Regatta Lepa Festival 2023

Lepa Regatta 2023

This year's Regatta Lepa Festival 2023 is from 17-19 November, and it is not the regular time for the festival as it is usually held in mid to late April.

The Regatta Lepa has also been celebrated yearly since 1994 to commemorate the local Bajau tradition of building these splendid hand-crafted wooden boats known as the Lepa.

Regatta Lepa Festival 2023

This year, it is probably due to several reasons that the Regatta Lepa is being held in November, and it has something to do with the reopening since COVID-19 or politics.

More than 100 'lepa', traditional Bajau community boats, will participate in the decorated boat competition with the Regatta Lepa Festival 2023 in Semporna this year.

Lepa Festival 2023
A typical scene at Semporna during the festival.

Regatta Lepa and Sea Sports Committee chairman Abd Manan Indanan said that thus far, there are 10 entries for traditional carved lepa, while 100 entries consist of lepa kumpit (passenger boats) from villages around the district and the number of entries is expected to rise before the closing date on Nov 15, 2023.

Prizes are also very attractive this year for both categories. 

  • Traditionally carved lepa category - Winner RM7,000
  • Lepa kumpit category - Winner RM3,000
Mengiluk Regatta Lepa
A Lepa contestant doing the Bajau Mengiluk dance on the boat.

Semporna Regatta Lepa
A couple of Lepa boats entered the Semporna Bay area during the contest. 

Regatta Lepa Traditional Dancer
A contestant dances as the Lepa boat enters the competition area.

Festival Regatta Lepa 2023
Sections of Lepa boat being pulled to the contesting area during the festival.

Bajau Kids Lepa Festival
Bajau kids on a Lepa boat doing the 'Mengiluk' dance.

Activities at Regatta Lepa Festival 2023

As always, several other activities are happening with the Lepa Festival here, which is always the same every year. I have also attended two of these festivals over the last ten years.

  • 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)

This year, delegations from Indonesia and the Philippines will also attend the regatta as a cross-culture activity to witness the Regatta Lepa Festival.

Lepa Festival 2023
One of the traditional Lepa boats.

This year will also introduce additional events for kids under 12 and 15 years, which the Regatta Lepa organising chairman Adam Shah Mohamad said the involvement of young participants is to expose them to the Bajau cultural heritage.

There are three special events;

  • Ratu Cilik Budjang Manis
  • Ratu Cilik Lallah Dorogan
  • Titik Tagunggu (15 years and below)
Regatta Lepa Festival 2023
Date: 17-19 November
Venue: Seafest Hotel area of Semporna, Sabah
Website: Sabah Tourism

Photos of Regatta Lepa Festival
One of the photos taken by me during the festival.

You can also see photographs of the Regatta Lepa in Semporna I took during my previous visit to the festival here on the east coast of Sabah Borneo.


As Semporna will come alive this mid-November, the Regatta Lepa Festival 2023 will undoubtedly be well-received among the locals and tourists there.

I visited this event in 2012 and again in Regatta Lepa 2017 as a photographer and journalist to document one of Malaysia's most unique festivals and events.

Malaysia Asia

Blogging since 2007, but writing online since 1997. I belong to the 1st generation of worldwide bloggers, which is of course old-school. Since 2008, I created Malaysia Asia and this travel, flood, gadget and lifestyle blog has won numerous physical awards from tourism boards around Malaysia. (Not those online awards). After 12 years of blogging, I have semi-retired and now blog about things I like, do product reviews and enjoy life. My work has been featured in Lonely Planet, CNN Travel, Yahoo Travel, Wall Street Journal, and many other international publications. Find out more about me and thank you.

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