Bongos were handcrafted Gungan vessels, built around a coral-like skeleton underwater. Each one was unique, due to being made individually. The bongo's hull was strong, though could be damaged by some of the creatures in Naboo's oceans. Bongos were in fact based on the creatures found underwater, and thus many of them resembled squids or other such animals. Bongos were equipped with an electrical power plant and a guidance system. Their capacities ranged from one to many occupants. Those capable of holding many passengers were known as heyblibbers.
The bongo's propulsion system was based on long tentacles at the aft of the vehicle. These tentacles pushed the bongo forward. The vessel was also equipped with repulsorlifts to push it through specially designed bays in Gungan cities. The bongo had a unique buoyancy system; when the vessel went underwater, special chambers release oil, which increased the vehicle's density. To surface, the oil was absorbed.
Bongos were very versatile, and fulfilled many functions, from carrying passengers to cargo. The Gungans based their starfighter designs on the bongo.
The first bongos were probably invented by a tribe known as the Bongomeken Collective. Millennia later, they evolved into the Otoh Gunga Bongameken Cooperative. They ranged from tiny, single-person craft to the large heyblibbers used for long journeys.
Bongos were handcrafted, ensuring that each craft was unique. A bongo was built around an organic coral-like skeleton bred in special underwater fields by Gungan designers. This skeleton formed the bongo's hull and was strong, though not durable enough to withstand opee sea killer attacks. This made it prone to damage by sea monsters encountered in the watery depths of Naboo.
While the Gungans produced much of the technology needed for bongo creation, electronics and specialized equipment like metal cargo containers had to be purchased from the Naboo. Gungan traders procured such items from the Naboo in exchange for foodstuffs and medicine.
Bongos were incredibly versatile and could be built for many functions. Cargo bongos featured cargo holds instead of passenger modules, while a Gungan Army transport bongo could carry about five armed passengers. Monobubble racing bongos were also produced, and bongo technology even enabled the Gungans to construct starships, which they used to colonize the Naboo moon Ohma-D'un.
Bongo technology inspired Gungan engineers in Lamaredd to create the gondola skimmersub, based on bongo designs. As locab plasma, a component of the bongo, was scarce in Lamaredd, the gondola used an alternate technology.
During the Invasion of Naboo, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, via a Jedi mind trick, got Boss Nass to agree to let them use a bongo to go through Naboo's core and arrive at Theed so they could rescue Queen Amidala. However, the bongo was damaged by an opee sea killer—which briefly bit into the vehicle when capturing it to eat, only releasing it when it itself was devoured by a sando aqua monster—and eventually lost power as a result within a colo claw fish's lair. Upon arriving at the channel at Theed, they were forced to ditch the craft after they parked it too close to the current of one of Theed's waterfalls.
During the Galactic Civil War, a Gungan utilized a bongo to escort a Star Tours StarSpeeder 1000 over to a Rebel hangar on Naboo. Similar to the Jedi before him, he was ambushed by an opee sea killer and escaped with the help of a sando aqua monster.
Behind the scenes
Early design concepts of the Gungan bongo resembled an organic-looking diving bell before Doug Chiang hit upon the idea of the squid-like propeller assembly. An unused concept for a large underwater passenger transport featured the manta-like silhouette. When the Episode I story changed so that the passenger transport was written out, the manta shape was incorporated into the bongo's look.
- Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds (as Bongo Laser)
- Episode I Adventures 9: Rescue in the Core
- Episode I Adventures 12: The Bongo Rally
- "The Death of Captain Tarpals"—Star Wars Tales 3
- Star Wars Episode I: Racer
- Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace novelization (First appearance)
- Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace unabridged audiobook
- Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace comic
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace junior novel
- Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace video game
- Star Wars Episode I: Watch Out, Jar Jar! (Picture only)
- Episode I: The Phantom Menace ½ (In flashback(s))
- Episode I: Obi-Wan Kenobi (In flashback(s))
- Star Wars: Episode I Obi-Wan's Adventures
- Deep Spoilers"—Star Wars Gamer 4 "
- The Last of the Jedi: Death on Naboo
- Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Shadow Warrior"
- Star Wars: Power of the Jedi
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (reference book)
- Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace: Prima's Official Strategy Guide
- Star Wars: Episode I The Visual Dictionary
- Star Wars: Episode I Incredible Cross-Sections
- Star Wars Episode I: The Data File
- Obi-Wan: Prima's Official Strategy Guide
- The Official Star Wars Fact File 18 (BON1-2, Bongo)
- Star Wars: Complete Cross-Sections
- Star Wars Kids 6
- Inside the Worlds of Star Wars: Episode I
- The Wildlife of Star Wars: A Field Guide
- The New Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels
- The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia (see bongo submarine)
- Bartyn's Landing"—Star Wars Gamer 7 "
- Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Knight
- Star Wars: What Makes a Monster?