Sulu Archipelago

Sulu Archipelago
Native name:
Sulu archipelago.png
Sulu Archipelago is located in Philippines
Sulu Archipelago
Sulu Archipelago
Location within the Philippines
LocationSoutheast Asia
Coordinates6°N 121°E / 6°N 121°E / 6; 121
Adjacent bodies of water
Major islands
Area4,068 km2 (1,571 sq mi)
Largest settlementJolo
Population1,300,000 (2005)
Pop. density313 /km2 (811 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups

The Sulu Archipelago (Tausug: Sūg, Malay: Kepulauan Sulu, Filipino: Kapuluan ng Sulu) is a chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean, in the southwestern Philippines. The archipelago forms the northern limit of the Celebes Sea and southern limit of the Sulu Sea.[1] The Sulu Archipelago islands are within the Mindanao island group, consisting of the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

The archipelago is not, as is often supposed, the remains of a land bridge between Borneo and the Philippines. Rather, it is the exposed edge of small submarine ridges produced by tectonic tilting of the sea bottom.[2][3] Basilan, Jolo, Tawitawi and other islands in the group are extinct volcanic cones rising from the southernmost ridge. Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost island of the group, has a serpentine basement-complex core with a limestone covering.[3] This island chain is an important migration route for birds.

The largest municipalities in the area are on Maimbung and Jolo. The larger island of Palawan to its north, the coastal regions of the westward-extending Zamboanga Peninsula of Mindanao, and the north-eastern part of the island of Borneo were formerly parts of the thalassocratic Sultanate of Sulu.

The archipelago is the home of the indigenous Tausug people; various group of Samal (or Sama) people including the semi-nomadic Badjaw; the land-based Sama; the related Yakan people; and the Jama Mapun people. The Tausug language is spoken widely in the Sulu Archipelago as both first and second languages throughout these islands. The Yakan language is spoken mainly in Basilan Island. Numerous dialects of Sinama are spoken throughout the archipelago, from the Tawi-Tawi Island group, to the Mapun island group (Mapun), to the coast of Mindanao and beyond.


Bajau stilt houses over the sea in Basilan.
Panguan Island,The last island of the Sulu Archipelago before the Philippine-Malaysia Border.

The archipelago is geographically subdivided into several groups, most significantly those around the main islands Basilan, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi. There are, however, other groups containing mostly small islands; not all of these are inhabited: