The Sea Gypsies of the Mergui Archipelago also known as Moken, Solone or Salon are one of the smallest indigenous people groups of Myanmar. The sea gypsies still live a largely nomadic life passing between the 800 islands of the Mergui Archipelago collecting shellfish and free diving for pearls seemingly unconcerned with the goings on of the outside world and its material possessions.
One of the last people groups in the world to still live a largely nomadic life the sea gypsies remain at sea for the majority of the year only residing on land during the monsoon period. They are superb free divers able to hold their breath for over 4 minutes and have an advanced ability to see underwater while diving.
Their small flotilla’s be identified by the small wooden boats which have distinctive pitched roof’s in the back third of the boat which acts as sleeping quarters. These boats are like the “mothership” and not only act as sleeping quarters but also store the sea gypsies limited possessions which sometimes includes chickens and pet dogs. In addition to these “motherships” some members of the family will also have smaller dugouts carved from a single log which they use to venture in close to the rocks. These dugouts get towed behind the larger sleeping boats when they migrate from island to island.
The Moken (sea gypsies) are for the most part a reclusive people who have chosen to remain distant from the modern material world, they choose this life of solitude. While they hold potential be become extremely talented nature or tourist guides one cannot not help but think if they wished to be part of this they would have sailed down to Phuket long ago.
The Moken – one with the sea