Use the quicklinks below to jump to the desired section regarding transport in and around Semporna and Sipadan Island.
Tawau International Airport (TWU) is about 80 kilometres from Semporna and has frequent flights to Sandakan, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur and Tarkan in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Fares with AirAsia and MASwings aren’t that much more than a bus ticket and can save a lot of time. MASwings flies to Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Tarkan (Indonesia), Malaysia Airlines flies to Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur and AirAsia flies to Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur.
The cheapest way to get to Tawau Airport from Semporna is by the shared minivans that leave from the parking lot beside the KFC. The fare is 10 ringgit, but you’ll have to wait until they have enough passengers, which can take up to an hour.
A taxi between Semporna and Tawau Airport will set you back 100 ringgit. Many all-inclusive dive package include airport transfers. On departure, remember to allow 24 hours between diving and flying.
Long-distance buses (to Lahad Datau, Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu) arrive and depart from a bus stand in the town centre behind Maybank with the exception of Dyana Express, which departs 300 metres further back towards Marina Hotel. Upon arrival, ignore the touts who’ll say you need a taxi to get to the dive centres. Head toward the mosque then veer right when you see the seafront market.
Buses to Lahad Datu depart at 07:45, 08:30, 14:30 and 19:30; takes 2 hours; 29 ringgit.
Buses to Kota Kinabalu depart at 07:45, 08:00, 13:30 and 19:30; takes 10 hours; 75 ringgit.
Buses to Sandakan depart at 07:30 and 13:30; takes 5-6 hours; 45 ringgit.
Dyana Express Semporna: (089) 784 494
Manis Express Semporna: (089) 784 900
Sabarinah Express: (0107) 885 532
Semex: (0111) 601 6226
Minivans to Tawau depart near KFC between 07:00 and 17:00. You’ll have to wait till they are full and you may have to negotiate the fare. Takes 1.5 hours; around 10 ringgit.
Boats to Mabul Island depart from the Semporna Jetty and take 45-60 minutes. Sit towards the back to avoid a bumpy ride. There is no public boat; all boats are organised by the dive shops and resorts. The fare is 53 ringgit one-way plus a 10.60 ringgit jetty fee, but this will be waived if you commit to diving or snorkelling with them. Departures are generally at 08:00 and 16:00.