Semporna – Island Hopping and Meeting the Sea Gypsies

bajau laut semporna

Semporna is an under developed town with a very basic infrastructure which is not ready for tourist. Tourist usually skips staying at Semporna town after flying in through Tawau. High demand from tourists at the water chalet at Mabul, Kapalai and Semporna town creates a spillover effect where new hotels start appearing at Semporna town. The main attraction at Semporna is cheap and fresh seafood and Island Hopping. When mentioning Semporna, most people will think about diving at Sipadan or Mabul. But there are much more islands to explore out there. Mataking Island is accessible from Semporna. There is also the Tun Sakaran Marine Park which comprises of eight islands: Bohey Dulang, Bodgaya, Maiga, Selakan, Mantabuan, Sibuan, Sebangkat, as well as the Church Reef and Kapikan Reef. You will be spoiled for the many great choices.

A boat for a day costs from RM200 to 400 depending on how many islands you want to cover and which operator you choose. The price typically covers the boat fees and snorkeling equipment. On our trip to Semporna, we negotiated with the boat operator for a day trip to Mataking Island, Timba Timba Island, Maiga Island and Bohey Dulang Island.

Public Jetty
approaching Bohey Dulang

The sea is very rough. It was really a bone-breaking boat ride to Bohey Dulang. The island is quite far from Semporna that it took 30 minutes to reach.

Jetty at Bohey Dulang
our young boat helper


One of the main purpose to visit Bohey Dulang Island is to trek to the peak for this amazing view. Pay Rm50 (for a group) for  the park ranger to guide you safely to the peak of Bohey Dulang Island.


We take a short boat ride to Maiga Island to visit the sea gypsies village. They are also known as Bajau Laut (Bajau of the sea) as they live almost all their entire life on the sea. Some of them get land sick when they move onto the land.


Life is very simple here. It is hard to believe that such place still exist in Malaysia. The young boys and girls row their boats toward us to get some sweets and money. Prepare some sweets if you plan to visit the village here.







Next stop is Mataking Island which is 30 minutes away. Mataking is famous for its diving sites. The water here is clear and clean.


Mataking Kecil Island which is accessible from Mataking Besar Island during the low tide.


And lastly, Timba Timba Island which has a long beach which stretches far away from the island. Great to have the sea on both sides!

Mataking Island is far away from Semporna. It took almost 45 minutes to reach Semporna town from Mataking Island. The sea is rough so it’s better to go for a bigger boat if you are traveling in group. We traveled more than 20 KM on the boat and it was such an unforgettable  experience. We didn’t visit Sipadan Island as we didn’t plan to dive. Nevertheless, the other islands at Semporna kept us busy. We look forward to visiting more other islands for another bone-breaking session on the boat.

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The best way to end the day at Semporna is having seafood for dinner!


  1. Hi I love your site!
    My husband and I are visiting next month insha’allah and want to visit the same islands you have in this post: Boheydulang for the trek, Mataking for the beauty (and would like to walk to Kecil), Timba Timba for the beach stretch, pompom to relax and ideally sipadan for some diving if its possible.
    Do we need to book this in advance or will we find a good deal if we arrive and go for it?
    How many days will we need for it all – do we spend a day at each island or can you do more than one island in a day?
    Finally who did you go with and how much did it cost please?
    Really looking forward to your reply,

    • Hi Farhana, you can try ask the agent around Semporna for the rate but I don’t think it will be much cheaper. It is advisable to travel in group (at least 4 person ) as the boat charges to Timba Timba island,Mataking and Bohey Dulang can cost up to RM600 per boat.
      There are only accommodation at Semporna town or if you prefer to stay at the island, only few island offers accommodation(Resort at Mataking,Kapalai,Mabul Island , Homestay at Bom Bom Island, Sibuan island) DO book in advance should you decide stay on the islands as space are limited.
      I will advice you to spend a minimum of 3 days for Semporna trip should you decide to go diving. Thanks


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