"Atmospheric on the edge of diver's paradise" Semporna by bluntman82

Semporna Travel Guide: 19 reviews and 48 photos

First impressions

I arrived here by minivan from Tawau airport, hitching a ride with some upscale tourists that had a free seat. They were going to a resort, and I asked to be dropped off at Dragon Inn as I had booked my PADI Open Water at North Borneo Divers which is right near it. Dragon Inn is a hotel / guesthouse / restaurant that is built on stilts in the water which is quite nice, except for mosquito problems at night. Anyway the first 2 days I never saw the city as I was busy doing the divers license and sleeping (diving is so tiring:). The place is brimming with atmosphere, and the "floating restaurant" is actually very nice as the views are amazing on a clear day.

The town

On the night after I completed my Open water, I decided to walk around town and find another place to stay. There is quite a few cheap hotels around. The town is very compact and easy to find yur way in. Most buildings are mostly boring concrete blocks, but what makes the atmosphere here is really the people, who are very friendly and helpful in every way. There is a lot of "family restaurants" around, which generally serve great food, especially seafood like fried prawns, fish etc. There is also a few supermarkets and some nice local really cheap internet/gaming shops, as well as a nice night market. The town also sports quite a nice mosque which wakes you up in the morning with prayers calling through out the city. If you are into skateboarding you will find like-minded local kids on the pier doing their kickflips around the people eating late open-air dinner.


There are many diveshops in semporna. They will take you on daytrips to the islands, of which the most famous is Sipadan. This island is revered as one of the best dive spots in the world, and is Malaysia's only oceanic island (it's not a part of the continental shelf). It is a limestone cliff that stand like a spear 600m up from the bottom of the ocean, with reefs on the walls going down. It has an amazing array of aquatic life, you can see over 50 turtles in a single dive, huge (1,5m) groupers, lots of sharks and even manta rays. The other islands I went to were Sibuan and Mabul, which is the closest to paradise I have seen. You have too see it to believe it :)

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Nice people, food, incredible islands / diving.
  • Cons:Around dragon inn there is "tourist prices
  • Last visit to Semporna: Jan 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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