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*<do name="Semporna Blue Reef Dive & Tours" alt="[email protected]" address="Lot 13,Block C,1st Floor,Semporna Seafront Township, P.O Box 181, 91309 Semporna Sabah" directions="" phone="Tel : +6089-782088, Fax : +6089-784088" email="[email protected]" url="" hours="" price="" lat="" long="">( The newest dive operator, more experience, friendly, good service and the budget one.)</do>

Revision as of 09:13, 21 December 2012

The waterfront at Semporna

Semporna is a city on east coast of Sabah. It has a population of around 135,000. While there is not much to see and do in Semporna itself, it is frequently used as a gateway for diving and snorkeling trips to the nearby islands of Sipadan, Mabul, Kapalai, Mataking~, Maiga and others.

Get in

By plane

Most travellers take a flight to Tawau from either Kuala Lumpur (IATA:KUL) or Kota Kinabalu (IATA:BKI), then travel overland by taxi (Tawau airport to Semporna town at RM 95). First time travelers are advised to either take an airport taxi or if possible, arrange for shuttle service if one has booked for accommodation or diving packages from tour/diving operators operating in Semporna. Some of the more established ones are like Sipadan Water Village Resort [4] and Uncle Chang's [5].

By bus

From Kota Kinabalu: Direct from Inanam station to Semporna (or Tawau), 8-10 hrs, 75 MYR one-way. Departs 7:30AM & 7:30PM. To get to Inanam station you can take the public bus from the long distance bus station in KK city on Jalan Padang (Bus #3 to "Terminal" or "Inanam", purple bus stop, 20 min, 1.50 MYR) to the Inanam bus station, or a taxi (~20 MYR). Call 088-384701 or 088-384702 to book tickets for the Dyana Bus to Semporna. Note that in high season (Jun-Aug) these buses fill up fast so book at least a day in advance.

From Sandakan: there are two direct buses to Semporna run by Dyana Bus at 7:30 am and 2 pm (5-6 hrs, 40 MYR). If you miss the direct bus, you can also try taking a bus to Lahad Datu (at least 1:00pm, 18RM), and from there take a minibus to Semporna (leaves when it's full, 24RM).

From Sepilok: Take a taxi to Sandakan and take a bus from there, or hail down the bus at Sepilok junction (works if there are seats available on the bus). Taxi can be booked through your accommodation in Sepilok for ~30 MYR pp (shared), and takes 1 hour.

From Kinabatangan River: Let your tour agent drop you off on a busstation (or a bus stand) on the main road to Semporna. There your tour guide might also help you finding a bus to Semporna: either the one heading straight to Semporna (a bus passing by that left from Sandakan early in the morning) or, when you missed that bus or when it is full, a minibus to Lahad Datu. From Lahad Datu you can catch another minibus to Semporna. Costs for the minibusses are about RM 20,- to Lahad Datu and RM 29,- from Lahad Datu to Semporna.

Get around

Because of its small size, Semporna town is easily explored on foot. However, there are also commercial passengers' vans and 'kereta sapu (prebet)' for getting around. Usually the fare is RM1 to RM3 to where ever within the city, but the ' prebet' will charge tourists with higher prices (about RM5 - RM10), make sure you make a deal with the driver before take a ride.

One may also attempt to get around the town and to surrounding villages/beach resorts using private taxis (commonly referred to as "prebet" or "kereta sapu"). These taxis are usually not color-coded, and the drivers usually drive around the town honking their taxis to attract passengers or converge around points of interest such as the supermarkets. This mode of transportation is favored by the less economically-able locals and the taxis usually charge between RM1 to RM3 to go anywhere and may charge more for tourists. Since these taxis are not licensed for commercial purposes (hence lacking business insurance), travelers are advised to avoid using these taxis at all cost. One will also notice that this kind of taxi usually wait until they have sufficient number of passengers (4 to 6 people) before heading to the passengers' destination.

Commercial passengers' vans are also available for travels to nearby villages and to Tawau. These vans are usually color-coded in yellow and can transport 8 to 12 passengers. These vans are usually available near the KFC fast food outlet and around supermarkets. Charges vary and one should establish an agreed price with the driver before boarding these vans. These vans also travel to Tawau daily and is usually available as early as 5.30AM.


The Bajau ethnic houses on stilts by the jetty and around the town's mosque.

Unlike the Land Bajaus and Kadazan usually found in nothern Sabah coastal areas, the Sea Bajaus which dominate Semporna celebrate Regatta Lepa-Lepa annually during the entire month of April. Being the focal point of Semporna's identity, the festival is of extreme importance to the locals and the State Government, in which the State's Head of State is always invited to grace the event. Regatta Lepa-Lepa is similar to dragon boat race in which different villages around Semporna will commission their own boats and decorate their boats for parade near the jetties. The culmination of this event is the Ratu Lepa pageant event [6].



There are no great beaches on the mainland in this area but you can find a small private spot. Drive out of Semporna on the main road for about 15km when you get to a smaller village and there's a crossroad going left that's marked with signs (paved). Then drive for about 5-6km and in the middle of the long straight there's another crossroad going right (again well signed and paved road). Drive to the end of this road for 4km and park there right next to the beach. Most of the beach is quite rocky. Walk right on the beach by the local houses for 500m to get to a small private beach (just 20m wide) that has some nicer sandy batches. If any small rocks in sand then just clear your spot and enjoy the peace and quiet. Not perfect white sand but it's as good as it gets on the mainland.


The nearby island of Sipadan offers some of the world's best scuba diving opportunities with large pelagics including sharks, rays and sea turtles. Many visitors to Semporna join a scuba diving trip to Sipadan. As of October 2011, a 3-dive day at Sipadan is 560-600MYR including equipment rental and marine park fee. Snorkelers to Sipadan pay about 440-580MYR all fees included. The boat ride from Semporna to Sipadan takes about 45 minutes.

Other nearby islands include Mabul and Kapalai, which are also popular destinations for both scuba divers and snorkelers. Day trips to both of these, as well as other islands nearby, are available from most of the half dozen or so dive operators in Semporna.

Dive operators:

  • 啊哈潜水 (Arung Hayat Sipadan Adventures), Mabul Island, [1]. checkin: anytime; checkout: 12 pm. Budget longhouse accommodations provided. Diving instructors/Divemasters available for English/Chinese/Malay language teaching. Chinese website please refers to, and English website please refers to (中文官方网站:, 新浪微博: @啊哈潜水)
  • (Office: +60 89782334, Mobile: +60 128650131) (Located at Dragon Inn). [7]
  • Billabong Scuba (BSDS)(+6 0128150909 )[8]
  • Blue Sea Divers (tel: +60 8978 1322, +60 1281 56530) [9] [email protected]
  • Scuba Junkie (tel : +6089785372 [10] [email protected] (Biggest dive operation in Semporna, very friendly and professional, internationally experienced dive masters)
  • Singamata PADI Dive resort ( + 6 0198430550 ) [11]
  • Sipadan Scuba (PADI 5*IDC centre - (tel: +6089919148, +6089784788) [13] Only operator with fully functional online booking system to secure a diving permit for Sipadan: (Very Professional and Great Service)
  • Seaventures (tel: +6088 251 667) [14] [email protected](living on an oil rig platform. great experience and good service)
  • Big John Scuba ([email protected]), Semporna, 012-838-5285, Office+6089-785399. PADI courses. Languages Malay, English, Chinese & German


Moon stones and pearls are sold, often on the jetty by the Dragon Inn hotel. Bargain hard to get a good price. Moon stone pendants (without necklace) should go for about RM 4-5.

  • Borneo Global Sipadan Backpackers & Dive Centre, Ground Floor, Bangunan SeaFest, Jalan Causeway, Semporna 91308, Sabah. Malaysia, 089 785088, [2]. Borneo Global Sipadan Backpackers is superbly located in front of the jetty to all Islands and all parts of the Semporna Town. RM22. (118.4044791000,4.4326176000)


Chinese food. chinese restaurants can be found easily in every block. recommendation : seaside seafood restaurant. easily found because it is situated among the dive shop.

Nasi kuning (yellow rice), sold in the morning by the street. traditional breakfast for sabahan. it consist of rice, fish cook with chilli and vegetables.

mee soup (bakso), sold by indonesian immigrant. RM1 for each bowl. Good if you are in tight budget.

pisang goreng (fried banana), 10-20 cents each, sold by the street (same street with bakso and grilled chicken).

ayam panggang (roasted chciken), can be found near to mee soup stall. both sold only during night.

putu (local traditional carb) 50 cents for a portion.

grilled tuna fish (RM2-RM3 per fish).

latok (fresh seaweed) 50 cents for a portion.

  • Ocean Treasure Live Seafood Restaurant (海中宝): Latest addition to the eating scene in Semporna, this restaurant offers a wide varieties of live seafood and other chinese cuisine at a fairly reasonable price. Being one of the only live seafood restaurant to offer a superb seaview just right outside its premise, this restaurant promises an unforgetable al fresco dining experience for everyone. Located just beside Sipadan Inn II. (Tel: +6 016 323 9009 [15] Facebook: Ocean Treasure Live Seafood Restaurant (海中宝) or Semporna Live Seafood)
  • Arthur's Bar: Not on the cheap side, but well worth it. Fresh grilled seafood, choose from the stall in front of the bar and they'll bring it inside. As well as fish, squid and king prawns, they have rice, fried potatoes and garlic bread, the last being specially recommended. Located roughly in front of Scuba Junkies, next to Sipadan Inn. RM15-25.


The restaurant at the beginning of the causeway serves big mugs of fresh fruit juices (mango, honeydew, lychee and others) for RM 5.

Last building on the main street east end is the most 'tourist' place in town with drinks, pool and sometimes live music.

Alcohol is available in supermarkets in a wide selection.



  • Scuba Junkie Backpackers. Across from the Scuba Junkie dive shop. Diver discount: 20 MYR/night for dorm bed. 40 MYR for non-divers.
  • Dragon Inn. 20 MYR/night for a dorm bed. Between 18 and 22 beds/dorm. Nice setting over the water and near the dive shops, but beds aren't particularly clean (as in bugs & blood stains). No security boxes/lockers, but staff can keep your travel documents in the hotel's safe.
  • Damai Traveller Lodge. Opposite the mosque and with the back to the main market this is a good budget option. Basic rooms with ensuite bathroom at a very competitive price. 50 MYR/night (plus 3 local tax) for a double room (25 MYR/night/person).
  • Borneo Global Sipadan Backpacker. Slightly hard to find down the road to the pier (and the Dragon Inn stilt houses) then right towards SeaFest. +60 89-785 088 ,
  • Billabong Scuba Office. Limited space, 15 MYR for dorm bed in a 3 beds aircon room with no windows. Rundown shared toilet outside the room. Tel/fax: 089-781866; Email: [email protected]; Website:


At the seafront:

  • Holiday Dive Inn, [16], Semporna Seafront Township, new and clean hotel at the waterfront, air-con rooms from RM80.00/night, dormitory at RM25.00/person/night. The hotel is attached to the PADI 5-star IDC dive centre Sipadan Scuba [17], bookings for diving and accommodation can be made online via
  • Hotel Seafest (3-star) [18]
  • Hotel Dragon Inn [19]
  • Sipadan Inn, Block D, Lot No. 19-24, Semporna Seafront Township, +60 089 782766, +60 089 781766 (). checkin: noon; checkout: noon. Clean and comfortable new hotel (as of July 2007). There are two computers with internet access in the lobby for free use by guests. 84 MYR for a standard twin/double room (15% off with diver discount).

In the city center:

  • City Inn, [20]
  • Lee's Resthouse. 60 MYR/night for single standard room Decent enough considering the quality around town. Aircon, tv, hot shower, no security boxes/lockers.
  • Singamata Reef Lodge Adventures, Seafest Complex , Castem Road, 60198430550, [3]. RM 60 / person / night.

Get out

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!