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District and Town
Semporna Waterfront.
Semporna Waterfront.
Official seal of Semporna
Location of Semporna
Semporna is located in Borneo Topography
Coordinates: 4°29′0″N 118°37′0″E / 4.48333°N 118.61667°E / 4.48333; 118.61667
Country  Malaysia
State  Sabah
Division Tawau
Population (2010)
 • Total 133,164

Semporna is a district as well as town located in Tawau Division, in the east coast of Sabah, Malaysia on the island of Borneo. Its population was estimated to be around 133,164 in 2010.[1]


Semporna town in 1910, during the British period.

Semporna was founded soon after the British North Borneo Company established Sandakan, and initially settled by Chinese traders, most fleeing from Spanish attack on the Sulu Sultanate. The name Semporna means place of rest (as in Sanskrit "sampoorna" meaning accomplishment i.e. implying completion of a journey into a settlement) and was given after the British quelled resistance from the local Bajaus in the mid-1880s, changing it from Tong Talun. Another story is that Semporna was called place to settle or meeting place by four admirals – Panglima Kabogan, Panglima Bum-Bum, Panglima Simunul and Panglima Abdullah . The original founder of group of islands and the ancestor to the four admirals was Panglima Jamaludin Bin Ajibudin.


Semporna is located at the tip of Semporna Peninsula around Lahad Datu Bay (also known as Darvel Bay), and is visited by tourists as a base for scuba diving or snorkelling trips to Pulau Sipadan (Sipadan Island), some 36 kilometres southeast of town.


The majority of the population is Bajau, many of whom live in sprawling stilt villages over the water on the outskirts of town. Also on the sea around Semporna live thousands of people of the Bajau Laut (also known as Sea Gypsies or Sama di Laut). They are one of the few nomadic sea borne peoples of the world and spend most of their lives from birth to old age on board boats, finding a livelihood from the rich coral reefs in the area. Only after death burial takes place on land.


Sabahan Malay creole is the main language spoken in this area. Semporna is also unique due to it is the only Zamboangueño Chavacano-speaking community in Malaysia, a Spanish-based creole whose speakers can mainly be found only in the Zamboanga area on the neighbouring Philippine island of Mindanao. The cause of the language exist here due to many Filipino refugees who escaped from the conflict in southern Philippines bring the language to this area.


Marine products are still the mainstay of the local economy, as well as tourism. Pearl culturing is a major component of this industry.


Semporna is also known for the Regatta Lepa traditional boat races which occur annually in April. Semporna was also the location of the finish line of Eco-Challenge: Borneo, held in 2000. Off the coast is a marine park called Tun Sakaran Marine Park also known as Semporna Islands Park. It was gazetted by Sabah Parks in 2004.

Semporna is the gateway to diving paradise in world-renowned islands like Sipadan, Mabul, Kapalai, Mataking, Sibuan, Mantabuan, Siamil & Pom Pom among others. Visitors to Semporna are mainly sun seekers looking to relax or to take up water sports activities such as scuba diving or snorkelling.

As Semporna is a coastal town, visitors are encouraged to try out all the various fresh seafood as they are cheap and delicious.


  1. ^ "Total population by ethnic group, administrative district and state, Malaysia, 2010" (PDF). Department of Statistics, Malaysia. 2010. Retrieved 3 May 2014. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 4°29′N 118°37′E / 4.483°N 118.617°E / 4.483; 118.617