The Moken People dive deep to catch fish

// Text and Photography: Sofie Olsen

Norwegian Photographer Solfie Olsen captures sensitive photographs of the Austronesian tribe, along the coast of Burma and Thailand.

In the remote areas of the Mergui Archipelago, in the Andaman Sea, one may long to discover a Kabang boat sailing in the horizon. This boat used to be the home of the semi nomadic people called Moken, an Austronesian tribe of sea dwellers, who have been roaming peacefully in this area for thousands of years.




On the Kabang, a whole family resides for most of the year.


© Sofie Olsen


Only living in temporary huts on land during the monsoon.




From their Kabang, they dive into the ocean to hunt or gather their next meal. They are exceptional free divers and can hold their breath for several minutes, and rarely ascend before they have a catch.




The ocean may be perceived as a vast, endless seascape, where one travel across from one point of reference to another, aiming for a destination. For the Moken, the ocean is a place in itself. Going from nowhere to anywhere. By observing the nature and being part of it, the perception of time dissolves into being.




With bamboo spears and eyes wide open, they hunt at the seabed or around artificial reefs they call bamboo islands, made to lure the fish up from the deeper waters.


© Sofie Olsen


When the tide is low, seashells are gathered by the shore.


Ngui © Sofie Olsen


Their knowledge of the marine life is exceptional, and ability to read their surroundings have made them survive in an element most people feel alien.




The peaceful life in the Mergui Archipelago has for long been protected from influence by the mainland due to its remoteness geographically. But the increasing pressure from the tourism- and fishing industry, and recent radical changes in Burmese politics escalates encouragement for foreign investment in the country, exploiting areas previously untouched.


Pink Buddha


Economic dependency is introduced through permanent settlement, leading to increasing exposure to the western culture and lifestyle, giving birth to needs and desires before unknown. The cultural traditions and inheritance of the Moken people is being diluted into Thai and Burmese culture, as the governments enforces adaption to the national cultures in order to lose their stateless identity and maintain any rights.