Tourism Malaysia

Regatta Lepa – a boating festival Sabah style

Regatta Lepa – a boating festival Sabah style

Most people go to Semporna in distant southeastern Sabah for a universe category diving sites that distortion usually off a seashore – Sipadan immediately springs to mind for many. But for me, it was a tiny footnote in Lonely Planet that got me hooked: “This especially Bajau city unequivocally comes alive during a finish of Mar when a charming regatta takes place, though routinely it’s quiet.”

A regatta in Sabah? A Borneo festival with traditional, single-mast sailing boats? we was in.

I arrived in Semporna a few days before festivities for a Regatta Lepa got underway when tents and stalls were usually being set up. The 2012 eventuality was Sabah Tourism’s 19th annual chronicle of a charming internal frolic and it betrothed an insinuate perspective into some of a traditions of a region.

Semporna itself seemed a flattering small place with stilt houses sprawled opposite a bay, that in spin was filled with boating activity, markets and trade. It looked earnest already though we headed over to Mabul Island initial for a prevalent diving knowledge and afterwards returned to a mainland several days later.

By a time we returned on a Friday evening, a festivities had begun. In what had been dull streets when we initial arrived, were countless stalls piled high with all demeanour of products – scarves (for Muslim women), kids’ toys, clothing, hats, jewellery, internal food and drinks.


There were so many of these stalls they literally clogged a streets – many of that were sealed to traffic. Wandering serve afield into what competence have indeed been permanent marketplace areas, we also came opposite countless stalls barbecuing adult several forms of seafood.

There were also some informative events holding place on a city margin with dancing in normal dress, song and singing. And there were some normal wooden hulled lepa boats already sailing around, flashy and prepared for a vessel parades of a morrow. These single-mast sailing boats of a Bajaus of Semporna give a festival a name and it was sparkling to see them finally.

Cultural performances with electric costumes on a city field. Pic: Joanne Lane.

However I’d unequivocally come for a fad of a boating events on a Saturday and it was value watchful for. These were hold on a waters in front of a Seascape Hotel so we trudged down there to join an huge throng heckling for pivotal observation spots on a river. A word of recommendation for destiny festival goers – get here early for a best views.

There were singular vessel or organisation dug-out events, an eventuality in that competitors had to stand a stick and try to pull any other off, and even a yank of fight foe in that vessel competitors could use their legs usually to row. It was noisy, rough and entirely beguiling with teams removing resounding cheers when they returned to a docks.

Hotly contested boating events during a festival. Pic: Joanne Lane.

After this a regatta of a boats began with a charming tide of lepa boats embellished out in flags and even dancing women in normal dress. They smiled, swayed, and changed impossibly prolonged finger-nailed hands around while group behind them kick on gongs, drums and other internal instruments.

When this was over there were countless speeches and prayers and a throng changed off behind into a streets. we incited my courtesy afterwards to a marketplace stalls nearest a hotel. It was good to see some of these enlivening coral charge and improved fishing practices as a segment is indeed famous for a underwater life and dynamite fishing has been a problem in a past.

The charming march of lepa boats finish with dancing women. Pic: Joanne Lane.

The WWF was using a children’s sketch foe of a internal flora and fauna underneath and above a sea, there were tolerable farming/agricultural exhibits and some group displaying a famed woodwork skills of lepa boats. One was quite gratified when we commented on how good they were.
Local tourism ventures had also put together some giveaway tours in a area including a town, internal movement and mangrove trips. You simply sealed adult if they still had space and afterwards met during an allocated time to be taken on a trip. Unfortunately by a time we came opposite their information I’d missed a final tour.

In a afternoon and dusk a movement changed to a city margin again with a lantern march threading by city from a gulf with boats illuminated with angel lights.

This was followed by a accumulation of speeches, some of that were translated in English. One, by a administrator or internal minister, was quite good espousing a secular peace and farrago of multicultural Malaysia and unequivocally roused a throng with cheers.

This was followed by several informative performances including women in a many implausible costumes and really thespian fireworks late in a dusk that boomed over city in an implausible arrangement of colour.

On a final morning Semporna seemed to be returning to a routinely still slight with a boats, parades, lanterns, song and dance of a annual regatta already over. In all it was a illusory approach to see a bit of internal culture.


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