The sleepy fishing village of Semporna, named after the Malay word for perfect, is a gateway town to hundreds of islands off its coast, including Mabul, Sipadan, Kapalai, Mataking, Pom Pom, Singamata, those in Tun Sakaran Marine Park and others.
Some travelers prefer staying here and arranging freelance diving tours to Mabul and other islands because accommodation in Semporna, as well as dive packages, are generally cheaper than on the islands.
This small, coastal town is Sea Gypsies (Bajau Laut) territory, as evidenced by clusters of stilt houses protruding from the sea all over town. Even its chaotic market, where buses stop, is half built on land and stilts.
The town comes alive once a year during the colourful Regatta Lepa festival, a popular event showcasing the tradition and customs of the Bajau Laut (Sea Gypsies) people.
Things To Do
Today, Semporna has awakened to the demands of tourism and attracts many more visitors who stay the night to join a Prosboscis Monkey River Cruise, travel to the Bukit Tengkorak Archaelogical Site about 10km away or take part in the Regatta Lepa festival.
However, Semporna’s islands are the main reason visitors find themselves passing through this town.
The islands off Semporna, also Bajau territory, are exquisitely beautiful. With the exception of Mabul and Sipadan, the rest are rarely visited.
Boheyan and Mataking are renowned for their magnificent rays and turtles. For some terrestrial wildlife, Timbun Mata has a population of birds, deers, monkeys, wild boar and bats.
Snorkeling & Scuba Diving
The relatively untouched beauty of these islands, especially Sipadan and Tun Sakaran Marine Park, ranks them as some of the most exciting diving sites in the region, if not the world.
Bajau Laut (Sea Gypsies) Village
There is a small, friendly community of nomadic Bajau Laut people living in and around the islands.
Semporna is a good base for snorkeling and diving trips.
It is possible to make sightseeing day trips to Mabul, Sipadan and Tun Sakaran Marine Park as well as tailor-made dive packages to dozens of other spectacular islands.
Most dive operators have offices in Semporna and provide a discount for accommodation in Semporna or the islands where they are based, if you will be diving with them.