Semporna is the capital of the Semporna District in the Tawau Division of Sabah, Malaysia. Semporna is located at the tip of Semporna Peninsula around Lahad Datu Bay, and is visited by tourists as a base for scuba diving or snorkelling trips to 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. Thousands of Bajau Laut (also known as Sea Gypsies or Pala’u) people live on the sea around Semporna. They are one of the few nomadic seaborne peoples of the world, and spend most of their lives on boats, making a livelihood from the coral reefs in the area.
The Kadazan people also live in Semporna. Sabah Malay Creole is the lingua franca in Semporna. Semporna is also home to the only Chavacano-speaking community in Malaysia. 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 in world-renowned island paradises like Sipadan, Mabul, Kapalai, Mataking, Sibuan, Mantabuan, Siamil and Pom Pom among others. Visitors to Semporna are mainly sunseekers looking for relaxation or watersports activities such as scuba diving or snorkelling.
As Semporna is a coastal town, various fresh seafood are readily available, cheap, and delicious.