Semporna is a district and also a town located in the Tawau division on the east coast of Sabah. In 2010, it was estimated that it had a population of around 133,16,400. It is a relatively new town and has an interesting history.
Semporna was founded, (possibly by mid 1887) soon after the British North Borneo Chartered Company established Sandakan and was initially settled by Chinese traders, most of whom were fleeing from Spanish attacks on the Sulu Sultanate.
Before been named as “Semporna”, this area was known as “Tong Talun” in the Bajau language or “at the end of the forest” in English. Soon, the name was slowly changed to “Semporna” (known as “Peaceful Place”) and which later became the permanent name for this place.
Semporna is located at the tip of the 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 the islands around Semporna, one of which is the world renowned Sipadan Island or to the many resorts on Mabul Island.
The majority of the population here are 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 sea borne peoples of the world, and spend most of their lives on boats, finding a livelihood from the coral reefs in the area.
For some Bajau Laut people, the only time that their bodies spend a long time on land is when they are buried after death. The main ethnic minority populations in Semporna are the Kadazan and Chinese communities.
The majority of Chinese people in Semporna are from the Hakka dialect group.Today, the main tourist visiting the town are from mainland China and they are filling up the hotels and enjoying the many sandy beaches on the islands, while having their fill of cheap seafood.
Continue reading at: Semporna - Sun, Sea and Food.