Every year in April there is a water festival held in Semporna, a small town in the eastern coast of Sabah, called The Regatta Lepa, one of the major important events in our National Tourism Calendar.
This year, the 20th Regatta Lepa will be held from 26th – 28th of April 2013 and the event attracted thousands each year. “Lepa” means “boat” is believed to be originated from the Pa’alau Bajau people who live in Bum Bum Island and used by fishermen along the coast of Semporna.
The unique lifestyle and festival is celebrated by the Bajau Laut ethnic community, the major dwellers in Semporna. The Bajau Laut people are seafarers at heart and well known for their Lepa, which is the traditional single-mast sailing boat used in their daily lives.
Nowadays, the practice of this traditional lifestyle is slowly dispersing with modernity. Few modern Bajaus use the Lepa today as many of them migrated to the mainland. Nonetheless, Lepa remains a symbol of tradition and a precious legacy for the Semporna Bajau community.
With the change of time, the Lepa might not be used in the same way as it used to be but the Lepas will never be forgotten for yet another year as the symbol of pride of the Bajau people and a cultural heritage.
The Bajau seafarers’ proud maritime heritage came alive in this annual festival of Regatta Lepa, featuring their boats, the Lepa with participants dancing at the helm of their boats, decorated with bright colour sails known as sambulayang and tapis (small triangular flags).
The sleepy Semporna town comes to life as the colourful sails take to the sea to compete for the prize of the most beautiful Lepa! The highlight of the event is the sail-past of the Lepa, each boat decked with smiling dancers and lively musicians, hoping to be crowned `Most Beautiful Lepa’ – the grand prize of this much-anticipated water festival.
Every Lepa family has their own or daughter beautiful girl welcoming visitors with graceful igal-igal dance, a traditional dance of the Bajau.
The Regatta Lepa is not just a water festival, in fact the whole town of Semporna has a carnival atmosphere, what with the various concerts staged, and so many stalls set up to promote or sell products and services to the population, visitors and tourists that have certainly swelled manifold.
Organiser : Semporna District Office
Venue : Semporna, Sabah
Contact Person : A.M Ibnu Haji A.K baba
Telephone : 6089-781518, 6089-781663
Fax : 6089-781472
Email Contact : AmIbnu.Baba@sabah.gov.my
Event Website : http://www.sabahtourism.com