Tawau is located at the south-east coast of Sabah which faces the Celebes Sea to the east and the interior mountain ranges to the west. The geographic coordinates of Tawau are latitude 4.233 degree North and longitude 117.883 degree East.
The main town area can be divided into three sections, i.e. Sabindo, Fajar and Tawau Lama or Old Tawau. Federal House, where most government offices such as the Immigration Department and the National Registration Department are located is found in Sabindo area. Fajar is the commercial area, where major banks such as HSBC and Maybank are located. The Tawau District Court is also situated here. Tawau Lama is the original part of Tawau, which contains Tawau's central market. Tawau Port is also located in Tawau Lama.
In early 1890s, Tawau's population was about 200 comprising mainly immigrants from Bulungan and Tawi-Tawi who had fled from the Dutch rule in Kalimantan, Borneo. This small village maintained trade with the Dutch. In 9 February 1893, the vessel S.S.'Normanhurst' sailed into Tawau (or Tawao as it was then known) for the first time with a full cargo of dammar, gutta percha, Indian rubber, tortoise shell, and ivory to barter for rattan, raisins, Birds' nests and rubber.
It was in 1898 that a settlement was established and Chinese immigrants began to settle in Tawau. At that time, conditions in China were chaotic. Massive unemployment and starvation was pervasive as a result of the Opium war. The Chinese especially in southern part of China migrated to the British and Dutch colonies particularly in South East Asia.
Steps were taken to establish the rudiment of local government by the British North Borneo (Chartered) Company. (North Borneo Annual Volume 1966-1965 recorded that Tawau was founded in 1898). Land leases were alienated by the Administration. Since Tawau is situated close to the boundary with Indonesia, it is noteworthy to mention here that the Sebatik boundary is to latitute 4°10'N which was delimited in 1912 by a Boundary Commission comprising of officials from United Kingdom and Netherlands. A joint report was prepared together with a map and duly signed by their respective commissioners in Tawau on 17/2/1913. By a protocol between the UK and the Netherlands signed in London on 28/9/1915, the two governments confirmed the joint report and the map.
In 1930s, Tawau prospered rapidly due largely to its agricultural potential. The inhabitant population rose to 1800 in 1931. The Kuhara Rubber and Manila Hemp Estates and the Kubota Coconut Estates were the two largest plantations of the time. The First World War (1914-1918) did not directly affect Tawau, which had, however, its share of the world slump. Sandakan was the permanent seat of Government and centre of commerce; Tawau was small but a prosperous town.
By the end of 1930s, there were about 60 shophouses, all timber-built, lining the two main streets of Tawau, Dunlop Street (named after A.R. Dunlop who was a district officer) and Man Cheong Street (now part of Dunlop Street). Man Cheong was a popular coffee shop. It still operates at Dunlop Street. Dunlop Street was so close to the shore that the shops on one side backed out over the high water mark. Most shops were owned by Chinese and sold the foodstuffs and equipment needed in households and on smallholdings. There were some coffee shops and lodging houses.
Tawau's center was the field, with the sea on one side and whitewashed timber buildings on the other three - the District Office, police quarters, the government resthouse, none more than two storeys high. A tower (which still stands at the Town Field) was erected by the Japanese after World War I and hours are rung at intervals by the police guard. The scene was tranquil and beautiful. Traffic was scarce - a handful of private cars, lorries and vehicles belonging to the estates. From the field, Dunlop Street branched into Apas Road, which branched off to the Kuhara rubber estates and Sin On. It was a very inhibited area and small and well defined. Its people knew intuitively that they had to live and work together. Despite the many races, ethnic groups and religions, the town was very peaceful. There was no serious crime; doors and windows of dwelling houses were normally left unlocked.
There were neither electricity supply nor main drainage. The water supply to the town was by means of tubs set on trolleys which ran along the narrow gauge trolley line from Tawau River. The tubs were hauled by hand. A telephone line linked the District Office with the District Officer's house, the light house and Kuhara estate. The Government's wireless station communicated daily with Sandakan, whence messages were transmitted to Hong Kong and Singapore. There was no bank, but money could be remitted through the post office, and the Treasury accepted and repaid deposits on behalf of the State Bank.
There were 300 Japanese working on the estates and 100 on Si-Amil Island. They owned the biggest estates (Kuhara Estate) (and a golf course). There was an estate hospital and representative office of a Japanese Bank set up for the benefit of the Japanese inhabitants. Their commercial fishing (mainly tuna) was unique. Their company, Borneo Fishing Company, whose office and factory was situated at Si-Amil Island (east of Mabul and Sipadan Islands). Apparently, all workers there were Japanese. Japanese men crewed the fishing boats, while canning factory was worked mainly by Japanese women. The workers and suppliers arrived in Tawau in Japanese ships, and all were disembarked into launches and lighters and taken direct to Si-Amil. Despite their commercial activities, they left no impact on Tawau in terms of local affairs, social or cultural life.
The S.S. Kinabalu of the Sabah Steamship Company(subsidiary of Chartered Company) linked Tawau with Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Semporna and Tungku. The ship was wrecked off Semporna and later replaced by S.S. Baynain by the Bakau Company (also a subsidiary of the Chartered Company). The government cruiser, "Petrel", was based in Tawau. But it was often used on duty elsewhere. Apart from that, there very few sailing crafts. There was no airfield in Tawau (or anywhere in Sabah). There was a small public hospital close to the shore but it had no medical officer. A medical doctor by the name of Ernst Sternfeld was sent from Sandakan to station in Tawau in 1939-1940, but lasted only a few months.
The Chinese community maintained schools. The Roman Catholic Church was later established in 1922 and provided the only English primary school. Mosques were unobstentatious. The District Office was headed by expatriate district officer and assisted by a chief clerk and court interpreter, Mr. Lim Ong Tun. OKK Abu Bakar was another highly respected figure in the community. The Chinese "Kapitan" was Mr. Stephen Tan (who was later killed by Japanese invaders).
A letter from Tawau to Sandakan could take more than 9 days to arrive and nineteen days was the average time for a letter to get to Singapore. Since it took many days for the locals to receive mails and newspapers, they tended to rely on radio to keep themselves informed of world news - for the wars in Europe, China etc. Even then, few people could afford a radio set.
In January 1942, North Borneo was invaded by Japanese naval and military forces. As the Japanese forces advanced around the coast of Borneo, from the old field of Kuching, then to Jesselton - while Tawau carried on normally. On 19 Jan 1942, the Sandakan wireless station went off the air. On 24 Jan 1942, the Japanese invaders were sighted off Batu Tinagat. The District Officer (Cole Adam) and his Assistant met the invaders at the wharf and were arrested immediately. Mr. Cole Adam, after forty-four months in the Japanese prison camps, died in September 1945 on the very day of his release by the Allied forces.
For 3 1/2 years Tawau and the rest of the country remained under the Japanese occupation until being finally liberated by units of North Australian Division, who landed in Labuan on 10 June 1945. The British Military Administration of North Borneofound the Colony in a state of devastation. Like all other major towns in the Colony, Tawau was destroyed or damaged by bombing and fire.
During the Japanese occupation, many of the inhabitants were massacred, among them, large number of government servants. The British Military Administration continued until 15 July 1946, when Borneo became a Crown Colony and civil government was resumed. A lot of pre-war records has been destroyed. The emphasis in the immediate post war period had been concerned with rehabilitation and reconstruction. A reconstruction and development plan for the years 1945-1955 was adopted in 1948 for the Colony. There had been many programmes in the field of social services. The Tawau Town Board was constituted in 1955 with control over its own finances and local authorities.
As of 1991, the population of the Tawau was estimated at 345,000. The ethnic composition is mainly Bugis, (see Bugis of Sabah) and Chinese with about 12% of the population, 8% Bajau, 5% Malay, and with significant minorities of Kadazan, and Murut. However, there is also a very large non-registered illegal immigrant population from Philippines and Indonesia as well.
Population statistics (2007 census) (| class = "wikitable" | Total | 374,728 |- | Female | 184,416 |- | Male | 190,312 |- | colspan="2" | |- | Malay | 11,516 |- | Dusun | 921 |- | Kadazan | 76.953 |- | Bajau | 17,094 |- | Bugis | 6,000 |- | Murut | 1,529 |- | Other Bumiputera | 24,946 |- | Chinese | 35,097 |- | Indonesian | 3833.705 |- | Other Non-Bumiputera | 3,727 |- | colspan="2" | |- | Total Malaysian citizen | 4853.432 |- | Non-Malaysian citizen | 244.728 |- | colspan="2" | |- | Population distribution | 14.1% |- | Population density | 40/km² |}
Exports have traditionally been tobacco, cocoa and palm oil. Currently, Tawau Port is one of Sabah's main export gateway for timber. Birds' nests are harvested at Baturong, Segalong and Madai Caves as Chinese medicinal delicacies.
Kuhara Point is an integrated development project which consists a shopping mall, Eastern Plaza, an office tower, a 4-star hotel and high-rise luxurious condominiums, Kuhara Court.
Bandar Sri Indah is Sabah's largest satellite township development project. It is constructed on 1368 acres of reclaimed land, which is three times larger than Tawau town center. Bandar Sri Indah is located at km 16 of Tawau Airport Highway.
 Cocoa industry
Tawau is the world's third largest producer of cocoa bean after Ivory Coast and Ghana. It was named the cocoa capital of Asia in the 1980s. According to the director of Agricultural & Rural Development Department for Vietnamese region, Malaysian cocoa seeds are the best in Asia. As of Feb 2002, the bean price for the SMC1A grade ex-Tawau in Malaysia's growing area rose to 5,173 ringgit (US$1,361) a tonne from 4,890 ringgit one week earlier. Malaysia plans to increase its cocoa beans output to 250,000 tonnes a year to help meet the rising of country's grinders' demand and cut down the imports of cocoa bean.
 Fishing industry
Since time immemorial, people in Tawau have relied on the sea for their sustenance. A great variety of high-grade fishes and all kinds of crustaceans were found in abundance in the sea and waterways around Tawau. To the early settlers, nearly all seafarers, making a living from the sea was easy. And in the age of subsistence economy with a small population, in-shore fishing using sampans was the norm. There was apparently no urgency or necessity to organize the fishing folk to engage in commercial deep-sea fishing. However, the Chartered Company soon realized the potential of developing deep-sea fishing as a means to augment and diversify the existing economic base. Once again they turned to the Japanese, at that time the most modern Asian country and an ally of Britain.
In 1917, a Japanese merchant marine captain Jiro Orita launched the Borneo Fishing Company, which differs from the previous fishing efforts in at least two ways. Firstly, it was a larger operation and secondly, it was geared to support the export market. The company set up an office in Tawau. The fishes were caught in the surrounding waters, taken to Pulau Si Amil, an island about 10 miles (16 km) southeast of Semporna, where they were processed and then, taken to the company's warehouse in Tawau to await shipment. Orita imported his labour from Japan and Taiwan. Orita's Ice Plant, developed mainly for the freezing of fish, also supplied ice to the town.
Today, prawn farming is one of the main activities in Tawau. Spawners from Sabah, especially Tawau, are graded the best in Malaysia. For this reason, Tawau has been supplying high-grade tiger prawns to neighbouring countries, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan for decades.
Hundreds of deep sea trawlers and tuckboats can be seen at Cowie Bay.
Tawau offers good opportunities for education. Among the schools are:
Primary Schools (National Type)
1. SK Bandar tawau
2. SK St. Patrick
3. SK Muhibah Raya
4. SK Kinabutan
5. SK Merotai Besar
6. SK Melodi
7. SK Pasir Putih
8. SK Holy Trinity
9. SK Titingan
10.SK Jambatan Putih
11.SK Umas Uams
16.SK Felda UmasUmas
18.SK Jalan apas
Primary Schools (Chinese)
1. SRJK(C) Yuk Chin
2. SRJK(C) Sin Hwa
3. SRJK(C) Hing Hwa
4. SRJK(C) Chung Hwa
5. SRJK(C) Kwok Ming
6. SRJK(C) Kung Ming
7. SRJK(C) Pui Yuk
1. SMK Kuhara
2. SMK Tawau
3. SMK St Patrick
4. SMK Convent St Ursula
5. SMK Holy Trinity
6. SMK Kinabutan
7. SMK Jalan Apas
8. SMK Kabota
9. SMK Jambatan Putih
10. SMK Merotai Besar
11. SMK Abaka
12. SMK Islamiah
13. SMK Balung
14. SMk Umas umas
15. SM Cina Sabah (Private)
16. SM Teknik Tawau
17. SMK Kalabalakan
Teachers Training College
1. Maktab Perguruan Tawau
2. Open University Malaysia, PPT Universiti Terbuka Malaysia,Tawau
3. kolej komuniti Tawau
4. Maktab Rendah Sains MARA Tawau
5. Pusat giat Mara Tawau
 Places of interest
Tawau has a lot to offer to local & foreign tourists. Some of them are;
 Tawau Hills Park
The Tawau Hills National Park offers nature lovers with picnic areas, a vast camping site, chalets, mainly visited by local residents during weekends. Located 24 km off Tawau town, the park is accessible by road transport. The Tawau River flows across the park and tumble over several attractive waterfalls. The Table Waterfall has created a natural flowing pond for swimmers. Shelters, toilets and changing rooms are within vicinity.
In fact, the park is formed from rugged volcanic landscapes. Bombalai Hill which is a relatively young volcanic cone has the remains of the central crater, which still can be seen on the summit. Vegetations to see are the lowland Dipterocarp forest. Abundant species of wild orchids are found. Occasional sightings of Red Leaf Monkeys and long-tailed Macaques, and the less common but beautiful Giant Tree Squirrel, and the Forest Tortoise are found.
To get there, you can either drive yourself or hire a taxi. If you are driving from the town centre, start from Jalan Dunlop and drive towards Jalan Utara (North Road). This road will take you to the old airport. Keep driving straight pass the roundabout. When you are reaching the end of Jalan Utara, you will see palm oil trees around you. As you reach a T-junction, turn left and follow the direction towards Merotai. Keep driving until you see a junction that points toward Tawau Hills National Park.
As a simpler alternative, just hire a taxi and the driver will take you for RM40-RM50. You can arrange for a pick up.
- Tawau Hill park
- Tawau Hill Park in Malay language
- Cikgu Lee - Tawau Hills Park
- Cikgu Lee - Taman Bukit Tawau
The chemical contents of Tawau Hill spring are listed here
 Bukit Gemok
Bukit Gemok (The Fat Hill) is about 11 km from Tawau town. Its geographical location is 40 19’N / 1170 19’E. It is quite popular among the locals, especially with hikers and those who like mountain climbing. Many climbers have been frequenting Bukit Gemok, both in the morning and in the afternoon. It gives them a good form of exercise and recreation.
Bukit Gemok is about 428 meter from sea level and is part of the Bukit Gemok Forest Reserve covering 4.45 km². It was declared a forest reserve in 1984.
What makes Bukit Gemok interesting is the challenging track to the top of the hill. There is also a canopy walkway, Titian Silara, which is 231 meter long. It hangs from a few trees on the top of Bukit Gemok and provides visitors a good view of Tawau. The canopy walkway is the second one to be built here after the original canopy collapsed. It is worthwhile to climb up the hill just to enjoy the fantastic views.
 Neighbouring islands
Sipadan Island is the only oceanic island in Malaysia. It rises 2,000 feet (600 m) to its peak above sea floor. It is rated as one of the best diving sites in the world. Mabul Island is a small oval shaped island of 200,000 m² ringed with sandy beaches. It is perched on the northwest corner of a larger 2 square kilometre reef.
 Tawau Cocoa Village
Tawau is always inseparable with cocoa. Tawau Cocoa Village is situated at the world-renowned cocoa-planting site, Quoin Hill. Visitors are taken on a two-hour guided tour to see how cocoa is cultivated, harvested, fermented and dried before they are sent to the factory. In close proximity to the factory is a guest house. There is a gallery of cocoa products which tourists can buy as souvenirs. Tourists are served a variety of local fruits.
Following paths from the factory is a hiking trail which leads to a magnificent waterfall. The magnificent waterfall, also known as the Cocoa Culture Spring at the village is an ideal location for a picnic. Nature lovers will feel very much like entering a typical and tropical dense forest which is surrounded by a vast diversity of flora and fauna. The village has two main waterfalls and four mini cascades. Trek up and down steep stairways, following the sounds of babbling brooks will end at what promises to be a splendid waterfall. This waterfall is opened to the public and it is ideal for picnics and get-togethers of families and friends.
For more information, visit following URL :
 Shan Shui Golf & Country Club
Shan Shui Golf & Country club is situated on the airport highway 15 km off Tawau. This magnificent hideaway has an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Nelson & Haworth. It is acclaimed to be their finest creation in Asia.
 Proboscis monkey
Proboscis monkeys are the rarest primates on earth as they are only found on the island of Borneo. These monkeys live in mangrove swamps and riverside forests along the Tawau River. The females are about 60 cm tall and the males are about 70 cm tall. They have reddish fur and are tree-dwellers, who inhabit areas close to water and are excellent swimmers. The monkeys are vegetarian and live on mangrove shoots and fruits. They travel in small groups.
 Local cuisine
Seafood stalls at the Sabindo hawker centre is located along the waterfront of town centre. The stalls offer very competitive prices for selective catch of the day. “Makanan Laut 101” serves excellent crab and shellfishes with vegetables at incredibly low prices. “Mongolian Chicken Rice” on Jalan Chester offers one of the tastiest Chicken Rice in town. The small outlet is always crowded.
At night, numerous stalls set up around the town. Many sell the Sulawesi Soto Makassar (buffalo soup), a Bugis specialty; Pisang Goreng (fried bananas), Ubi Goreng (fried tapioca), Onde-onde (glutinous rice with savoury taste roasted in banana leaves), Kuih Pandan (Pandan rice cake), Karipap (Curry Puff), Kuih kacang (Peanut pancake spread with Kaya coconut jam), Bubur Chaca(local dessert served with tapioca, sweetpotato and sago in sweet coconut milk) & etc.
"Nasi Kuning" or yellow rice is an Indonesian specialty that cannot be found anywhere else in Malaysia except Tawau. The rice is cooked with turmeric, also known as kunyit in Malay, and coconut milk - which when mixed causes the rice to become yellow in colour. It is usually served with a piece of fish deep-fried in dried chilli sauce. This can be found in almost any Malay restaurants or stalls around Tawau but sometimes also sold in some Chinese coffeeshops. To further enhance the taste, the rice is usually wrapped in banana leaves. Price ranges from RM 0.50 to RM 3.00 per serving.
"Amplang" is also another cuisine which cannot be found anywhere else in Malaysia except Tawau. It is a deep-fried fish paste which is dipped in corn flour before frying.
 Getting there
Getting to Tawau from the state capital city of Kota Kinabalu takes about 8 hours by express coach, stationed at North City Bus Terminal at Inanam, a township located outside the Kota Kinabalu city centre on Jalan Tuaran). Express Coach Schedule
|Kota Kinabalu <--> Tawau||Sandakan <--> Tawau|
|8.00 a.m. (daily)||8.00 a.m., 10.00 a.m. (daily)|
|8.00 p.m. (daily)||12.00 p.m. (daily)|
Travelling by air takes about 45 minutes from Kota Kinabalu or Sandakan. Malaysia Airlines provides up to 4 daily scheduled flights from Kota Kinabalu International Airport to Tawau International Airport.
Another low-cost carrier service provided by Air Asia, which fly directly from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, KLIA and Senai International Airport in Johor Bahru takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Air Asia Flight Schedule: (valid until 24 Mar 2007)
|AK 5152||Kuala Lumpur (KUL)||Tawau (TWU)||
|AK 5153||Tawau (TWU)||Kuala Lumpur (KUL)||
|AK 5156||Kuala Lumpur (KUL)||Tawau (TWU)||
|AK 5157||Tawau (TWU)||Kuala Lumpur (KUL)||
|AK 5632||Johor Bahru (JHB)||Tawau (TWU)||
|AK 5633||Tawau (TWU)||Johor Bahru (JHB)||
|AK 5833||Kota Kinabalu (BKI)||Tawau (TWU)||
|AK 5834||Tawau (TWU)||Kota Kinabalu (BKI)||
|AK 5835||Kota Kinabalu (BKI)||Tawau (TWU)||
|AK 5836||Tawau (TWU)||Kota Kinabalu (BKI)||
Since 1 August 2006, AirAsia introduced FlyingAsianeXpress (abbreviated as FAX) to take over the operations previously owned by Malaysian Airlines in East Malaysia where smaller aircraft such as Fokker 50 and Twin Otter are used to fly the interior region or smaller towns. FAX is officially the third largest airline in Malaysia.
FlyingAsianeXpress Flight Schedule: (valid until 28 Oct 2006)
|D72133||TAWAU (TWU)||SANDAKAN (SDK)||
|D72137||TAWAU (TWU)||SANDAKAN (SDK)||
- Sabah official site on Tawau
- Tawau info
- Tawau info
- Tawau information
- Local Tastes
- Pro Diver
- Tawau Resources