Sea gypsies

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I have always thought of myself as a marine person – I love being near or on the sea – but the sea gypsies of Indonesia take ocean living to another level. I was fortunate enough to spend a week filming with the Bajau people of Northern Sulawesi. These people are subsistence fisherfolk, living out their lives in boats or stilt-huts. The adage is that they are baptised by being thrown into the water as babies. They have immense skills in the water – we watched them spear-fish and trawl for sea cucumbers. They are incredible breath-hold divers and walk for many metres across the seabed, glued to the bottom, heavy and confident in that element.

But aside from filming them in the water, the moments I loved best were interacting with them on land. They are hugely welcoming and hospitable, for a tribe that had only previously met Westeners twice. The children loved to show off their diving skills and play up in front of the camera. One night I was lucky enough to stay in one of their homes, and experience the privilege of wandering the village at first light, as people slept on their verandas and relaxed as the day began.

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