The coastal town of Semporna is accessible from Tawau airport (TWU), which is served daily by Malaysia Airlines (MH) and Air Asia (AK) from either Kota Kinabalu (BKI) or Kuala Lumpur (KUL). From Tawau airport, Semporna town is about 100 kilometres away. Taxi fare is about RM50 one way per car (Note: Recent visit in 2006, the taxi fare from Tawau airport has increased to RM80-100 per car, no thanks to higher petrol prices).
If the Bajau tribes of Kota Belud are known for their horse-riding prowess, the Bajau Laut tribes of Semporna are known for their seafaring skills. Bajau Laut tribes are usually known as the sea gypsy people, a term normally associated with the island people of the Pacific, especially in the southern Philippines area and other smaller islands.
For many years these people 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, and even pearl farming in the remote islands of Bodgaya and Boheydulang.
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 boat coming home with their day catch. Certainly a cultural experience not to be missed if one visits Semporna!
The town of Semporna can be considered run-down and somewhat congested with people and vehicles. One should only get into the town for shopping and food, if nothing else. The main interests are probably located on the sea-fronting area, where you can find locals selling exotic fruits and unique delicacies, as well as fresh seafood. You can also check out one of the many fishing boat landing docks where you can witness fresh ocean products being loaded from the trawlers into a make-shift wet market.
A very exotic place to visit.