Semporna is the gateway to the beautiful islands and is located in the Tawau Division, Sabah. The crystal clear waters are well known for scuba diving and snorkeling.
It has a population of around 135,000, mainly populated by Bajau Laut ethnic community, whom live in sprawling stilt villages above the water or inside the traditional Lepa boats.
They are one of the few nomadic sea borne peoples of the world and spend 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.
A city on east coast of Sabah, Semporna founded soon after the British North Borneo Company established Sandakan. It is initially settled by Chinese traders whom mostly fleeing from Spanish attack on the Sulu Sultanate.
The name Semporna means place of rest as in Sanskrit and was given after the British quelled resistance from the local Bajaus in the mid-1880s, changing it from Tong Talun.
Another version of the same story is Semporna was called place to settle or meeting place by four admirals namely Panglima Kabogan, Panglima Bum-Bum, Panglima Simunul and Panglima Abdullah. The original founder of the group of islands and the ancestor to the four admirals was Panglima Jamaludin Bin Ajibudin.
Semporna іѕ unique as it boasts thе οnƖу Zamboangueño Chavacano speaking community in Malaysia, a Spanish-based creole whose speakers can mainly be found οnƖу іn thе Zamboanga іn Philipines.
As a small town on east coast of Sabah, there is not much to see and do in Semporna itself; however it is the gateway to diving and snorkeling paradise in world-renowned islands like Mabul, Mataking, Sipadan, Kapalai, Maiga, Sibuan, Mantabuan, Siamil and Pom Pom among others.
Thе number of tourists is increasing іn thе dive sites in Tun Sakaran Marine Park whісh consists of eight islands аnԁ іѕ thе Ɩаrɡеѕt marine park іn Sabah. Thе waters аrе extremely саƖm and the diving is perfect. Both soft and hard corals form the bank and many mollusks, sponges and small fish in the reefs.
Marine products and tourism is the mainstay of the local economy. Pearl culturing is a major component of marine industry which most tourists bringing back as souvenir.
Although the area is rich in different kinds of fish and seafood and the price is cheap but they are usually relatively expensive when serve in restaurant.
The world's attention was focused on Semporna besides Lahad Datu as the 2013 Lahad Datu standoff was one of the most highly publicized incidents of the century that caused Semporna catching world’s attention.
The 2013 Lahad Datu standoff arose after 235 armed militants, arrived by boats in Lahad Datu, Sabah from Simunul Island, Tawi-Tawi in the southern Philippines on 11 February 2013.
According to the report, the group, calling themselves the "Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo", claimed sent by Jamalul Kiram III, one of the claimants to the throne of the Sultanate of Sulu stated their objective was to assert the unresolved territorial claim of the Philippines to eastern Sabah.
However, the three-week siege by armed Filipino rebels in Lahad Datu, Sabah, ended March 1 with 14 killed and three wounded after Malaysian security forces exchanged gunfire with the rebels.
According to the report, at around 6.30 am on 3 March 2013, armed gunmen believed to be less than 10 in number claiming to be from the Sulu Sultanate ambushed the police during a surveillance operation on a village off the coast of Semporna, Sabah.
Reports came out that a total of six Malaysian police officers and seven assailants were killed in Semporna. Six of the attackers were fatally shot while ambushing Malaysian police while another was beaten to death by villagers after he tried to take a hostage says Sabah police chief Datuk Hamza Taib.
Security officials are increasing patrols along Sabah’s eastern borders following August 27, 2013 Tuesday’s incident where armed intruders held local fishermen near the resort island of Mabul in Semporna.