Holiday Inn Semporna
Trailed a few Westerners and paid myr50 to get on their shuttle into town where I checked into Holiday Inn (local hotel connected with Sipidan Scuba/ North Borneo Divers). Basic queen room of about 10sqm with no windows, but flat tv, good aircon and a lukewarm shower in a wetroom toilet/ shower. Safety lockers outside in full view of reception outside. Basic but OK enough and the price was RMB90 (dorm beds in the Inn are RMB25), but I wasn’t here for luxuries I was here to dive
Semporna is a pretty cheap town. Meals at a recommended Chinese restaurant in town for RMB6, on the water for RMB10. 4 beers RMB20-24
Diving in Sipidan
I used Sipidan Scuba as they are the only shop with an online reservations system with live access to Sipidan permits (only 100 a day and SS has 7) which helps when planning only a few weeks out. They are Semporna based so a longer trip on the boat, although they use a boat with 400hp to the outer islands. Friendly and good DiveMasters and decent albeit well used rental equipment.
Spent three days diving going to Manbutan, Sipidan and Mabul. Sipidan was the highlight with 3+m turtles swimming meters away, a huge school of jacks that swam around us, huge schools of 1m+ barricudas and some 1-2m whitetip reef sharks. At Mabul some cool lion fish, frog fish, crocodile fish, 2m grouper fish and a massive Moray eel. Coral was good but the marine life stunning. An awesome experience.
As I had a relatively early flight I left the hotel at 545am and dragged my luggage to the local minivan depot (the Tawau depot is near the KFC). Driver turned up at about 6am but we didnt fill up and leave until 6.30am. Anyhow for the princely sum of RMB20 I was on the near 100km journey back to Tawau Airport (the trip to Tawau goes past it). There is also a scheduled coach (for RMB40) that apparently leaves at 7.00am but this was getting too risky for me.