. What a beautiful thing to be invited to share their world. Love all of your photos, but its the photos of the kids that get me. <3

    • Behan Gifford April 18, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

      Thanks Cidnie. It’s the kids that get me too!

  2. Dani April 18, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    How neat that some of these people have whole communities living on boats out at sea! I’m so glad ya’ll decided to head up around Indonesia, we may make it there one day. I really like your blog and will add it to the friends page:D.

    • Behan Gifford April 22, 2013 at 11:58 am #

      Thank you Dani- all the best with your cruising plans!

  3. Tom & Carolyn Camping April 19, 2013 at 4:41 am #

    I really enjoy your definitive blog /journey….read it every day. It is much more than a story. Your journey is truly exciting and I get to learn and /or see something new every time. Your family travels, the challenges, locals and the mixing of the culture is the best I have every heard of. To me Indonesia was a spot on the map. I now have a an appreciation of the beauty of the country and the people…thanx

    • Behan Gifford April 22, 2013 at 11:57 am #

      Thanks so much, Tom & Carolyn! I really appreciate the kind words! We feel so lucky to live this life.

  4. Erik April 19, 2013 at 4:56 am #

    I echo Tom and Carolyn! Thanks for writing/sharing, Behan.

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