ROHANI, AT THE AGE OF 80, is more muscular than most Americans have ever been in their lives. Though his back is bent, his body is corded with thick muscles — not the bulging bodybuilder type of muscles we’re used to on the Jersey Shore or California boardwalks, but the dense, wooden muscles that only come from real-life use.
Rohani is a seafaring hunter of the Bajau people. The Bajau are often called “sea nomads,” as they earn their living entirely off of the bounty of the sea. The Bajau are spread out among the Philippine and Indonesian Archipelagos. The ones who live at sea are renowned as the world’s best free divers. The ones who live on land are renowned as equestrians.
Rohani is a diver who lives in the Togean Islands, near Sulawesi in Indonesia. He first dove when he was five. When he first went under, he was terrified of all of the big fish. “My father told me — don’t you flinch in the presence of big fish. Even bigger fish than these you will encounter someday.”
He eventually overcame his fear — his father taught him how to slowly, deliberately breathe, how to minimize effort underwater, and how to respect the “sea spirits.” “Practice wherever you find yourself,” his father told him. “Learn from what’s around you. Push too hard down there and you will die down there.” At 20, Rohani was allowed to hunt on his own, and was considered a man. It quickly became clear that, even for the Bajau, Rohani was an incredible diver. As he pushed himself to stay under longer and to go deeper, he acquired a reputation. With the reputation came the name: “Jago.” Jago means master.
Directors James Reed and James Morgan interviewed Rohani for their recent film, Jago: A Life Underwater. Rohani is an old man now — he does not have all of his teeth, his skin is weathered, and he does not have the strength or the breath that he used to. But he remembers the life he spent underwater, and he tells Reed and Morgan his story as modern Bajau re-enact the major events in his life.
It’s a stunningly beautiful life — the towns that the Bajau live in are what we in the west would probably call shanty towns, but it doesn’t seem to matter to those who live there, as the towns are built directly over the water. The Bajau people have been known to spend upwards of 5 hours a day underwater without the aid of scuba gear. They hunt using spearguns, and can dive to incredible depths.
Rohani, in that sense, is also a standout. He tells of rupturing his eardrums as he dove to a depth of 20 fathoms — which is 120 feet below the surface. Many Bajau rupture their eardrums intentionally to let them dive to these depths.
As he gained some renown, he got married and had a family — two daughters and one son. But he wanted to explore. And he wanted to make money for his wife. His goal was to earn 1 million ruppiah, a small fortune back in those days.
Today, a million Indonesian ruppiah equals about $76.
“I left my village, Kabalutan,” he says, “I crossed the sea. This is the way of our people. To explore and seek experiences. If I had just stayed in Kabalutan, my experience wouldn’t have been complete. But because I traveled, I saw a lot of things and had plenty of experiences.”
He hopped from island to island to hunt. Eventually, he joined the crew of a Japanese trawler boat, which caught fish with nets and sent them back to Japan. The Japanese often hired Bajau, as they are known as excellent seamen.
But while he was gone, his son grew up, and he started to dive without Rohani’s guidance and expertise. While out diving with Rohani’s brother one day, his son drowned. When Rohani heard, he “went mad,” and tried to kill himself with a dagger.
He says of the sea spirits, “If we destroy the coral, they destroy us.” Most Bajau practice a religion that is a syncretic mix of Sunni Islam and ocean-based animism. Rohani remembers, as a boy, seeing a man walking along the bottom of the sea far beneath him. He was not a man — he was a sea spirit.
The Bajau are now at the forefront of sustainable fishing efforts — they do not take more than they need, and know now to overfish in certain areas. “There used to be plenty of fish and not many people,” Rohani says. “Now there are many people crowded like fish… Now we must hunt carefully. Go hunting where we’ve never been.”
Jago is a look into a totally different life, a totally different world, and is a reminder that there is no one right way to live. Rohani is proud of his life and his reputation, and it’s hard to watch the movie (shot in 4K) and not feel a little jealous of the things he has seen.
“When I sleep at sea,” he says, “I dream only of an underwater world.” What a life, what a world.
Jago: A Life Underwater can be watched on the Smithsonian Earth streaming service. If you want to learn more about the Bajau, check out this photo essay on the “last of the sea nomads.”
So George set about capturing him to save his life, and bringing him to live in his sanctuary.
Cassius has lived at George's sanctuary, Marineland Melanesia, for the past 30 years, but even after feeding him every day, George knows Cassius would eat him in a second, given the chance.
George has long been a brave adventurer. Here he is in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s
George rescued Cassius from angry Northern Territory, Australia, locals in 1987
The crocodile hunter used just rope and his brave spirit to capture the aggressive animal
Billy Craig, George's grandson who helps run the sanctuary, has now released a series of photographs charting his grandfather's life with Casssius.
Billy, 23, said: ‘George likes to feed Cassius personally and after 30 years of being his caretaker, he does have a soft spot for Cassius.
‘Cassius is aware of who George is but there are no illusions that he would eat him if he had the chance, without a doubt.’
‘Cassius was a problem crocodile with a very aggressive nature. He was becoming notorious and he would have almost certainly been killed if he hadn't been removed and taken to a safe place by my grandfather.
George spent 17 years of his life battling dangerous crocodiles and moving them to his safe enclosure
This real-life Crocodile Dundee owns Marineland Melanesa, a crocodile sanctuary
‘He captured him the old-fashioned way - with ropes and brave spirit.
‘He was then transferred by a truck 1850 miles Cairns and then by boat to Green Island. George named him Cassius Clay the boxer.’
Cassius now lives at George's family business Marineland Melanesia, which was set up in 1969, in order to provide a place for the crocodiles to live safely.
It was a long journey to bring Cassius home. George travelled him by truck to Cairns and by boat to Green Island
Cassius, in 2014, looks every bit as menacing as he did when he was captured
In The Kindness Diaries, Leon Logothetis hits the road again in search of more compassion from strangers. This is an uplifting social experiment that examines the nature of generosity and gives glimpses into the hearts of some truly selfless people. It gives one real hope in a world where too often greed is revered as a virtue and caring as a liability.
This also demonstrates why travelling puts you in a situation where you’re more likely to receive care and kindness compared to violence as you travel to the deep ends of the world.
Jeff Kesling Jr: Keys’ Meads - Of Honey and Horseradish
Many dream of quitting their jobs to move to the Florida Keys. Jeff Kesling Jr., the 36-year-old owner of the only meadery in the Florida Keys, was one of those dreamers. Today, the family-owned Keys’ Meads is projected to produce about 1,500 gallons of the fermented crafted-in-the-Keys alcoholic beverage made from honey, water, yeast and local flavors. Continue
Edward Shore: ‘Mother Earth’ Caretaker, Adventurer and Hotelier
Edward Shore, the owner of Largo, a boutique property for small groups that recently opened in Key Largo, discovered the Florida Keys about 30 years ago on a dive trip with friends. Now his guests at Largo can enjoy the islands he describes as having “the United States’ best weather and the best eco-system.” Continue
Doug Prew: The Fish House Owner to Celebrate 30 Years in 2017
Doug Prew, co-owner of Key Largo's Fish House and Fish House Encore, launched the Florida Keys menu trend of serving lightly breaded lionfish flavored with olive oil, his “dining in the dark” culinary experiences are wildly popular and he credits his loyal staff for his emporiums’ success. Click here to meet the savvy Upper Keys restaurateur.
Rob Mitchell: How a ‘Keys Diver’ Found His Home in Key Largo
For Key Largo resident and boat captain Rob Mitchell, like several Florida Keys "transplants," winters up north and winter sports didn't hold their appeal anymore. A Canadian native and former fashion photographer, he quite literally sailed himself into a new career as a professional dive instructor, yearning for more sunshine, sea air and saltwater. Here's his story.
Stephen Frink: Immersed in Capturing the Underwater World
Every day in the water brings a new adventure and a new photo for Stephen Frink. Click here to find out why this world-renowned underwater photographer calls the Florida Keys his home and Keys waters his "office."
Amy Slate: Diving Into Her Dream
Entering her 31st year in the scuba diving business, Amy Slate has not lost an ounce of her undeniable enthusiasm for diving, ocean preservation or the Key Largo community she has called home since the 70s. To meet this dedicated diver and resort owner, click here.
Jimmy Johnson: From Football to Fishing in the Florida Keys
Jimmy Johnson has had a home in the Keys since just after his second Super Bowl victory. These days, his focus is fishing aboard his 39-foot SeaVee "Three Rings," named for his three coaching championships. Meet the man behind Jimmy Johnson's Big Chill here.
Rick Berry: Keys Rodmaker a "Reel" Hit With Anglers
Rick Berry, a longtime Keys resident who owns Key Largo Rods, has designed more than 2,500 fishing rods and is regarded as an innovator in his field. To meet the designer with a passion for angling, click here.
Robert Stoky: Recipe for Keys Living
Robert Stoky knows good cooking. Whether it's preparing lobster fajitas at Señor Frijoles or all-you-can-eat stone crab at Ballyhoo's, the Stoky family has been a key player in the ever-growing Florida Keys restaurant scene since the 1980s. Meet Stoky and discover his recipe for success here.
Kristie Thomas: A Pioneer Chocolatier
Kristie Thomas, the culinary creator behind Key Largo Chocolates, currently is the only chocolatier in the Florida Keys. Click here to meet the woman who established Key Largo's sweetest emporium.
David Thompson (30 April 1770 – 10 February 1857) was a British-Canadian fur trader, surveyor, and cartographer, known to some native peoples as Koo-Koo-Sint or "the Stargazer". Over Thompson's career, he traveled some 90,000 kilometres (56,000 mi) across North America, mapping 4.9 million square kilometres (1.9 million square miles) of North America along the way.  For this historic feat, Thompson has been described as the "greatest practical land geographer that the world has produced".  : xxxii
GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Sebastian Roche (Jerry Jacks) is a man with an intriguing past. Born in Paris, he spent six years as a teen on a sailboat with his family, traveling from France to Africa to South America to the Caribbean before finally settling in New York. Here, Roche, who speaks French, Spanish and Italian, discusses his life — in English.
Soap Opera Weekly: What was it like growing up in Europe, particularly in such a glamorous place as Paris?
Sebastian Roche: My dad was fairly well-off, so I was raised in a very comfortable environment: the very nice suburbs of Paris. It was a very idyllic life. I also spent nearly all my summers in Britain, and Christmas, too, because my grandparents lived there. I adored them and I adored going to Britain. I was a major Anglophile. My brothers and I were raised knowing both languages, French and English. My dad was born in Austria, educated in Britain, and then went back to France. My mom was born in England, but raised in Egypt and Malaysia. We were a globetrotter family.
Weekly: Why did the family decide to travel the world for six years?
Roche: When my dad hit 40 he quit everything. He sold the house and bought the boat and went off sailing the world. I was on that boat from age 12 to 18. We didn’t actually go around the world. We went pretty much from France through the whole Mediterranean basin. We went to Ireland, first. We also went to coast of Africa, South America and the Caribbean.
Weekly: It sounds like an enviable life for a teenager. Was it?
Roche: Yes, it was. I wanted to have friends and girlfriends, [but] it’s pretty difficult to get a girlfriend when you’re combing the Atlantic (laughs). But what I experienced during those six years was the most extraordinary thing. It shaped my life. It provided the defining moments of my life.
Weekly: What would you cite as some of your fondest memories from your travels?
Roche: There were so many things: Crossing the Atlantic was pretty amazing — being at sea for three weeks with no land [in sight], sailing and catching a fish every day, and using your mind to be inventive. We had nothing on the boat but books and music. I also developed a huge passion for spear fishing. I would go every morning and every weekend in the cold. I’d go underwater and swim with sharks and stingrays. I would say the Tobago Keys in the Grenadines was one of my favorite places. You would literally dive overboard with your mask on and you could see 100-200 yards underwater. It was probably some of the most beautiful coral I’ve ever seen I my life.
Weekly: How did you end up “landing” in the United States?
Roche: I was going through a breakup with my girlfriend and I thought, “I’m going to go travel to the States.” I ended up in New York, Los Angeles and all over the place. While I was there, I met with some casting directors through a casting director friend of mine in Paris. They were very interested in me…so I decided to do it. The next year, 1992, I came over and I have stayed ever since.
Weekly: Did you enjoy the move?
Roche: Adjusting to New York was a bit of a shocking experience. It’s a hard city once you get there and you have no money. But it was exhilarating. New York is the most exhilarating city when you’re young. It’s a different culture, definitely. I really came to love it.