Semporna is a small town on the east coast of Sabah. The town is located approximately 250 km by road from Sandakan. Semporna means ‘perfection’ in the Malay language. The town sits in the mouth of Darvel Bay, which faces the Celebes Sea.
The majority of the population in Semporna is Bajau, with many living in villages on stilts on the outskirts of town. A number of Bajau Laut (or sea gypsies) live in the Semporna district. The town’s economy revolves around fishing and tourism.
Semporna serves as the jumping off point for diving and snorkeling trips to some stunning offshore dive sites and islands. These include Sipadan, Mabul, Kapalai, Mataking and Pom Pom. These islands are renowned for their diverse coral and marine life. Boat transfer from Semporna to the islands takes around 45 minutes.
The Tun Sakaran Marine Park or Semporna Islands Park is located a short distance from the town. This 350 square kilometres marine park was officially gazetted in 2004 and includes eight islands – Bohey Dulang, Bodgaya, Sebangkat, Selakan, Tetagan, Mantabuan, Sibuan and Maiga. Over 2,000 sea gypsies live in and around the park.
The nearest airport to Semporna is Tawau which is served by flights from Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru.
It takes around 70-80 minutes to travel from Tawau to Semporna by taxi. By bus it takes close to two hours. Many travellers will arrange for their dive company to pick them up at Tawau airport and transfer them to Semporna.
It takes around 10 hours to travel by bus from Kota Kinabalu to Semporna. From Sandakan it takes around 5-6 hours by road to reach Semporna.