Tawau is the third largest city in Sabah. Located on the east coast of Borneo, it is part of the Semporna Peninsula. It shares a border with North Kalimantan.
The city is home to communities like Bajau, Suluk, Ida’an, Tidong, Cocos, Murut and Lun Bawang. This place is one of the earliest ports of eastern Sabah. Since the late 1980s, the British had a strong influence and trading was one of the main industries here.
This town is well connected with surrounding cities. Tawau Airport has direct flights from Kuala Lumpur and other big cities of Malaysia. The city also serves as the main gateway to transit between Sipadun and Mabul Islands.
It is a place with a wide range of tourist destinations. From educational tours at cocoa museum to fun treks at Tawau Hill Park to handicrafts markets, Tawau has it all.
1. Teck Guan Cocoa Museum And Village
This museum, the one and only of its kind in entire Malaysia has a history of its own. It has an attractive design and layout and was opened in 2004. The museum grounds have a cocoa processing plant and manufacturing factory. It gives visitors an up close view of the production process of the cocoa.
The cocoa beans from here are exported all over the world. This place introduces you to the world of Cocoa, its origins and the processing involved.
It will take 20 – 30 minutes drive from Tawau city to reach here. Morning hours are best suited for the visit. The staff of the museum gives a guided tour.
They tour you through an audio visual room to show a short video and then the original cocoa producing machinery. At the cocoa products rooms through the cocoa sampling kitchen marks the end of the museum tour.
The cocoa from the Teck Guan Cocoa Museum is imported by the makers of Godiva chocolates. The museum is open from Monday to Saturday between 9 am to 4 pm.
2. Teck Guan Cocoa Village
Known for its cocoa cultivation, this village is located in Quoin Hill. It is at a distance of 45 minutes from the Tawau city. The fertile volcanic soil begets robust cocoa plantation.
Here, you witness the whole cocoa cultivation chain from beans to pod harvesting and the unique fermentation process that creates our Hoko flavor. At Cocoa Cultural Spring, a 75-foot falling waterfall is a part of Balung river showing the 27,000-year-old.
There are special arrangements for the Cocoa Village stay experience. Tourists can spend a night or two and enjoy the special cocoa lunch along with famous Tawau seafood dinner. This place is a must visit for the chocolate lovers.
3. Bukit Gemok Tawau
Strap on those hiking shoes and get ready to explore the untouched forest of Tawau’s Bukit Gemok. On the way, one gets to see the giant trees that seem to touch the sky and unique elusive creatures.
There are seven huts for hikers to rest and relax during their trek. After hiking for about an hour (depending on one’s fitness level), tourists will arrive at the Titian Silara canopy walkway. Being 231 meters long, it is deemed one of the longest canopy walkways in Sabah.
The stunning scenery spans the town center, the picturesque coastline, and its surrounding areas. The trek down Bukit Gemok should take a shorter time, but be warned that the trail becomes muddy and slippery during the rainy season, so exercise extra caution.
Developed in early 1990, this forest reserve is now equipped with basic facilities to provide an enriching experience. There are jungle lodges and washrooms along the trail.
Soak in the majestic beauty of the lush greenery along the trails with plenty of fluids in your body.
4. Tawau Hills Park
Home to numerous plant and animal species, it is a popular spot for picnics, camping, etc. The 2 hectare Lowland Gardens of this Park are ideal for people to visit during school holidays or weekends. If you tend to avoid crowds then weekdays are the best to explore the park.
It is about 24 kilometers away from the Tawau town and takes 30 minutes to reach here. To know about the rainforest flora and fauna, hiring a guide can be beneficial. If you are a nature lover then watching the world’s tallest tropical trees would be an absolute delight.
For those who look for adventures, they can try climbing at Mt. Magdalena which is 1,312 meters high. It takes a 2 days round trip to reach the summit. There’s also Mt. Lucia and Mt. Maria to summit if you still have time and stamina left.
Bombalai Hill is a popular trekking spot in here which is 530 meters in height. There are sulphur springs 3 km away from the main entrance. Waterfall lovers can enjoy Bukit Gelas Waterfalls.
Park rangers helps tourists explore this place and take them on night walks of frogging and nocturnal animals. The park is ideal for bird watching as many species of Bornean birds can be spotted.
5. Shopping At Tawau Tanjung Market
With over 6,000 stalls, Tawau Tanjung is known as Malaysia’s largest indoor market. It sells dry produce and famous Tawau dried seafood. The building is situated in the main part of the city area.
Travellers are often seen to stop by this place to shop on the cheapest dried seafood in Malaysia. On the ground floor, the items include salted fish, dried fish, squid, anchovies, abalone, sea cucumber and even dried stingray.
Fabrics, clothes and local beauty products are available on the next level which is a mezzanine level. Food court lies on the second level selling Chinese and Muslim food and beverages. Mornings are the best time to visit this place.
6. Handicrafts Market/Pasar Tanjung Market
If wooden crafts and decorative items fascinates then this place is for you. This market at the top floor of the Tawau Tanjung market. Handwoven baskets, placemats and other souvenirs can be found here. ‘Pasar Gantung’ or Hang market is a place where you’ll almost everything hanging.
Here one can find a lot of local items as well as items imported from the Philippines and Indonesia. Vendors are located close by in narrow walkways. You can buy a lot of things at reasonable prices.
7. Tawau Waterfront
If you love to watch the beautiful sunset then head to the Tawau Waterfront in the evening. The other name for this Waterfront is Tawau Esplanade. Both locals and foreigners can be spotted enjoying the end of daylight.
To view the spectacular scenery one needs to head along the main road of Jalan Persian. At the waterfront locals could be seen selling freshly cut mango as snacks so try it out if you are a mango lover.
8. Other Places Of Interest
Masjid Bandar Tawau
This is also known by the name of Masjid Waqaff Ahmad Bin Dating Mapata. This beautiful mosque lies in the main city area. It is the oldest mosque of Tawau as it was opened in 1963.
It is the largest mosque in Sabah that can accommodate upto 17,000 people. This beautiful mosque is located in the city area and it opened in 2004. It is a beachfront mosque having view of the Cowie Straits.
Bell Tower of Tawau
This mysterious attraction was built by a Japanese businessman during the first world war in 1918. The police guards used to rang it at intervals. It had a bronze bell which disappeared and till date no one has any clue about it. So now only a six-sided oriental shaped tower stands about 6 meters high.
The development of Tawau city is much slower compared to other cities of Sabah. So it provides rich insights into its history, culture and flora-fauna being relatively undisturbed.
This place also has a lot to offer through its food tourism. The local cuisines will relish your hunger. Pack your bags and hop on a journey to discover this amazing wonder of Malaysia.