Wikipedia and the scientific community
There are a number of distinct ethnic groups alive in the world today whose existence can be said to be 'semi-aquatic'. Their entire lives are centred upon the sea and they subsist predominantly on seafood and from trading produce they harvest from the sea. In many cases, the children of these people learn to swim before they can walk and they have pronounced semi-aquatic adaptations which could be linked to a semi-aquatic ancestor. Unfortunately, for many of them, their traditional way of life is now under threat and they are gradually disappearing.
The Moken (also spelled Mawken or Morgan), are an Austronesian ethnic group with about 2,000 members (declining) who maintain a nomadic, sea-based culture. The name is used for all of the Austronesian speaking tribes who inhabit the coast and islands in the Andaman Sea on the west coast of Thailand, up through the Mergui Archipelago of Burma (Myanmar). The group includes the Moken proper, the Moklen (Moklem), the Orang Sireh (Betel-leaf People), and the Orang Lanta. The last, the Orang Lanta, are a hybridized group formed when the Malay people settled the Lanta islands where the proto-Malay Orang Sireh had been living.
The Moken are also called Sea Gypsies, a generic term that applies to a number of peoples in southeast Asia. Their epithet is "The Moken are born, live and die on their boats, and the umbilical cords of their children plunge into the sea.” The Moken only live on land during the monsoon, for about 3 months in a year. For this reason it is true that their babies learn to swim before they walk and learn to dive while they are still very young children. Being the skilled divers and the navigators they are, the Moken people primarily collect mollusks and hunt for fish and trade them for their cheap staple food- rice. They have the extraordinary ability to hold their breath and see under water for a time that far exceeds the capability of an ordinary, healthy human. As a result many fishermen in Myanmar use the services of Moken people to help them catch fish, set up nets and collect mollusks.
Their knowledge of the sea enables them to live off its fauna and flora by using simple tools such as nets and spears to forage for food. What is not consumed is dried atop their boats, then used to barter for other necessities at local markets. During the monsoon season, they build additional boats while occupying temporary huts. Because of the amount of time they spend diving for food, Moken children are able to see better underwater due to accommodation of their visual focus.
Some of the Burmese Moken are still nomadic people who roam the sea most of their lives in small hand-crafted wooden boats called kabang, which serve not just as transportation, but also as kitchen, bedroom, and living area. However, much of their traditional life, which is built on the premise of life as outsiders, is under threat and appears to be diminishing.
The Moken have lived as stateless, indigenous sea nomads in the waters off Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand for almost 4,000 years. They are the very last people who still see the ocean as a place to live their entire lives. The Moken are known for their incredible free-diving capabilities, and historically lived full-time in their traditional boats called kabang. The Moken are Earth’s last marine nomads with a culture that focuses on sustainable interaction with all marine environments, and have survived this way since the Stone Age. They treat the ocean with the respect it deserves.
Another interesting issue is that, compared to the eyes of European children, those of the Moken children seemed to be less bothered by salt water and reddened to a much smaller extent [Gislén, unpublished observations]. Possibly, the Moken children possess physiological adaptations that allow them to endure longer periods under water with opened eyes. Still another observation, done during the initial field studies of the Indonesian nomadic Sea People, was that their skin apparently responded to sustained exposure to sea water by developing a white, scale-like layer, with an
Gislén, A and Schagatay, E., Fifty Years after Alister Hardy Waterside Hypotheses of Human Evolution, Chapter 10, "Superior Underwater Vision Shows Unexpected Adaptability of the Human Eye", p. 170
A Peek into the Lives of the Moken Sea People 
|Website: F. Mansfield, 2015|
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