Complete Semporna Travel Guide: Where To Stay, What To Do, And More Travel Tips!

Eunis Ong
Eunis Ong
20 Sep 2020
Semporna Sabah Trip

Photo Credits: @thechelseytan, @anastruncnik, @by___fia

No, We're Not Lying - This Isn't The Maldives

Semporna Pulau Mataking Island Sabah
Photo Credits: @by__fia
Located on the south-eastern coast of Sabah in Malaysia, Semporna is perfection in the form of a collection of beautiful islands, just like its name which means "perfect" in Malay. Blessed with turquoise waters, sandy beaches, and some of the most beautiful dive sites in the world, Semporna is arguably just as breathtaking as The Maldives.
If you're looking to plan a vacation to Semporna, save this pocket guide up! We've done the research for you so you can focus on piecing together the perfect itinerary for your trip.
Semporna Sabah Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort
Photo Credits: @thechelseytan

Best Time To Visit Semporna

semporna sabah
Photo Credits: IG @by__fia
The weather and temperature in Semporna varies little throughout the year. The region is generally hot and sunny, with the hottest months in April, May, and June. November through January are usually the island's busiest months. Despite the hot climate, Semporna also rains quite a fair bit, so be sure to keep your eyes on the weather forecast and pack accordingly!

Getting To Semporna

Semporna Flight KK KL Airport Sabah
Photo Credits: Unsplash
  • From KL: catch a flight to Tawau Airport
  • From Kota Kinabalu: catch a flight to Tawau Airport or a long-distance bus that will take approximately 9 hours
Semporna Tawau Airport Private Transfer Transport
Upon arrival at Tawau Airport, Semporna is a bit over an hour's drive away! Book a private transfer that will bring you from Tawau Airport to Semporna Jetty, the gateway to your beach adventure. Opt for a vehicle that suits your needs - from a sedan that fits up to 3 pax to a van that can fit a big group of 6.

Getting Around Semporna

Semporna Sabah Boat Transfers
Semporna town is relatively small in size and easy to explore on foot. Boats generally depart from Semporna Jetty to islands in the region between 8AM - 4PM daily (do be sure to plan your journey accordingly and book your tickets in advance so you don't risk missing the last boat!).
#KlookTip: book your boat transfers on Klook in advance for a hassle-free adventure! You can get boat transfers from Semporna Jetty to beautiful islands like Mataking, Pom Pom, Timba-Timba, Mabul, Sibuan, Manukan, and Kapalai! These transfers generally depart at 8AM daily and are available at discounted rates on Klook.

Where To Stay

Semporna Sabah The Reef Dive Resort Mataking
Semporna Sabah Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort
Photo Credits: @thechelseytan
Regardless of your budget, there are tons of accommodation options for you in Semporna! From budget-friendly inns to luxurious chalets built on stilts above pristine waters - you'll find something up your alley in this paradise on earth.
Many travellers prefer to base themselves in Semporna Town and plan their daily activities from there, but you can also opt to stay at one of the exclusive private resorts located on more secluded islands in the area.
#KlookRecommends: book your stay at The Reef Dive Resort, a beautiful beachfront resort located on Pulau Mataking, known as one of the most romantic islands in Malaysia!
Choose between a diver's or non-diver's package that come inclusive of 3 meals per day, roundtrip transfers from Semporna Jetty to Mataking Island, snacks, diving/snorkelling equipment rental, and more. You can also book a Spa Package that comes with a rejuvenating 60-minute massage session in the in-house spa.

Best Things To Do In Semporna


Semporna Sabah Diving License Padi
Semporna Sabah Sipadan Diving
Photo Credits: IG @wayne_wayne23
Semporna has cemented itself as home to some of the most beautiful diving sites in the world. Swim alongside gentle sea turtles, hammerhead sharks, rays, beautiful corals, and all sorts of fascinating marine life while you're here.
Do note though that one of the most popular islands for diving in Semporna - Pulau Sipadan requires divers to apply for dive permits as an effort to conserve the corals. Only 120 dive permits are issued per day - so be sure to make your necessary arrangements to avoid disappointment.

Get Your PADI Diving License

Semporna Sabah Diving License Padi
It's a waste to head to Semporna without exploring its beautiful dive sites - but if you don't already have a diving license, you can grasp the golden opportunity to get one here! Book your PADI Open Water Diving Course (for beginners) or Advanced Open Water Course on Klook and get ready to explore the underwater beauty with guidance from professional certified instructors. Our 3-day PADI course packages come inclusive of licensing fee, teaching materials, professional diving equipment, boat fees, lunch, and more.

Snorkelling And Island Hopping

Snorkelling Sabah Semporna Mataking Island
Photo Credits: @anastruncnik
If diving is not for you, you can still discover the beautiful reefs and marine life in Semporna via snorkelling adventures. Simply hop on a speedboat and head over to the island of your choice for a fun-filled day in the waters.
Our favourite snorkelling spots in Semporna include Mataking Island, Mabul Island, Kapalai, Pom Pom Island, and Sibuan Island! For a hassle-free snorkelling trip, book your island hopping or snorkelling tour on Klook that comes inclusive of transfers, all necessary equipment, a professional guide, lunch, conservation fees, and everything you need for a fun adventure.

Visit The Sea Gypsies

Bajau Laut Sea Gypsies Semporna Sabah
Experience the fascinating culture of the Bajau Laut people - also known as the sea gypsies - who live on stilt huts or long boats on floating villages located in Semporna. The Bajau people spend most of their time on and below the ocean and are generally expert divers and great fishermen! We heard that most of them can hold their breath beyond 5 minutes underwater and can plunge to great depths of the sea with just a pair of wooden googles.

Relax On A Secluded Resort

Semporna Sabah Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort
Photo Credits: @lynnl0107
Semporna Sabah Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort
Photo Credits: @lynnl0107
Make sure you allocate some time in your itinerary to simply relax and unwind on the beach during your trip! Semporna is great for big underwater adventures, but also perfect for doing nothing, really. If you're willing to splurge a bit, we'd recommend booking a stay at a beautiful secluded resort where you'll get to have lots of sun, sand, and sea to yourself.
Our favourites are the beautiful Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort (a luxury water village built on stilts above turquoise waters!) and The Reef Dive Resort in Mataking Island (an extremely romantic destination located just 40 minutes away from Semporna Jetty via a speedboat).

Explore Tawau Town

Tawau may not be the most exciting city, but it has a laid-back charm and is still worth dedicating some time to stroll through. Feast on local cuisine at the variety of seafood restaurants and old-school coffee shops around the town while you're here - we recommend heading to Jalan Budi (also known as Yum Cha Street in local terms) for some coffee and freshly-baked bread for breakfast.
Other things to do here include visiting the local market or the popular Teck Guan Cocoa Museum where you can learn about the processing of cocoa into yummy beverages and chocolates.

Hiking And Nature Activities

bukit tengkorak sabah semporna hiking
Photo Credits: @keithtraveldiary
bukit tengkorak sabah semporna hiking
Photo Credits: @aaronalpero
Besides fun in the sea, you'll also be spoilt for choice with the variety of nature activities available in Semporna. Put on your sturdy shoes and hike to the top of the picturesque Bohey Dulang island or explore the archaeological site at Bukit Tengkorak (also known as Skull Hill). Another popular hiking trail is the Tawau Hills Park where you can find many natural deepwater pools and waterfalls that you can take a refreshing dip in.

Get Up-Close To Nature On A River Cruise

semporna river cruise
semporna river cruise
Experience a change from the rough sea waves with a relaxing river cruise experience in search of the Proboscis Monekey, a species that can only be found on the island of Borneo! Depending on your luck, you'll get to catch a glimpse of these cheeky creatures swinging from tree to tree, as well as other animals including long-tailed macaques, fireflies, exotic birds, and even crocodiles. End your cruise adventure with a beautiful sunset over the calm river.
Book your river cruise experience on Klook that comes inclusive of roundtrip transfers from your accommodation in Semporna, a professional guide, a local hi tea, as well as dinner and other admission fees!

Rent A GoPro For Your Trip!

gopro rental kl malaysia
Planning to go diving or snorkelling during your trip? Rent a GoPro on Klook and collect memories in the form of photos and videos whether on land or underwater! Rent the GoPro model of your choice from RM28 per day that comes inclusive of a 16GB SD card, a diving case, bobber, battery, and monopod/octopus pod! Simply place your booking and pick it up at the rental shop at SS15, Subang Jaya before your adventure.

Is It Safe To Travel To Semporna?

Semporna Sabah
Photo Credits: IG @juicychuck
The short answer is yes. The safety in Semporna has become the government's priority since the rise of terrifying incidents involving abductions and kidnapping in the early 2000s. Army bases and patrols have since been set up in the region, with high concentration focused in touristic spots and popular islands. Special forces have also been deployed to control the safety of Semporna's coast. The increased patrol in the area allows travellers to sit back and soak up the sun without fear.

Plan Your Sabah Trip On Klook!

semporna sabah
Photo Credits: IG @by__fia
Sabah is a beautiful gem waiting to be explored. Whether you're planning a trip to Semporna or cities like Kota Kinabalu or Sandakan, book your travel essentials including day tours, airport transfers, car charters, and other unique experiences on Klook for a hassle-free adventure.

Book Your Flight Now!

Klook Firefly Promo Flights
Enjoy 20% OFF* all domestic flights on Firefly Airlines when you plan your next Cuti-Cuti Malaysia adventure! Firefly flies to many destinations in Sabah such as Kota Kinabalu, Tawau, and Sandakan. Simply use code <KLKXFY25> when you book your tickets.

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