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Your guide to Tawau
All About Tawau
Located on Borneo’s remote east coast, the Malaysian port town of Tawau has somehow eluded the limelight despite its abundance of natural beauty. Overlooking the Celebes Sea, Tawau is a gateway to the islands of Sipadun and Mabul, home to some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in Southeast Asia. The town is a major agricultural center, and the largest producer of cocoa in Malaysia. (In fact, you can pay a visit to a cocoa museum to learn more about the crop and sample the local chocolate.)
Tawau is also known for reeling in some of the best seafood in Borneo. A busy port beside the waterfront esplanade buzzes with trawlers unloading their daily catch, and within hours the fish — squid, anchovies, abalone — appears in restaurants and markets like Pasar Tanjung Tawau, the largest indoor market in Malaysia with over 6,000 stalls. Inland, you’re treated to an unspoiled landscape of jungle, waterfalls, and hillside hikes, all of which you’ll encounter at the region’s crown jewel, Tawau Hills Park.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Tawau
The best time to visit Tawau is between November and April, when the days are usually sunny with little rainfall. The streets light up during December and early January with music and food festivals for the holiday season, when the city is adorned in holiday decorations. The temperature drops a little in February, and the city comes alive to celebrate Chinese New Year. In April, the Tawau Cultural Fest rolls out dance rituals and cultural programs from more than 30 ethnic groups native to the area. Groups from other areas in Thailand, Indonesia, and China join in on the fun.
Top things to do in Tawau
Tawau Hills Park
Spread over 110 square miles of rainforest, Tawau Hills Park is full of incredible waterfalls, rare plant species, and rocky hills. If you are looking for a strenuous hike, choose from three mountains — Mount Magdalena, Mount Lucia, and Mount Maria. The park’s four waterfalls are a major draw, especially the natural pool under Table Waterfall where you can dip your feet in the clear waters and snatch a great photo. Watch out for the freshwater shrimps swimming around as well: they are known to nibble away at the dead skin on your feet.
Pasar Tanjung Tawau
The largest indoor market in Malaysia is a shopper’s paradise with thousands of stalls to browse. You’ll enjoy a large variety of dried seafood, fresh fruits, and local delicacies such as amplang, or kerupuk kuku macan, a traditional fish cracker snack. Handicrafts are also huge here, including hand-woven baskets, placemats, and wood carvings.
Navigable by boat from Tawau, Sipadan Island is known to be one of the world’s best locations for scuba. This island is home to more than 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species. You’ll likely spot green turtles, schools of the parrotfish, and barracuda. On shore, pull out your binoculars to view the many migratory bird species found at the bird sanctuary.