The Bajau Laut are some of the last true marine nomads. An ethnic group of Malay origin, they have for centuries lived out their lives almost entirely at sea, plying a tract of ocean between Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia. In the last few decades many have been forced to settle permanently on land, but a dwindling number still call the ocean home, living on long boats known as lepa lepa. Traditionally, they fish with nets and lines and are expert free divers, going to improbable depths in search of pearls and sea cucumbers or to hunt with handmade spear guns.
The Bajau people are stateless and so have built wooden huts out at sea. During the day, they fish and sail around the coast, looking to sell food, before returning to their huts as soon as the sun goes down. The unique community have become a disappearing tribe in recent years owing to dwindling trade and food supplies. And now, an increasing number of Bajau Laut are moving closer to the mainland for work – a move that could mean an end to this way of life.
Canadian photographer Mark Lehn travelled to Sabah, Borneo, in September 2015 where he captured some of these striking images.