Image: Adam Docker
The Bajau live close to the shore of a small uninhabited island.
One part of the body that doesn’t cope so well with all the diving is the eardrums, which the Bajau often rupture (sometimes intentionally) at an early age. They’re also not immune to diving accidents, and occasionally Bajau divers die from the bends. That said, their slim, muscled frames do offer them some protection. “This type of freediving – repeatedly diving to depths of 10 to 20 m [32 to 66 feet] – carries the greatest risk of decompression sickness,” says free-diving instructor Emma Farrell. “But you are less likely to get the bends if you are lean, or very well-hydrated.”