Saturday, August 15, 2009

Semporna---I Love You!

Semporna means place of rest in the local Bajau language. It was located on the east coast of Sabah, 90km from Tawau. The sword fish above is the symbol of the town of more than 150,000 people, the majority of them are Bajaus. I took a van from Tawau to Semporna which charged RM13 per passenger.
The town proper itself is a few rows of run-down shophouses.But the wharf area is always bustling with activities with many fishermen unloading their catches and tourists going out to their favourite island destinations in the Celebes sea or returing to land.

New rows of shophouses are being built at the waterfront.Probably once completed, they will be hotels or lodging houses and restaurants to carter for the ever increasing number of tourists.

Although first timers to Semporna (like myself) will initially feel a bit unsafe because of hearing too many stories of many illegal Filipino and Indonesian immigrants ( worst still, the Abu Sayyaf terrorists), it is, in actual fact, a very safe town with many helpful and friendly people.

Semporna is the gateway to several world class diving sites, the most famous of them is the Sipadan Island.Several other less famous but equally interesting and attractive islands are Mabul Island, Mataking Island,Pom Pom Island and the Tun Sakaran Marine Park which consists of 4 islands and several reefs.Going out to sea to visit the islands have first to pass through this wooden arch (below) to reach the various jetties along the Causeway Road and Semporna Bay.

Before leaving home I had booked a room at the 3-star Seafest Hotel but in Tawau,I changed my mind to staying at Dragon Inn. I made the right decision to switch for 2 obvious reasons.Firstly the RM66 nett rate at Dragon Inn was half of what Seafest was offering me.Secondly, the tour operator which arranged my tour to Mabul Island, Uncle Chang, has his office situated right infront of Dragon Inn.

Dragon Inn is an integrated tourism complex built over the shallow sea at Semporna Bay. It consists of 65 hotel rooms,several restaurants, conference rooms and a large netted area where many species of marine fish and creatures are kept for the viewing pleasures of its guests and the public as well.

Almost the entire resort is built of hardwood and nibong palm. It is certainly eco-friendly. The above long plankwalk leads to my room at Block H.

Not a bad room at such a reasonable price. The only complaint was the aircon was not cold enough.But a lot of people prefer to open all the windows to enjoy the pleasant sea breezes.

Feeding time for the fish is at 3 pm daily. The biggest grouper is probably more than 50 kg and 4-5 feet long. You can imagine how powerful it is (below) when it comes to fighting for food during feeding time.

Several other species of marine fish and creatures are equally fascinating. I spent hours photographing them in the afternoon when the light is good.

The above is one of the giant grouper...sunbathing in the pond.

There are many local and international diving companies offering professional and skilled dive masters/instructors in semporna. Scuba Junkie is one of them.

Presently there are probably enough hotel rooms to cater for tourists. Some of the hotels are Sipadan Inn (above).....

Borneo Global Sipadan Backpackers Lodge, and...

Seafest Hotel, the only 3-star hotel in Sipadan at the moment

I also spent many hours at the wharf photographing the boats and fishermen. The playful and happy children there are also very interesting photography subject.I will up upload more photos in the upcoming entries.


peter said...

Great vacation, great photos. Love the lobster.

AudMraz said...

Lovely photos.

Philip said...

Peter: Have you been there?
AudMraz: Thanks for dropping by. Just checked yr blog...yeah, you travel a lot.Would love to join you to Bario.

Anonymous said...

Excellent series of marine fish!
Well done!

Philip said...

1ondoncalling:Thanks so much for dropping by. You take wonderful photos too.Do keep in touch always.