Semporna Best Travel Guide: 13 things you need to know about Semporna

Table of Content

  • Overview of Semporna
  • How to get to Semporna
  • When is the best time to visit Semporna
  • Best Places to stay in Semporna
  • Things to do in Semporna
  • Where to dive in Semporna
  • Places of attraction to visit in Semporna
  • Semporna Food Guide
  • Budget for Semporna
  • How to stay safe in Semporna?

Overview of Semporna

Indulge in the glittering turquoise waters, take a stroll along the sandy beach and enjoy the breathtaking sunset or sunrise view. You can get all of these from Semporna! Carrying the meaning perfect in Malay, Semporna gives you a perfect beach holiday with your loved ones.

Semporna is located strategically on the Southeast coast of Sabah and nearby the well-known Tawau. By the way, it is famous for its magnificent diving spots as well.

Sound tempted? We have got you covered with this A-Z guide to Semporna. Why go to the Maldives if you can go to Semporna with a more affordable budget?

How to get to Semporna?

Do note that you can’t fly directly to Semporna. So, if you are thinking of traveling from Kuala Lumpur, you can take a flight from KL airport to Tawau airport. Then, you can either book a private transfer or the minibus to travel from Tawau airport to Semporna Jetty. If you opt for private transfer, it takes about an hour’s drive and costs around RM160. If you want a cheaper option which is the minibus, it costs RM100 and 1 hour 30 minutes.

If you happen to depart from Kota Kinabalu, you can take an hour flight to Tawau. Some people prefer to travel by bus which takes almost 9 hours to reach Tawau. 

When is the best time to visit Semporna?

Based on my experience, the best time to visit Semporna is from January to March every year. There will be many tourists coming to this lovely island. So please make your booking earlier.

Best Place to Stay in Semporna

We have listed accommodations based on budgets.

Affordable accommodations below RM100 per night with good reviews

Good accommodations with excellent reviews

Things to do in Semporna

There are 3 key activities you must do here.

Semporna Best Travel Guide: 13 Things You Need To Know About Semporna | Reviewbah

Source: Padi


Firstly, diving. Semporna is well known for its diving spots. For those who don’t have a diving license, don’t worry. You can still get it here. You can try a half day Discover Scuba Diving experience from Padi Dive shops to get a feeling of how diving is. Okay, if you are serious about it and really want to get a license just like me, then you should go for this Open Water Diver certification which allows you to dive everywhere anytime.


Secondly, snorkeling and island hopping. You can still explore the wonderful island, discover the beautiful coral reefs and marine life in Mantabuan, Mabul and Kapalai island. It is best to sign up for packages that include meals, snorkeling equipment, water and boat transfer.

Semporna Best Travel Guide: 13 Things You Need To Know About Semporna | Reviewbah

Source: KKday


Lastly, hiking. It only takes almost 45 minutes to hike the Bohey Dulang island to enjoy the breathtaking view. Trust me, it is worth it as Bohey Dulang is the only island in Tun Sakaran Marine Park that comes with a hiking trail. It might be challenging going to the peak but you are rewarded with the magnificent views.

Where to dive in Semporna?

1. Sibuan

Sibuan is just a 30 minute boat ride from Semporna. It is known as Battleship Island, which is covered with coconut trees. Diving at this picturesque island is just so amazing. The beach is white and the seawater is crystal clear. Since the water is quite shallow here, it is best to wear snorkelling socks to prevent scratches while enjoying the colourful coral reefs.

2. Awas, Mabul

Mabul island is 15 minute away from Sipadan island if you are taking the speedboat. So, Mabul is well known for its water bungalows. Diving here allows you to be closer to turtles, coral reefs and many cute fishes. Remember to bring some medicine against seasickness as the speedboat can be a bit bumpy.

3. Kapalai

If you are looking for a diving resort, you can explore Kapalai resort. You can discover lots of unique species while diving here such as blue ring octopus, giant frogfish, leaf fish,ray and turtles.

4. Mantabuan

Mantabuan island is special as it is a volcanic made island. The nomadic community of Sea Gypsies stay here. You must visit the black coral garden and soft coral garden. You are able to discover putter fish, blue spotted stingrays and sea turtles here.

5. Sipadan

Diving here is a discovery to a marine world, you will get to see lots of octopus, angelfish, eels, lionfish and barracuda. If you are lucky, you might see some turtles eating the algae and sponges or swimming beside you.

Places of attraction to visit in Semporna

1. Semporna Ocean Tourism Center

Semporna Ocean Tourism Center is a hidden gem that the Dragon Inn and the floating restaurant (Pearl City Restaurant) is located.

Operating hour: Monday to Sunday 8am to 5pm

Address: Jln Kastam, Taman Bandar Semporna, 91308 Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia

2. Tawau Hill Park

If you are a nature lover, you can come to Tawau hill park which is full of many animals and plants. Tawau hill park is famous for its yellow meranti tree. Many visitors come here because of their hot spring and Galas waterfall. So, you can bring along your friends,families and loved ones here for a picnic.

3. Teck Guan Cocoa Museum

Special callout to chocolate lovers, Teck Guan Cocoa Museum should be your bucket list to visit. Do note that you need to pay for the entrance fee, the fee paid includes entrance fee, guided tour and light refreshment. You must also make a pre-booking before you visit this place. I think this is the perfect place to get souvenirs.

4. Tawau Tanjung Market

If you are looking to get some dried food as a souvenir, this is the right place. Walking another 50m from Tawan Tanjung Market, you will arrive at the fish market where you can get cheap seafood. Remember to bring some polystyrene boxes and ice park if you want to bring these fresh seafood home.

5. Hot Spring Tawau

There are 8 hot sulphurous springs here. Many visitors come here for medical skin treatment and picnics.

Semporna Food Guide


  • Ocean Treasure Live Seafood Restaurant
  • Seafood Restaurant Semporna
  • Then Wang Seafood Restaurant


  • Summer Breeze cafe
  • Twentea Semporna
  • Bonda Cafe


  • Asia Bistro & Cafe
  • Skyline Sports Bar

Budget for Semporna

It really depends on what activities you are going to and what kind of accommodation you stay in. So I have come out with two scenarios,

Scenario 1: 4 Days and 3 Nights Semporna Island

The itinerary consists of 

Day 1: Arrive in Tawau Airport and check in your accommodation

Day 2: SIbuan & Mantabuan Island Tour & Bohey Dulang Hike

Day 3: Timba & Timba & Mantaking Island Tour

Day 4: Transfer from hotel to airport

ItemsDescriptionCost (RM)
FlightRound Trip500
AccomodationRM100 per day in budget hotel, 3 nights300
TaxiPer trip RM200400
Meal2 lunch included in package,10 meals including breakfast and dinner. Each meal costs around RM50500
Travel PackageIsland hopping, equipment600

Scenario 2: Full package exclude flight, dinner and taxi

Flight (own expense)Round Trip500
Package3.5 star hotel for 3 nights3 days breakfast covered and 2 days lunch coveredIsland hopping, equipment, mineral water810
Meal3 nights dinner, each dinner RM80240
Taxi 400

How to stay safe in Semporna?

Please be cautious in choosing travel operators for island hopping, diving and hiking packages. You should choose wisely and only pick those registered operators or tour agencies. There have been accidents where tour agencies or operators have no proper licences, fire extinguisher and other necessary safety equipment for water sport activities.

Covid-19 is still around, so it is best to wear a mask when you are not diving or hiking or eating. It is always good to check the operating hours of the restaurants or the places you are keen to visit.

Always bring the necessary medicine around just in case that you are sick. It is best to keep an eye on your personal belongings as we do not know pickpockets might be around.


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