Novelty is one of the key components of a good relationship. And what better way to keep things fresh than to head out of town for a long weekend of quality time with your significant other (even if you spend the evenings in your fancy room just watching movies). There’s just something about getting away from everyday life with the person you love––that’s undeniably romantic.
After swooning over the picturesque backdrops of movies such as Eat Pray Love, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Under The Tuscan Sun, it is time to pack your tropical vacation wardrobe, and travel yourself. After being locked down with your partner at home for so long, a getaway is definitely a welcome change. It’s okay to admit that you desperately need one too.
Whether your fling is fresh off the ground or you’ve been together for over 20 years, Semporna in Sabah is the place to be. It is a great alternative to the beaten paths of the more well-known destinations such as Bali, Koh Samui, Phuket and Malaysia’s east coast islands. And that’s where the novelty comes in. From a wonderful resort to culinary delights and everything in between, here’s an UNRESERVED guide for that much needed romantic getaway.
Located on the south-eastern coast of Sabah, Semporna is picture perfect, blessed with turquoise waters and sandy beaches. As one of the best dive destinations in the world, it’s easy to get wrapped up in Semporna’s natural excitement. On top of that, get ready for a lineup of romantic activities including a couples’ massage, sunset cruise around the islands, and secluded hiking trails.
How to Get there
Semporna is just a four-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to Tawau Airport. You can easily book your seats ahead of time for non-stop flights to Tawau with Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia. For your convenience, hotel transportation is provided for travels between the airport and the boat terminal. Even better, private boats are available at the terminal as well, to take you to your destination. From the Tawau Airport it’s another one hour, 15 minutes to Semporna, and you could either reach by taxi or pre-booked transfer from the dive operator.
Where to Stay
Couples making their own arrangements often feel inundated with options. You may have different preferences, but you both deserve a lavish stay that sets the mood right. Mataking Island Resort, set in Mataking Island, is where you want to check in. Surrounded by fringing reefs of hard and soft coral, it feels worlds away from your urban life––and that’s the point.
Mataking Island Resort
Mataking Island Resort is made up of 63 luxurious rooms with spectacular views. Conveniently built overlooking the white sandy beach, the resort offers seclusion with hard to beat pampering sessions and tropical bliss. Besides getting some vitamin sea, the resort’s beautiful beach is perfect for a stroll at dusk too.
Beyond romantic dinners and late night snuggles, the island’s ‘Underwater Post Office’ is a must for you to discover as well. It offers a one-of-a-kind experience of posting your own letters using special waterproof bags and rubber stamps.
Imagine being pampered against splashing wave sounds in the background with sublime tranquility on an isolated island. There is absolutely nothing better, right?
At Jamu spa, unique treatment oils and herbal ingredients are used for specific purposes. To stay on theme, go for the Jamu Herbal Treatment, a couple session that aims to cleanse, purify, and rebalance your body and mind. The 150 minutes treatment includes a foot bath, ginger body scrub, Boreh Traditional body mask, relaxing and herbal pouch massage and dream bath with coconut or flower petals. Other treatments are available too. From River Stone massage to Mococa Borneo Body treatment and Rose Salt body scrub, you have a variety of options to choose from.
Simply ‘Enak’ Restaurant
When it comes to the dining experience at the resort, expect a feast with the restaurant’s rendition to Malaysian staple dishes using fresh local herbs and spices. Each night will be served with a different menu based on one specific theme, such as international cuisine, Malay ‘Rampai’ and Mediterranean cuisine. The open-air venue offers a spectacular view during the day as well as in the evening where you can enjoy the sunset. Note that on Saturday night, the restaurant will be serving grilled seafood, cooked on the spot.
While there’s nothing wrong with a lazy vacation, a little bit of easy exercise, done together of course, adds to the experience. At the Mataking Island resort, you have ample opportunities to experience the wonderful locales, both on and off the resort. Go for a night walk on the beach, take a coordinated visit for a marine adventure or snorkel on the crystal-clear water surrounding the island.
If the outdoors are where you feel most comfortable, consider visiting Bohey Dulang in Tun Sakaran Marine Park. Besides offering activities like diving and snorkeling, the island is a favourite destination for trekkers and bird watchers too. While you’re there, enjoy a 45-minute hike of moderate-steep trail to the peak of the island. You’ll be accompanied by picturesque views and a variety of birds such as patridges, pied hornbills, fruit doves and many more. Not to mention monkeys (long-tailed macaque) and rare plants that grow on volcanic rocks as well.
Keep in mind that once you’ve reached the top, you will be able to see the beautiful crater lagoon, which is a remnant of an extinct volcano, surrounded by the park’s islands Bohey Dulang, Bodgaya, and Tetagan.
Sipadan Island Park
A plethora of amazing marine life awaits at Sipadan Island Park, which has been rated as a world-class dive destination since Jacques Cousteau visited in the early 80s. With over 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species around, you’ll get the chance to watch all sizes of reef and pelagic fish, sharks, turtles and more. The only way in is by taking a direct ferry departing from Semporna Jetty, which takes about one hour and 15 minutes. A visit between February to November would be ideal for underwater visibility.
Considering the Sabah Parks only issues 176 permits per day, make sure you secure a permit to snorkel or dive beforehand. You can make your booking for luxury dive packages either through the Mataking Island Resort or Sipadan’s official website. Be reminded that the permit is only valid for a day trip of diving or snorkeling at the park. Any additional permit will be subject to availability.
While you’re there, do explore Sipadan’s iconic dive site, Barracuda Point, too. Each morning Chevron Barracuda would form in massive spiraling shoals just off the reef. Other unique marine life, such as zebra sharks, dogtooth tuna, and Napoleon wrasse, can be spotted too.
Private Sunset Cruise
Elevate your romantic itinerary by chartering a yacht and sail around the beautiful Mataking Island. Explore the magical marine life at your own leisure. Swim when you want to, and chill when you need to. And when the sun sets, get out of the champagne and enjoy the peace and quiet of that magical hour.
Experience the local food and dining scene
Apart from the mesmerising views, luxury accommodations and nature hikes, Sabah is definitely known for its finest catch. Whether you prefer traditional recipes or innovative dishes, there is always something to cater to your palate upon your visit to Semporna.
Fat Mother Restaurant
If you’re in the mood for Sweet and Sour Fish or Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab, a visit to Fat Mother restaurant is a must. It offers an endless array of fresh prawns to tasty crabs and fishes, to your liking. It has a good view of the sea too.
Summer Breeze Café
For a taste of western cuisine, and sweet desserts, Summer Breeze Café will be opened every day except on Sunday. Besides the main course, you’ll be impressed by their hand-crafted design and deliciously flavoured popsicles.
Our last word
In Semporna you’ll be able to enjoy lounging by the pool with tropical drinks in hand, a quick dip in the ocean or indulge in gastronomy affairs, without a fuss. Just remember that this isn’t just any getaway––it is the getaway––the post-lockdown trip that you and your partner desperately needed. And there is nothing like reclaiming a bit of joie de vivre through a holiday romance, even if it may seem slightly cliché, at a destination you both haven’t been too.
For more information on how you can experience Semporna to the fullest, head over to Sabah Tourism Board’s official website.
Also check out our tips for a luxury hassle free holiday with the family in Sabah.