Blog, Indonesia

Life Over and Underwater in Hoga

Tacking the dinghy between the fish traps and young boys in a traditional canoes, we edge closer to the stilt village built above the reef. This traditional over water village is home for the fishermen who have been stopping by Florence over the last couple of days. Although they have said we would be very welcome to visit their village we can’t help but feel a little apprehensive as we approach, interested to see this very different way of life but nervous about how we will be received.


Our apprehension soon leaves us as groups of children sprint to the ends of the wooden platforms, waving wildly, shouting hello and starting a celebratory back-flip competition off the dock and into the water below their houses. These grinning bundles of life are the children of the Bajo people, also known as The Nomads of the Sea.


Before settling in the stilt houses above the reef, the Bajo people lived aboard wooden boats, roaming and surviving off the seas for centuries. Either influenced by the modern world with its need for borders and ownership or their own desire to settle, the Bajo people stopped living full time at sea and settled in stilt houses over reefs throughout Indonesia. This stilt village is unattached to the main island, some villages are on reefs more than a mile from shore.

DSC_0574-2.jpgThe villagers are still heavily reliant on the sea to live; fish and seafood are both the main source of food and income. Famed for their free diving, fishing and sailing abilities, the Bajo people still spend most of their days on or in the water. Something the children certainly seem to love.

DSC_0553-2.jpgDSC_0627-2DSC_0634-2Although most of the sailing canoes have now been replaced by diesel engines, arriving in our sailing dinghy brought an intrigued and friendly crowd to the dock. We were helped up onto the bamboo structure that linked us to the main wooden walkway through the village. Although the houses are unattached to the mainland, wooden (and in shallower parts of the reef, concrete) walkways connect most houses together and allow the villagers to easily reach each other, their shop, school, medical centre and mosque.


Tentatively moving over the gaps in the walkway, it wasn’t long before we had a friendly, enthusiastic group of little guides. The people here have their own language, yet many also speak Bahasa, the Indonesian National Language and a little English.’Hello’ and ‘photo photo’ are often the first words exchanged by the children.

As we walked through the village, it was immediately obvious that the Bajo people are facing the same issues that many traditional communities battle with today, how to reconcile their traditional ways with modern day life. Solar panels grace some of the roofs and a spiders web of cables link some of the houses. A tower being constructed over a concrete base will soon improve communications to the village.

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They are unfortunately also struggling with other modern world problems such as the need to dispose of single use plastic. Heart breaking as it is, like many places we have seen in Indonesia, all rubbish currently just goes straight into the sea to be washed away with the tide. It’s very easy to judge this method which is so devastating for the environment yet with no landfill available or land on which to burn their rubbish, this is currently the easiest option for remote communities such as this. We are not environmental experts, nor do we feel we can spend such a short amount of time in a country and start preaching about how they should live. We will only say that nothing has created such a strong urge within us to further reduce our own plastic use than the last few months spent in Indonesia.

The reef opposite the village, despite being heavily fished and swimming in plastic is among some of the absolute best we have seen; colourful hard a soft corals with a sheer drop off into the indigo blue depths surrounding the island. Eco tourism and seaweed farming are the talk of the future here, we can only hope that the years to come are bright, balanced and sustainable for Indonesia’s Bajo communities and their beautiful surroundings.


11 thoughts on “Life Over and Underwater in Hoga”

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post and looking through your photos. I haven’t read many of your blogs yet, but I love your writing style here – so visual and compelling. I also really appreciated the way you spoke about plastic. We struggled with this in some parts of Central America and found that cruisers were very quick to judge the local people. The reality is that it is large developed nations, like the US, that have brought single use plastics to remote communities who could not possibly be expected to have the income or infrastructure to deal with them. I look forward to continuing to read about your travels… -Jessie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment Jessie. Plastic is such a difficult topic and problem to solve. The last couple of months have really opened our eyes to how difficult it really is to ‘dispose’ of without any infrastructure in place.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Many thanks, Aimee and Matt for allowing many of us who are dreamers and arm chair travelers to accompany you on your amazing travels!
    We appreciate not only the interesting dialogue but also the beautiful photos, which allow us to also, “be there”!!

    Take care, and may you both continue to have blue skies, fair winds and calm seas….and many more adventures!

    Warm greetings and best wishes,

    Geoff in South Africa

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Matt and Amy .Been talking to your Grandma today she was telling me about your latest adventures I just had to take a look your photos are just fantastic and I loved reading about you travels .Going on to watch the videos now .Take care and happy sailing .Avril and Raymond

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely and very interesting video on your visit to the Bajo people! Thanks! Always following your videos! Fascinating! Keep well.


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