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Regatta Lepa 2017

Regatta Lepa Semporna 2017

This year's Regatta Lepa 2017 will be taking place from 21-23 April in the town of Semporna, in east coast Sabah. This is also the 24th year that the unique Regatta has been taking place here.

Originally paying homage to the nomadic sea Bajau people, the event has now been accepted as one of the important traditional and cultural events of Sabah Borneo.

Regatta Lepa Sabah

The Regatta Lepa is also the most unique sea festival in Malaysia as no other culture has anything close to this. Seeing it take place live is an experience of a lifetime and for anyone who loves traditional cultures plus seafaring, this is one event not to be missed.

As I travel all over Malaysia and Sabah, I have personally witnessed this event twice. and the uniqueness of the event is something totally extraordinary.

Of you are a photographer, this is one of the best captures of people and traditions, all happening in the sea.

Regatta Lepa 2017 Sabah
A Bajau dancer on board one of the Lepa's during the Regatta
What is the Regatta Lepa?

It is a cultural celebration for the Bajau people of the east coast of Sabah, namely around the Semporna area and its vicinity. The highlight of the Regatta Lepa is no other than the floating boat parade. The Lepa is actually a single mast sailing boat of the Bajau people.

During the festival, the Lepa's are decorated in the village colours, complete with a musical troupe and dancers.

The music plays while the dancers perform traditional Bajau dances while the boats head to the main Regatta Lepa Square for judging. The overall judging will be based on the most beautiful and colourful Lepa.

Come evening, a special Lepa Beauty Pageant is held at the nearby stadium where thousands of locals will witness the process of the pageant and the crowning of the new Lepa Queen.

During this session, ministers will convey their speeches while VIP's will be invited and special guest artists will perform a show. A beautiful fireworks display is then followed to close the ceremony. 

The Regatta Lepa has been running for 24 years wherein 2003, it was officially declared as a national festival in Sabah and Malaysia.

Semporna Regatta Lepa
Regatta Lepa Boats heading for the contest in Semporna
Why Should You See The Regatta Lepa?

Basically, it is a one-of-a-kind event that is unique to Sabah. If you are in Sabah or heading to Sipadan, Mabul or islands on the east coast during 21-23 April, you should consider making some time to witness this cultural event at the main town area of Semporna.

Below is a list of activities that take place through the three days of the Regatta Lepa in Semporna. Some of the main activities take place in the day, while the others take place at night at the Semporna Stadium.

The list is;
  • Lepa Boat Parade
  • Boat Race (Kelleh-Kelleh Race)
  • Duck Catching Contest
  • Sea Tug-of-War
  • Lepa Beauty Pageant Contest
  • Igal-Igal Dance (Traditional Bajau Dance)
  • Lepa Car Contest (Stadium Semporna)
  • Craft & Food Stalls (Around Semporna)
  • Fireworks Display (Stadium Semporna)

Regatta Lepa 2017
Date: 21 - 23 Apr 2017
Venue: Seafest Hotel Area and the Semporna Town Jetty Area
Time: Entire Day

Regatta Lepa Semporna 2017
A Bajau dancer with musicians on board one of the Lepa boats
What to take note during Regatta Lepa

With a weekend of festivals and events, hotels, guest houses and lodges will be full. You need to book well ahead to secure a room at any of the accommodations.

The best hotel in Semporna is also the Seafest Hotel, which is a 3-Star hotel and this hotel will be fully booked with VIP and state officials.

The weather may be humid and hot, therefore, drink lots of water and apply sunscreen. There will also be thousands of people around there, best to be careful with your personal belongings. And if you are exploring Sabah, you can also read this article on where to go in Sabah.


For more detailed information, read my earlier story on the Regatta Lepa in Semporna Sabah which I did in 2012. It highlights everything you need to know about this unique cultural festival and event in Sabah.

Again, if you are by any chance visiting the islands of east coast Sabah, do take some time to experience the unique Regatta Lepa 2017.

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