KOTA KINABALU, 13 February 2024: Firefly, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines, is operating scheduled charter flights between Nanjing (NKH) in China and Tawau (TWU), just 60 km from Semporna, Sabah’s east coast’s famed diving destination.

The charter flights between Nanking and Tawau are scheduled until 31 March (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday). Sales are exclusively via China’s online travel agencies, including the roundtrip fares on flights (FY8102/FY8101) hotel accommodation, transfers and tours.  

STB and Tourism Malaysia officials, with Sabah’s cultural dancers at the Tawau Airport.

STB Senior Marketing Manager Humphrey Ginibun noted during the welcome ceremony for the first flight with 157 passengers that bookings are made through the Chinese OTAs Ly.com, Ctrip, Qunar and Fliggy.

Tourism officials said the scheduled charter flights should generate around 500 Chinese tourists weekly. Minister of Tourism, Culture & Environment Datuk Christina Liew said the Sabah Tourism Board was proud to announce the commencement of charter flights connecting Nanjing in China to Tawau, Sabah, by Firefly Airlines, noting Tourism Malaysia also played a role in the development of this new flight route.

“We warmly welcome our Chinese friends and look forward to showcasing the unique cultural and natural treasures of Sabah,” said the state minister. “The launch of direct flights from Nanjing to Tawau is a testament to the growing appeal of our region as a tourist destination. I am excited that this new route will contribute to the growth and development of Tawau as a prominent international destination.

“Currently, Sabah receives 42 weekly scheduled flights from Beijing, Shanghai, Guang-zhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Wuhan through the gateway airport at  Kota Kinabalu, delivering 7,520 seats weekly,” she said.

While the scheduled charters fly to Tawau, the tour package highlights the visit to Semporna and its famed beaches and diving off the east coast of Sabah state.

Semporna attractions
Travellers from all over the world flock to Semporna, Sabah, for many reasons. Here are some of the biggest draws.

Underwater Wonderland: World-renowned diving and snorkelling: Semporna is considered one of the best diving destinations in the world, thanks to its pristine coral reefs, diverse marine life, and clear visibility. Divers can encounter incredible creatures, from reef sharks and manta rays to turtles and pygmy seahorses. Popular dive sites include Sipadan Island, Mabul Island, and Kapalai Island.

Hiking and nature adventures: For those seeking adventure beyond the sea and sandy shores, Semporna offers a variety of hiking trails, including the challenging trek to the summit of Bohey Dulang Island and the historical Skull Hill (Bukit Tengkorak).

Cultural experiences: Immerse yourself in the rich culture of the Bajau Laut people, who have inhabited the Semporna area for centuries. Visit their traditional villages, learn about their way of life, and sample their delicious cuisine.

Stunning scenery: Semporna boasts breathtaking natural beauty, with turquoise waters, lush rainforests, and dramatic mountain ranges. Relax on a beach, soak up the sun, and enjoy the serenity of the surroundings.

Delicious food: Savor Semporna’s fresh seafood and local delicacies, from grilled fish and curries to exotic fruits and traditional Malay dishes.

Sustainable tourism: Semporna is committed to preserving its fragile ecosystem and promoting conservation and sustainable tourism practices. Travellers can support these efforts by choosing eco-friendly accommodations and activities. Whether you’re an avid diver, a nature enthusiast, or simply seeking a relaxing getaway, add Semporna to your travel bucket list.

Tawau in the spotlight
The latest launch of scheduled charters between Nanjing and Tawau is part of a  well-thought-out strategy announced by the Sabah Tourism Board in early 2023 to promote Tawau as a must-see destination on the east coast of Sabah.

It was initiated by the state’s Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Environment, Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, who emphasised Tawau had a significant amount of untapped tourism potential, and it should not merely serve as a passing point for tourists who typically fly to Tawau to visit the dive sites of Semporna.

“I must say that whenever we attend (tourism) roadshow, there always seems to be a great deal of interest in Semporna, while Tawau is overlooked,” he said at a close of a fact-finding trip to Tawau last year.

“Hence, Tawau needs to expand its attractions, and we need to design a strategic plan to encourage tourists to stay and discover all that Tawau has to offer,” he said.

Here are some of the top attractions in Tawau, Malaysia, according to Google Maps:

  • Tawau Hills Park: Rugged national park featuring a hot spring, volcanic terrain, waterfalls, campsites & picnic spots. It has a 4.4-star rating on Google Maps.
  • Tawau Hill Park (Table Waterfall): This waterfall is another popular attraction in Tawau Hills Park. It has a 4.7-star rating on Google Maps.
  • Teck Guan Cocoa Village & Tawau Cocoa Cafe: This cocoa village offers visitors a chance to learn about the cocoa-making process and sample some delicious chocolate. It has a 4.3-star rating on Google Maps.
  • Balung River Eco Resort: This eco-resort is located on the Balung River and offers a variety of activities, including boat tours, fishing, and jungle trekking. It has a 4.1-star rating on Google Maps.

For more information on Sabah, visit www.sabahtourism.com.


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