Earlier this year, French photographerRéhahn Croquevielle took a trip to some of Malaysia’s most remote islands in the hopes of documenting the lives of the Bajau, the “sea gypsies” who inhabit the area.
Located off the east coast of the Malaysian city of Sabah, the island of Borneo was Réhahn’s jumping-off point — from there he visited eight small islands that are many miles removed from civilisation.
Some tourists may know this area for its amazing dive sites, but Réhahn saw a completely different side: tiny villages made up of huts built on stilts in the middle of the ocean.
Réhahn's journey to the islands was anything but easy. After a flight to Kuala Lampur, another three-hour flight to Tawau, and an hour-and-a-half bus ride to Semporna, Réhahn set out to find a local who would take him to the remote islands where the Bajau, or 'sea gypsies,' live.
This was harder than he thought. Tour agencies would only agree to take Réhahn to resorts, and most fishermen he encountered along the waterfront spoke no English. When he was lucky enough to find someone who did, the price they asked for the trip was extremely high.
After spending one night sleeping at the waterfront -- a risky move, as there's a history of tourist kidnappings in the area -- Réhahn finally met Karim, a Bajau who agreed to take Réhahn to the remote islands he was hoping to visit.
The Bajau traditionally live in small boats, spending their days drifting in the ocean and relying on fishing to make a living, hence their nickname, 'sea gypsies.'
While some sea gypsies live ashore today, many still live on the water, in floating villages that are built on coral reefs.
The first island Réhahn visited was Tabbalanos, where he was immediately greeted by running children, who were excited to meet a rare foreign visitor.
The Bajau spend the majority of their time in the water. For the children, that means lots of splashing and playing.
Besides Tabbalanos, Réhahn also visited the Mabul Islands, which include Omadal, Sibuan, Maiga and Tagatan.
Omadal is a much larger village, consisting of 70 families that live in huts built on stilts and connected to each other via bridges. It's an especially tight-knit community.
While the sea gypsies had next to nothing in common with his life, Réhahn was glad to have met these people and explored their islands.
He felt strong feelings of peace and serenity after spending time with the Bajau 'in the midst of the blue immensity.'
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