• Semporna Town •
Regatta Lepa • Accommodations •
'Gateway to the Sipadan Dive
Semporna is a small town known mainly
as the departure point to the world's best dive sites and island-resorts of
Sipadan, Mabul and Kapalai as well as to Mataking.
In the Bajau and Malay language, "semporna" literally means, "perfect".
Located 108km east of Tawau it is about about 90 mins drive from Tawau
Airport, Semporna is a small town and is famous for 3 things, the Lepa
Festival, its seafood, and as a gateway to the world's best dive site.
The population (around 135,000) is mainly Bajau, many of whom live in
sprawling stilt villages over the water on the outskirts of town. For many
years these people (the Bajau)have lived in the ocean on their make-shift
house boats. Probably only in recent years, that they have made settlements
into the coastal area, with their houses built on stilts. The ocean is still
their main source of living - fishing, collecting clams and mussels.
Their unique "lepa boat" resembles the modern-day's catamaran vessels, with
two adjoining legs for added stability when roughing the wild Pacific ocean.
In the evening, one could witness dozens of "lepa boats" coming home with
their day catch.
Every year in the month of April, Semporna celebrates the annual Water
Festival of Regatta Lepaa. This is organized by the Bajau Community. It's a
celebration of its seafaring or perahu heritage, culture and traditions.
Thousands sail into town in all kinds of boats including the gaily-decorated
lepa and jungkong, their traditional colourful boats, to compete for prizes. Colorful
adorned lepas grace the waterfront, decked with the smiling faces of dancers
This three day event of activities and cultural shows daze the visitors.
Getting to Semporna is usually done with a 45 minute flight from Kota Kinabalu
(KK) to the small coastal town of Tawau. From Tawau you can hire a car
/ Van or take bus to Semporna Town (The Journey time is about 90 Minutes).
Boat Journey to the Dive Islands:
Sipadan - 90 Mins / Mabul – 40 Mins / Kapalai – 45 Mins / Mataking – 40 Mins
Alternatively one can also stay in Semporna and go for day dive trips to some
of the best dive sites in the world, especially when resorts at the dive
islands are fully booked.
Droagon Inn - A floating resort built on stiltswith an amazing view of the
ocean. With about 70 rooms scattered throughout the floating resort, there are
6 VIP rooms, 7 family suites, 33 singles, 16 doubles, 3 longhouse units (each
can fit in 18 pax), and 3 dormitory-style units (can fit in 4 pax per unit).
The single and double rooms are air-conditioned and come with hot shower
(though the water pressure cab be rather abysmal). The family and VIP
suiteslarger and located on their own floating chalets.
Rates - The VIP unit starts at RM135 per night, Family (RM88), Single/Double
(RM66), Longhouse (RM15 per person) and Dormitory (RM20 per person)
Seafest Hotel - The only business-class hotel in the area. All rooms will have
a decent view of the ocean and the floating villages. Standard room amenities
such as air conditioner, ceiling fan, hot shower, cable TV, built-in wardrobe,
coffee and tea making facility, etc are available in each room.
Rate for a standard room is RM128 per night, superior (RM158), deluxe (RM208)
and suite (RM288).
Seafest Inn - A sister property for the neighbouring Seafest Hotel, but
targeted more towards budget travelers. There are only about 10 rooms here
with parts of in the form of dormitories, otherwise, there are a number of
standard and superior rooms. All rooms surprisingly are air conditioned,
shared bathroom for the dormitories, and attached bathrooms for individual
room unit. There is a small restaurant downstairs.
Rates - The dormitory-style bed goes for RM20 per night, while standard room
goes for RM58 per night, and superior room (RM68).
Scuba Junkie Backpackers - Located right by the waterfront of Semporna. It
sits on a section of a relatively new row of shophouses just a few metres away
from the ocean. Offering clean, comfortable and affordable rooms for scuba
divers, there are four categories of accommodation spanning across the
two-storey shophouse building, namely Dormitory, Standard, En-Suite and VIP
Suite. The Dormitory, is a collection of rooms filled with a number of
double-decked bunk beds. Other types of room are more personalised in nature
and may include attached bath, TV set, individual air conditioner, clothing