South-east bound from the capital Kota Kinabalu Sabah in the Tawau district is Semporna, a quiet town and a gateway to clear serene waters, an explorative array of marine life and lively corals beds. A divers tropical paradise. Mainly populated by the Bajau Laut ethnic community, Semporna was and still is a fisherman’s village. But apart from fishery, seaweed farming, shrimp farming, pearl farming and other aquacultural industrial work is carried out as a source of income by the locals.
Unlike the land Bajau’s and the indigenous Kadazandusun living in the northern coastal areas of Sabah, the Bajau Laut are sea gypsies living primarily on produce caught out at sea. What best showcases their culture is the annual Regatta Lepa-Lepa celebration during the month of April. It is a traditional boat race held at Semporna annually where a colourful splendor of fishing boats fills its waters for a friendly race. It is truly then when Semporna comes alive in colour.
Open markets have always been a staple in supplying Malaysians with good food, same goes to the markets at Semporna. Cooking up a mixture of local foods, is fairly easy to find something to eat around Semporna with Chinese coffee shops, malay ‘Mamaks’ and open markets scattered at every corner. Being by the sea front, fresh seafood can be found in abundance and is inescapable to anyone who visits as it is available everywhere at cheap prices.
But many who come down to the coast ways of Semporna do not do so for its fishing village, but for the underwater diving ventures, spectacular coral beds, and the white sandy beaches found on the islands scattered off the coast from Semporna. The Semporna reef complex is located within the Coral Triangle region, where the highest number of diverse marine species is found. Therefore, Semporna serves as a diving hub, a gateway to paradise for divers and beach bums alike by providing boat services to access the islands scattered along the Lahad Datu Bay, on the waters of the Celebes and the Sulu Sea. In these lush waters, divers can find shallow and deep coral beds alive in colour, reel among the abundance of marine life from frequently spotted Turtles, Eels, White Tip Sharks, and schools of tropical fishes. Recognized among the world’s top 5 dive sites, Sipadan Island is the most famous of all of Semporna’s islands.
There are plenty of resorts, budget hotels, and backpackers located at Semporna, catering to all budgets. When checking-in be sure to inquire if your respective hotels are able to book your Sipadan permits, as many do provide that service for hotel guest. Working together with local dive companies, the hotels are able to assist guest in booking dive packages for the surrounding islands and schedule diving trips much more conveniently