Thursday, 27 April 2017

A snapshot in the lives of the Bajau Laut.
Bajau children at Timba Timba jetty
Before travelling to Sabah, Borneo I didn’t know anything about the Bajau Laut, their fascinating way of life and the strong connection with the ocean. Their life is vibrant, passionate and extremely tough. They are some of the last true nomads of the sea.  

The Bajau Laut are stateless sea nomads who live off the coast of Sabah, Borneo. Traditionally, these boat dwelling nomads are from the many islands of the Sulu Archipelago in the Philippines but many have migrated to Sabah, due to conflict. They have no citizenship and therefore no rights to public amenities, medical care or school. They live on their Lepa Lepa wooden houseboats or in stilt huts built atop coral reefs near Semporna’s islands.  
Bajau children on their lepa.

Stilt huts on Pulau Mantabuan.
They live a simple life on the water and rely on the sea for trade and for food sources. They are amazing free divers and have developed superb eyesight under water and are able to dive up to 20 meters without breathing apparatus allowing them to hunt and fish. Depleting fish in the ocean have posed a big challenge to the Bajau Laut as well as being a stateless community. The fate of these communities is very uncertain. Many are driven to the land by a decreasing supply of food in the sea and live in poverty. I feel saddened by the plight of the Bajau Laut and especially the future of the children.
Tracc has a strong relationship with the Bajau village on the neighbouring island of Kalapuan, a 15 minute boat ride away. TRACC  engages in community projects, educating and involving the village in conservation projects, working together in restoring the reef around the island and teaching the community about the importance of taking care of the environment.

Last week some of the Tracc volunteers visited Semporna for the Regatta Lepa Semporna. It is an annual state event that pay homage to the lepa: a traditional single-mast sailing boat of the Bajau of Semporna. A flotilla of colourful boats dot the Celebes Sea as they compete for the title of 'Most Beautiful Lepa'.

The most beautiful lepa of 2017.

Traditional lepa.

“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”  Nelson Mandela

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Returning to Pom Pom island, the place of magical sunsets.


Last December my daughter and I spent 2 weeks volunteering at TRACC. We had an amazing time and loved every minute of our stay. We snorkelled every day and observed a big array of marine creatures. We both don’t have a marine science background and learned so much.  Everyday marine science officers Jo and Allia made sure there was a project we could help with/work on even as non -divers. We collected coral and made coral biscuits, cleaned bottles for the making of artificial reefs, we did turtle surveys, underwater reef cleans and the list goes on. 

Coral biscuits

Snorkelling the house reef

When in January TRACC was looking for a volunteer social media intern, my husband opted we should apply and share the role. (Unfortunately due to responsibilities at home we were unable to come to Pom Pom together)  So now I am picking up the baton from Andrew and returning to TRACC and beautiful Pom Pom Island.

I am looking forward to the challenge and I am very excited to learn to dive. The great thing about volunteering at TRACC is that you are not only enjoying the beautiful underwater world but also able to help in conserving and protecting it.

Coral reefs are spectacular natural areas and they are vital for people and nature. Coral reefs cover less than 0.1% of the ocean’s floor, yet 25% of all fish species are dependent on them. Coral reefs are the nurseries of the ocean. Unfortunately coral reefs are threatened worldwide. The most important causes for coral reef degradation are climate change, destructive fishing methods, unsustainable and excessive forms of tourism and pollution. The coral reefs around Pom Pom island have been seriously damaged by blast or bomb fishing. TRACC’s conservation work includes coral planting and reef regeneration, a kind of underwater gardening. A healthy reef improves biodiversity and supports the healthy ecosystems on which humanity depends.
Coral reef at Pulau Timba Timba

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson