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Nomads of the Ocean: the Bajo People of Wakatobi, Indonesia

Would you like to meet the Nomads of the Ocean? Here’s all about the Bajo People of Wakatobi, Indonesia my friends! Get ready for adventure!!!

Have you ever imagined being part of a nomadic society? Of being part of a tribe that goes across the Ocean fishing and telling stories under the starry sky each night? The Bajo People are that and much more my wonder friends.

Would you like to know more about this unique culture of Indonesia? I hope you enjoy this article my friends in which you’ll also be witness to the beauty of the Wakatobi Islands of Indonesia, one of the most beautiful places in the Earth for scuba diving.


The man-made difference between Civilized and non-Civilized Cultures

Before we proceed, ask yourself for a second: “what is human civilization?”. More importantly: “when did human civilization started?”.

Sure, the last question might seem quite simple for those who have learned what they know from school without questioning the subjective teaching of their professors.

“It started with the invention of writing” some might say. “It started when men began to built settlements and abandoned their nomadic style thanks to agriculture” others might reply.

It is thanks to those canned answers that the world’s societies were divided eons ago into two groups: civilized and non-civilized (primitive for those who aren’t as politically correct) societies…

The takers and the leavers if we want to follow the terminology of author Daniel Quinn (have you read the book Ishamael? It’s one of those life-changing books my friends!!!).

The Bajo People of Wakatobi, Indonesia
A Bajo Fisher Woman

In today’s post-colonial world, the takers are the ones that are part of the mainstream global society, the ones that see humans are the evolutionary pinnacle and owners of Earth’s resources, while the leavers are those who live in separate tribes at the fringes of the mainstream society and are focused on surviving without damaging their environment.

The Bajo people perfectly fit the definition of a leaver society in the sense that they live in tribes that harmonically co-exists with nature. They are mostly fishermen who live off from Mother Earth’s gifts.

This is the story of my first encounter with the Bajo People as well as how naive I was thinking they could learn from me when in fact, I was the one that learned the most from them.

The Bajo People of Wakatobi, Indonesia
The floating Bajo villages

The Bajo People: all you need to know about the Nomads of the Ocean

Nomadic societies have fascinated me ever since I saw Lawrence of Arabia as a teenager and the Bajo People of Wakatobi, Indonesia hold a special place in my heart since, unlike the nomads of the deserts, the Bajo are a nomadic tribe of the Ocean.

Yes, you heard that right. They live in wooden houses that float with the help of stilts near shore and they are always ready to move from one place to another whenever they wish to.

The boat ride to reach their settlement was probably not one of the smoothest ones I’ve ever experienced, however, the rewards of being part of this meeting of cultures made it totally worth it.

In broad economical terms, the Bajo People rank amongst the poorest of the entire country in terms of wealth so I decided to bring some cookies to the kids at the school since I assumed that they probably didn’t have easy access to them (the main town of Wakatobi is at least 90 minutes away by motorboat).

However, the Bajo People have access to all of Mother Earth’s resources to live a full happy life and it really shows on the smiles of the kids and adults that welcomed us with more than open arms inviting us to play ball with them.

One of the village elders was, even so, kind to gift me with this rooster since it was his first time seeing someone from Mexico in real life!!!

The Bajo People of Wakatobi, Indonesia
A Bajo Elder offering a rooster as a sign of friendship

After playing with the kids and taking a stroll through the streets (well, bridges), my team and I made our way to the one and only primary school of the village where the students were practicing some traditional dances.

“Excuse me professor, is it alright if I give some gifts from the mainland to the kids?” I asked. “Sure, go ahead. Here’s the microphone, feel free to share some words” she told me with the help of our guide and translator.

And while I don’t remember the exact words of my improvised speech, I do remember my closing words: “the reason why I love to travel is not because of the wonderful destinations I get to experience, it’s because of the wonderful people that I meet. People like you”.

“Thank you for being part of this journey…now it’s cookie time!!! You get a cookie, you get a cookie, everybody gets a cookie!!!”. I shouted euphorically.

Following that, I had my Oprah moment and began to distribute the cookies to the Bajo kids that were kind enough to listen to my speech.

In hindsight, I should have probably counted the number of kids and the cookies before starting to give them away.

If you’re reading this, professor, sorry for causing a small civil war between your students as they fought for the limited number of cookies.

I promise it wasn’t my intention to start the Indonesian version of the Hunger Games!!! (I also didn’t plan to be crowned the honorary King of the Bajo but that’s a story for another day).

The Bajo People of Wakatobi, Indonesia
Bajo kids of Indonesia and their captivating smiles

Kidding aside, I would say that we currently live in a very materialistic global society. We focus a lot on what we have instead of focusing on what we have experienced.

We work hard making money instead of working hard to make people smile…making ourselves smile.

The Bajo People are different. They understand that what matters the most is the people themselves and not the people’s material possessions.

And no, they’re not communists even though those who have the most fish will share them willingly with those who didn’t catch anything that day out of their own free will.

How would you call that economic system? I would call it just being a good human being and leave it at that. The world would be a better place with less divisions and more good human beings in it, don’t you think?

The Bajo People of Wakatobi, Indonesia
The Bajo people of Wakatobi, Indonesia

What to do and see in Wakatobi, Indonesia

Contrary to what people think, Wakatobi is not the name of an island but rather, the name of the FOUR main Tukangbesi islands: Wangi-Wangi (the one with the airport and hotels), Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko.

The Wakatobi Marine National Park is without a doubt one of the best places in the world to do scuba diving and yes, the color of its waters is absolutely breath-taking, specially during low tide!!!

Would you like to have an unforgettable rice and fish lunch in this unique restaurant? It was yummy for the tummy my friends!

The Bajo People of Wakatobi, Indonesia
A restaurant in a small island of Wakatobi, Indonesia

Whether you prefer to scuba dive or snorkel (I equally love both!), you will be completely satisfied by the marine bio-diversity of the Wakatobi National Marine Park.

The park is part of the Coral Sea which is one of the best places in the world to see a great array of corals with the other two being the Caribbean (Viva Mexico yo!!!) and the Red Sea (yeah, I guess Egypt is alright as well).

Of course, if you don’t have a good underwater camera, I recommend just swimming and enjoy without worrying about taking photos/videos. Wanna see more? Check out my talented friend Mike Corey and his underwater video of Wakatobi!!!

The beaches of Wakatobi are wonderful for chillin’ out and enjoying cultural shows such as the Wanci-Wanci dance that is performed by the island’s children.

Another interesting destination is Hoga Island, this is where most dive schools are located, where you can take some incredible photos of the shallow waters and the colorful boats. Just be careful and watch your step to avoid being too friendly with a sea urchin (yes, I’m looking at you, Sarah)!!!

The Bajo People of Wakatobi, Indonesia
Traditional dance of Wanci Wanci

In total we spent 3 days in Wakatobi although I wish we had stayed longer to perform more dives. Flights cost on average of 100 USD one way from Jakarta to Wangi-Wangi (Matahora Airport) so even though it’s a remote destination, it isn’t prohibitively expensive to reach.

Accommodation (other than dive schools) can be kind of difficult to secure and our 30 person group had to be split in different dates in order to ensure each one had their private room on Wangi Wangi’s one and only luxury hotel: Patuno Resort & Hotel Wakatobi.

You can make a booking for this and more properties via our Affiliate Link of Wonders!

Same price for you and a small pocket money commission for this website of yours.

Sweet deal, uh?

The Bajo People of Wakatobi, Indonesia
The incredible waters of Indonesia. Careful with the sea urchin!!!

I hope you have enjoyed this article about the Bajo People of Wakatobi, Indonesia. Don’t forget to subscribe in order to get more awesome updates and tips straight to your e-mail!

Would you like to visit the Nomads of the Ocean? How about diving in Wakatobi? Share your thoughts and let me know what you think!

Until next time, my friends!

Things to do in Wakatobi, Indonesia Asia Travel
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Disclaimer: This article was brought to you in collaboration with Wonderful Indonesia, all opinions are my own.