The Bajau are marine nomads who keep to shallow waters away from the open sea and live on small boats, using the currents and winds to travel. They learn to swim before they can walk and apparently many of them can see better in salt water than in air. They can dive down to 10-15 metres deep when hunting, where they can go for five minutes at a time before coming up for air. 

Their boats are 10-12 metres long, and typically last for 15 years before they need replacing. The area aft serves as a galley while the covered area fore is divided into a bedroom (berth) and a living room. The Bajau fish from the bows of their boats with nets or harpoons. They have no furniture, only a couple of chests to hold their belongings. The small size of their dwellings means that only the close family lives together. Relatives gather together for holidays, when several boats are joined together. 

In recent times several governments have tried to settle the Bajau on dry land, but since many of them suffer from “land-sickness” (the equivalent to seasickness) these attempts generally fail. They usually land once a week to trade fish for rice and drinking water. Although settling the Bajau on land has proven unsuccessful, they themselves established Toroiaji, where around 300 families settled. This is a village on the sea with houses, a school, a mosque and a hospital on stilts. The majority of the inhabitants keep a boat as well as their huts, so they can escape from bigger storms.