The Bajo people, aka Sea Gypsies of the Togean Islands are a beautiful people with a dark history of destructive fishing practices. Walking around the villages you see a range of colourful clothes thrown over the fence palings drying in the sun.
Traditionally they were nomad fishermen at sea living from their boats, coming to land to trade fish for supplies. Now due to modernisation and cultural assimilation, many of the Bajo people have settled on land.
They build a variety of wooden stilt homes over the coastal shallow waters and have expanded their villages onto land. The rustic houses are painted a rainbow of colours across the village, they decorate their yards with ornaments and build beautiful little gardens.
Their streets are narrow alley ways, where the sea breeze serves as natural air conditioning. The neighborhood kids run around playing with roosters and footballs, chasing after me “Mr Mr, what’s your name? “. The villages are full of life and happy smiles.
Around many of the villages you see signs that read “Stop destructive fishing”. This refers to the practice of dynamite fishing, which the Bajo people resorted to to keep up with the modernised land based commercial fishing volumes.
Now due to the expansion of the local diving community, education on destructive fishing is gaining traction with many of the villages outlawing the practice, although their are a select few villages that have rebelled and continue.
Ease, the local Bajo divemaster that guided me around the beautiful deep walls (an estimated 4km deep), was once a dynamite fishermen. Now he spends his time exploring, and not exploding, the reef walls that are teeming with life in the clearest and blue saturated waters I’ve ever seen. More photos to come.