Semporna Sabah: Top 12 Places to See While You’re Here!

Semporna Sabah is the capital of the Semporna District in the Tawau Division of Sabah, Malaysia. 

About Semporna Sabah

The British North Borneo Chartered Company founded the region, and many Chinese traders settled here in its initial days. Majority of the area is covered by Bajau people, who spend most of their lives on the boat.

Semporna houses several islands and is covered by the sea, mostly making it a great vacation spot for tourists

Tourism forms a significant part of this economy, and they are trying their best to ensure that more and more tourists hop on this part of the world every year. In this article, we would discuss Semporna and what makes it a perfect vacation spot.

Languages prevalent in and around Semporna

When in Semporna Sabah, you will come across people speaking a creole version of Sabah Malay. You may also find Chavacano-speaking people who are refugees and fled the Moro conflict. To add some more flavor, you may find some groups speaking English, Tamil, and some Chinese dialects too.

What can you expect for your taste buds? 

Even though being a coastal area, you will get a range of global delicacies in addition to their seafood diaspora. There are Chinese and Indian restaurants widely available churning some mouth-watering food.

A pro tip would be to check the prices of the seafood menu to ensure that the final bill doesn’t surprise you. Here is a list of top 5 restaurants to devour –

How to get to and from Semporna Island?

By Air

If you are looking to take the air route, Tawau International Airport lies at a distance of approximately 80 km from Semporna. You can reach there by taking a flight from Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Sandakan, or Tarkan.

Once you reach the airport, you can then take shared minivans from the parking lot to take you to Semporna. It is the cheapest, but on the flip side, you may have to wait till you have enough people to accompany you.  

If you are not a regular traveler to this part of the world, we would suggest you skip the above option and look for some taxi, renting cars, buses, or town cars. When it comes to buses, the rates are pretty reasonable for the locals but may vary for the tourists. Bring out the bargainer in you to save some quick bucks.

By Bus

You can board a bus from Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Lahad Datau, or Sepilok, most of which will drop you to a bus stand in the town centre behind Maybank. A quick fact for you to remember would be Semporna is easy to navigate on your own. So do not fall into the trap of the taxi drivers and lose some unnecessary money. If you are coming from Kinabangtan River, take a bus or minibus to Lahad Datau and retake a bus to reach Sabah Semporna.

Places to visit in and near Sabah Semporna

We do not call a place a traveler’s paradise unless there are some breathtaking locations. Semporna has a list of visual delicacies on offer which includes the following –

1. Bukit Tengkorak

Bukit Tengkorak (meaning ‘Skull Hill’ in English) is eight kilometers from the center of Semporna Sabah Malaysia, and it houses an archaeological museum at its base. In the museum, you will find artefacts such as pottery fragments, skeletal, and documents relating to the excavations carried out. Visit here to find some from amongst the estimated 6 million prehistoric potsherds spread all over the hill, or you can visit to see how an ancient site still preserves its heritage.

2. Bohey Dulang Island

Bohey Duland is a favorite for trekkers and bird watchers alike. It is 23km away from Semporna and covers an area of 313 hectares. When on the island, you can catch a glimpse of several rare or unusual birds such as pied hornbills, fruit doves, babblers, metallic pigeons, partridges, and many more. You can also go hiking, which should take around 45 minutes to reach the top (353 meters peak).

3. Pom Pom Island

At a distance of around 45 minutes from Semporna is the Pom Pom Island. It is surrounded by white sand, which couples us with the turquoise water of the Celebes Sea to make it visual artistry. During your vacation, you may go diving, boating, or just sit and gaze at it on the beach. If lucky, you may find hatching baby turtles in the hatchery.

4. Mataking Island

Mataking Island is a 2-in-1 island that houses two different islands, Mataking Kecil and Mataking Besar, with 20 acres of land bifurcating them. It is also referred to as the perfect honeymoon destination and as the land for the newlyweds. When on the island, you would find a 5-star dive center. If you do not want to take the plunge, you can go snorkeling, canoeing, kayaking, spa, or batik painting.

5. Kapalai Island

If anything gets as close to perfection, it has to be the Kapalai Island. Everything seems so perfect here, and you will have to scratch deep to find any flaws here. On the island, you would be greeted by crystal clear water, along with corals and seaweeds booming underneath. You would see fish everywhere, and food is equally delicious to make it even sweeter.

6. Sipadan Island

The only oceanic island of Malaysia, Sipadan, is amongst the top 10 dive sites in the world. The most famous diving spots are Barracuda Point, Turtle Cavern, Hanging Garden, and there are a total of 12 such places available throughout the island. Due to an alarming number of not-so-rosy sea divers starting to come into the area destroying its corals, the government has limited the total tally of divers to 120 per day.

7. Mabul Island

A 30 minutes ride from Sipadan Island, Mabul Island is the island of accommodation housing more than ten lodges and resorts. People looking for the cheapest or the costliest won’t feel disappointed as there is something for everyone here. Also, it is one of the best muck diving sites in the entire world. Being so close to Sipadan, there is no point in missing it when you are around.

8. Tun Sakaran Marine Park

If you hover through the pictures of Sabah, you would see shots of primitive style houses that surround the turquoise seawater. Most of these images are from the Tun Sakaran Marine Park. Also known as Semporna Islands Park, it consists of eight different islands and is also the largest marine park of Sabah. 

It has the most extensive coverage of coral reefs in the whole of Malaysia, which houses a wide variety of mollusks, reef fish, hard and soft corals, sponge, and echinoderms too.

9. Turtle Islands National Park

Semporna houses the Turtle Islands National Park, which is home to a wide variety of turtles, prominently known for its hawksbill and green turtles. You can book an evening for this place where they divide the visitors into groups. There are around 25 rooms, and each group gets called every time a turtle is about to lay eggs. You can also experience rangers burying the eggs and baby hatchlings released in the sea when the time is apt.

10. Palau Sibuan

A part of the Dunsa Karan Marine Park, Palau Sibuan, gets its name from a warship. An uninhabited island, you would find beautiful scenery on the island with a flurry of tall coconut trees, beaches full of white sand, and blue waters. When on the island, you can go surfing, boating, sunbathing, diving, snorkeling, or just playing with your mates. There is an abundance of coral reefs and fishes to accompany you along the way.

11. Borneo Speedy Dive

Borneo Speedy Dive was founded in the year 2009 and is a 5-Star Instructor Development Center as classified by PADI. For a one-day visit, you can experience snorkeling, island hopping, hill climbing, river cruising, scuba diving, and everything else that you expect when on a beach. Any beach bum shouldn’t miss out on a trip to this place.  

12. Tawau Centre Bazar

A visit to any distant place is incomplete without carrying back some physical remembrances of the same. As for a complete vacation, it must contain some elements of shopping. When in Semporna, make sure that you pay a visit to Tawau Centre Bazar. You can collect several Sabah T-shirts, Batik sarongs, merchandise, and much more to relive the journey in the latter part of your life.

Final thoughts

Even though people conceive that Semporna Sabah is a diver’s paradise, dive deeper, and you would find that there are a lot more things at play. You can climb hills, go snorkeling, have delicious food from different cuisines, and do much more, making it your perfect vacation spot for 2020. So when are you planning a visit to Semporna Sabah?

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