Tawau is the third-largest town in Sabah after Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan and was formerly known as Tawao which is a town and administrative centre of Tawau Division, Sabah, Malaysia. The Sulu Sea borders it to the east, the Celebes Sea to the south at Cowie Bay and shares a border with North Kalimantan. Statistically, the town had an estimated population as of 2010 of 113,809 while the whole municipality area had a population of 397,673. Before the founding of Tawau, the region around it was the subject of dispute between the British and Dutch influence. In 1893, the first British merchant vessel sailed into Tawau marking the opening of the town's seaport and in 1898, the British set up a settlement in Tawau. The British North Borneo Chartered Company (BNBC) accelerated the growth of the settlement's population by encouraging the immigration of Chinese. Currently, Tawau has become one of the must-sees and largest agro destinations in Sabah and among the tourist attractions in Tawau are Tawau International Cultural Festival, Tawau Bell Tower, Japanese War Cemetery, Confrontation Memorial, Teck Guan Cocoa Museum, Tawau Hills National Park, Bukit Gemok, and Tawau Tanjung Markets. The main economic activities of the town are timber, cocoa, oil palm plantations, and prawn farming.
Other than Kota Kinabalu International Airport, Tawau is also one of two airports in Sabah with immigration counters for international flights. It serves the districts of Tawau, Kunak and Semporna and is the nearest airport to the diving islands of Sipadan, Mabul and Kapalai. The current Tawau airport was opened officially to the public in December 2001. It was officiated by the then Transport Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr. Ling Liong Sik. Tawau Airport has become the second largest airport in Sabah after Kota Kinabalu International Airport with a capacity of over 1.8 million passengers per annum.
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If you’re looking for the very warmest time to visit Tawau, the hottest months are May, April, and then June. See average monthly temperatures below. The warmest time of year is generally late May where highs are regularly around 89.8°F (32.1°C) with temperatures rarely dropping below 74.6°F (23.7°C) at night. If dry weather is what you’re after, the months with the lowest chance of significant precipitation in Tawau are May, February, and then August.
1. Tawau Hills Park -Nestled 30 minutes away from Tawau town, the park was established in 1979 and is home to a various selection of flora and animal species. It comprises 279.72 km² of lowland dipterocarp rainforest surrounded by oil palm and cacao plantations. There are 2-hectare lowland gardens which have lowland orchids such as the Elephant's Ear Orchid. Many people visit Tawau Hills Park during the school holidays or at weekends and this park is also a favorite spot for families and friends to enjoy a picnic and spend a night camping under a blanket of stars. It contains rugged volcanic landscapes including a hot spring and spectacular waterfalls and the highest point in the park is Gunung Magdalena. The charges for MyKad holders (18 years and above) is RM3.00 or 37 peso, MyKad (below 18 years) is RM1.00 or 12 peso and others (18 years and above) is RM10.00 or 125 peso as well as Others (below 18 years)is RM6.00 or 75 peso.
2. Teck Guan Cocoa Museum -This museum comprised of the cocoa processing plant and manufacturing factory and the cocoa processing plant is one of the largest in Southeast Asia and the largest in East Malaysia. There are layout charts descriptions on how fresh products are being processed into cocoa butter, cocoa nibs, cocoa cake and dried cocoa bean and a wall chart showing how raw products processed into cocoa butter, cocoa nibs, cocoa cake and cocoa bean. The description can be explained by guided tours available. Located 10 minutes away, there are various Hoko products available for purchase from chocolate jam to instant hot cocoa beverages.
3. Maliau Basin -Maliau Basin, also known as Sabah’s Lost World encompasses around 390 square metres area of pristine forest alongside the Maliau River which flows out through a gorge in the southeast of the Basin, joining the Kuamut River and eventually the Kinabatangan, Sabah's largest and most important river. It acts as a conservation area for research, education and training along with Danum Valley Conservation Area. Maliau Basin Conservation Area was upgraded by the Sabah state government to a Class 1 Protection Forest Reserve with a total area of 588 square kilometres in 1997. In 2011, the Maliau Basin Studies Centre has opened and provides a vast field centre to serve as a basis for studies and teaching carried out in Maliau by naturalists, biologists, and groups of field course students.