2 – 12 November 2009

To many divers around the world, Wakatobi South Sulawesi is an underwater destination. Wakatobi, which is short for its many islands, stands for Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia & Binongko. We went to all these islands and beyond with WWF Indonesia and its partner agency TNC. We didn’t do much diving here. Rather, we spent of our days documenting the most interesting people who live here.

The Bajo village (sea gypsies otherwise known as Bajau in Sabah or Badjao in the Philippines) of Sama Bahari, Kaledupa had a visiting trader boat from far away Roti Island selling liquid palm sugar or gula air. Roti is the southermost inhabited island of Indonesia in East Nusa Tenggara Timor.

Roti Island palm sugar trader swamped by Bajo women and children. Their canoes parked side by side like in their own version of "shopping"

Roti Island palm sugar trader swamped by Bajo women and children. Their canoes parked side by side like in their own version of “shopping”

For years the Bajo people bought liquid palm sugar from sugar traders coming from far away West Timor

For possibly hundreds of years, the Bajo people bought liquid palm sugar from traders coming from Roti, far away West Timor

In Tomia, we visited a traditional jewelry repair craftsman. The tools of his trade had the patina of age and careful use.

A tiny piece of gold fired to melting point

A tiny piece of gold fired to melting point

Traditional foot pedal pumping fueled air to torch a tiny piece of gold

Traditional foot pedal pumping fueled air to torch a tiny piece of gold

Gold, how much do you weigh?

Gold, how much do you weigh?

The jewelry he was hired to repair were from people who cared for their precious possessions. Quite a refreshing contrast from the new disposable world we live in — I think I prefer the ways of the old world.

The gold ring was so thin from wear. Kind of symbolic reminder of how the hands take on the pressure of labor

The gold ring was so thin from wear. Kind of symbolic reminder of how the hands take on the pressures of  labor

Wakatobi was also known as Tukang Besi Islands. Tukang besi means blacksmith and in Binongko, we visited renowned machete makers forging spring steel from car springs into sharp knives that is guaranteed to cut.

A three-man team, this man on a high pedestal makes air to fire spring steel

A three-man team, this man on a high pedestal makes air to fire spring steel

Steel hammering steel. These two men adds to the audio atmosphere of Binongko that can be heard from far away

Steel hammering steel. These two men add to the audio atmosphere of Binongko that can be heard from far away

A blacksmiths' hands getting a wash from a poor old tridacna basin

A blacksmith’s hands getting a wash from a poor old tridacna basin

For 50,000 Rupiah, one of these is going  home with us to Australia. Like we need another 2 kilograms, right?

For 50,000 Rupiah or $5, one of these is going home with us to Australia. Like we need another 2 kilograms, right?