"Semporna was founded soon after the British North Borneo Chartered Company established Sandakan, and initially settled by Chinese traders, most fleeing from Spanish attacks on the Sulu Sultanate. Before being named "Semporna", this area was known as "Tong Talun" in Bajau language which means "Hujung Hutan" in Malay or "at the end of the forest" in English. Panglima Uddang, Panglima Sallehangni and Panglima Sakti of Bajaus Kubang ancestry were responsible for this name. The name gradually evolved to "Semporna" (known as "Peaceful Place") over time."
Semporna is the gateway for tourists, before proceeding offshore by boats, to some of the country’s finest diving sites
including the world-knowned Sipadan and Mabul Island. The town is located in
Tawau Division, in the east of
Sabah, Malaysia on the island of Borneo. The population is mainly
Bajau, many of whom live in
sprawling stilt villages over the water on the outskirts of town. Semporna is located on a pretty bay with good beaches. Pure white sandy beaches, coconut
palms and tranquil waters lapping over colourful reefs in the beautiful turquoise waters of the Sulu Sea.
For many years these people (the Bajau)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. 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 boats" coming home with their day catch.
In the Bajau and Malay language, "semporna" literally means, "perfect". Semporna was founded soon after the British North Borneo Company established
Semporna has a nice museum. Construction was slow. It has taken a few years. But with financial help from the then governor of Sabah, the museum was able to open in 2015. It is therefore no wonder that the museum has been named after him: Sakaran Dandai. In the Tun Sakaran Museum you can find a lot about the governor. Most importantly, much of it is devoted to the life of the Bajau. There is even a boat from the Bajau to admire in the museum. Admission to the museum is free.
Chinese traders played an important role in building up the economy of this isolated town off the south-east coast of Sabah. Marine products are still the main source of
livelihood for the local inhabitants.
The Kaya Pearl Farm started in 1963 covers thousands of hectares, and produces a wide range of pearls for local and
international market. Every with a Regatta Lepa. This is organized by the Bajau Community. It's a celebration of its seafaring or perahu heritage, culture and traditions.
Thousands sail into town in all kinds of boats including the gaily-decorated lepa and jungkong, their traditional colourful boats, to compete for prizes.