Last year, French photographer Réhahn 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 different side: tiny villages made up of huts built on stilts in the middle of the ocean.
You can see more of Réhahn’s photos on his Facebook page.
Réhahn's journey to the islands was anything but easy. After a flight to Kuala Lumpur, 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.
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 high.
After spending a night sleeping on 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 him 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 playing 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, playing ...
Besides Tabbalanos, Réhahn also visited the Mabul Islands, which include Omadal, Sibuan, Maiga, and Tagatan.
Omadal is a larger village, consisting of 70 families that live in huts built on stilts that are 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 to have been able to immerse himself into their culture.
He said he felt very serene and at peace after spending time with the Bajau 'in the midst of the blue immensity.'
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