Semporna town
The coastal town of Semporna during sunrise.
Semporna jetty
Hotels and dive packages are generally cheaper in Semporna.


Semporna, meaning ‘perfect’ in Malay, is a small township located in the easternmost Malaysian state of Sabah.

Sitting on the southeastern coast of Darvel Bay, which opens up to the Celebes Sea, Semporna is a gateway town to hundreds of islands off its coast, making it a popular starting point for island hopping in Sabah.

Many travelers to the region prefer staying here because hotels in Semporna, as well as freelance snorkeling or scuba diving packages to Mabul and other islands, are generally cheaper.

Semporna is Bajau Laut (Sea Gypsies) 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 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 10 kilometers 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
The islands off Semporna, also Bajau territory, are exquisitely beautiful. With the exception of Mabul, Kapalai and Sipadan, the rest are rarely visited.

Visitors usually make their way to the islands of Tun Sakaran Marine Park, with the most popular being Bohey Dulang, Maiga, Mantabuan and Sibuan.

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.

There is also Pom Pom, Singamata and Bum Bum, which is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel.

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 dive sites in the region, if not the world.

Bajau Laut (Sea Gypsies) Village
There is a small, friendly community of nomadic Bajau Laut living in and around the islands.


Semporna is an excellent 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 from the islands have offices here and provide a discount for accommodation in Semporna or the islands where they are based, if you will be diving with them.

Getting Here

The nearest airport to Semporna is Tawau Airport. From there, it is about an hour’s journey to the jetty in Semporna, where visitors board speedboats to get to their respective destinations.

Learn more on how to get to Semporna.