Popularly known as the gateway to the islands of Semporna where the world-renowned Sipadan Island is, Tawau is a must-visit not only for divers, but lovers of the sun and the sea as well. Whether you come here for a honeymoon or a diving trip with friends, or simply want to bask in solitude and tranquillity, the beauty of the islands will no doubt accompany your holiday with much bliss.
Best of Tawau
1. Sipadan Island
Explore the beautiful marine life and stunning corals of Sipadan Island, one of the top 5 diving spots in the world located in the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin. Sipadan boasts a variety of rich marine habitats with more than 3000 species of fish such as Red Tooth Tiger Fish, Devil Rays and Hammerhead Sharks, as well as hundreds of coral species that form a gorgeous hidden world under the sea.
2. Mabul Island
One of Malaysia’s popular destinations for a relaxing island holiday, Mabul is known not only for its proximity to Sipadan, but also for having some of the world’s best muck diving sites—perfect for underwater photography.
3. Tun Sakaran Marine Park
Malaysia’s largest marine park consists of eight heavenly islands inhabited by the Bajau Laut (sea gypsies). With over 20 dive sites, it has the densest concentration of coral reefs in the country.
4. Mataking Island
Serene and secluded, this blissful island is perfect for honeymooners. A sand bar connecting the main island to the smaller island of Mataking Kecil during low tide allows you to ‘walk on water’. Off the island lies Malaysia’s first and only underwater post office, cleared of mail twice a week.
5. Pom Pom Island
Pearly white sand and gorgeous azure waters surround this sun-kissed atoll, named after the Pom Pom trees growing on it. If you can stay awake, you might catch sea turtles nesting here in the middle of the night.
6. Teck Guan Cocoa Museum
Though it may not look anything like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, the first whiffs of sweet-smelling chocolate permeating through the air will certainly hook you from the get go. Learn the story behind the sweet and divine cocoa, the processes of making chocolates, and have some sample treats (yums!) at the country’s only cocoa museum.
7. Pasar Tanjung
Here you can find rows of stalls selling fresh produce as well as general goods like traditional handicraft souvenirs, toys, accessories and beauty products. But the main reason to come here is for its selection of dry food goods such as ikan masin (salted fish), udang kering (dried prawns), belacan (prawn paste) and more, all at bargain prices!
8. Maliau Basin (The Lost World of Sabah)
For the true extreme adventurer with deep pockets and time to spare, this is possibly the most remote, challenging and untouched forest you can explore, complete with enormous trees, dozens of waterfalls, and unique flora and fauna.
9. Tawau Hills Park
With lush greenery and the refreshing Tawau River, this is a great place for picnics, treks or even a dip in the waterfalls and hot spring pool! The park is home to the tallest tropical tree in the world, a Shorea faguetiana Heim at an astonishing 88.32 metres tall!
10. Nasi Kuning Sabah
Originally from Indonesia but modified to suit the local taste, the dish is a must-eat when in Tawau. Rice is steamed with coconut milk and turmeric, resulting in a rich and flavourful yellow-coloured rice that is best eaten with chicken or beef rendang and hard-boiled egg.
11. Chakoi Kawin
Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, this delicious snack is perfected by a generous slather of butter and kaya (coconut jam).