Travel to Malaysia from West coast USA
Wherever you coming from, you are aiming for Tawau Airport (TWU) and will need to transit in Kuala Lumpur (KUL) or Kota Kinabalu (BKI) or Johor Bahru (JHB) (close to Singapore). You should aim to be landing in Tawau (TWU) before 2pm on the Monday of your arrival. The only airlines that have flights into Tawau are Malaysian Airlines or AirAsia (Jan 2016).
From Kuala Lumpur
Travel from West coast USA or Canada
Traveling from places in West coast North America the choice is to fly to Kuala Lumpor or add more stops via Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Beijing, Guangzhou or Hong Kong. The last leg of your journey will be to fly:-
Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Tawau (TWU)
Kota Kinabalu (BKI) to Tawau (TWU).
Brunei to Kota Kinabalu (BKI) to Tawau (TWU).
The cheapest airlines around Asia are Jetstar, Airasia, Malindo to/from Kota Kinabalu (BKI) or Kuala Lumpur (KUL).
The cheapest route is normally via Guangzhou or Hong Kong and then Airasia to Kota Kinabalu. You can then overnight at one of the dozens of hotels in KK town to get over some of your jet lag and catch AirAsia AK6260 to Tawau (TWU) the following morning. Some long haul providers can also get you a domestic connection with Malaysian Airlinesin which case you want MH3051.
Coming from N. Asia to Kuala Lumpur you can overnight at the KLIA airport (Capsule or Tune hotel) or you can then overnight at one of the dozens of hotels in town to get over some of your jet lag. (Try Brickfields area, many cheap hotels or backpacker places close to Sentral in Downtown KL).
We DON’T recommend flying to Brunei unless it is cheap with a good connection to KK.
Finally, we DON’T recommend arriving in Tawau at any time other than a Monday morning. If you want a few days before you come to us, spend them in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Kota Kinabalu.
Departure optional trip:
You might want to plan a few days in Semporna after your period of volunteering. This will allow you to dive Mabul and Sipadan with one of the local dive operators. They are world class dive sites, an interesting contrast to Pom Pom and a treat after all your hard work.
If you intend to depart immediately we recommend a return flight after 5pm. It is an hour from the island to Semporna by boat and then another hour by minibus to the airport. However that assumes the weather is perfect, you are the only person in the boat, there is a taxi at the jetty, the minibus is full and there are no holdups or breakdowns along the way. Not to mention no time to eat, change or use the restrooms.
If we leave the island after breakfast we are in Semporna in plenty of time for lunch. A flight after 5pm gives you all afternoon to get to Tawau airport.
Upon Arrival at Tawau airport
When you land, you will be met at the airport by our “fixer” Ugan. He will sort you onto the next available mini-bus to Semporna. This may not be leaving immediately so just be patient. You’ll have to pay RM25 direct to the driver. Since we have no way of knowing which driver you’ll get we can’t pre-pay this for you. The mini-bus will drop you at the new tourist jetty in Semporna (or Bismillah 2 restaurant -food and internet) at which point you’ve made it and should call us ( in this order please) ( 0148629617 camp; 014 564 3017 boats; 0198309046, Steve or 0198505412 Hazel) if we aren’t immediately obvious.
It is easy to get a Celcom or Tune talk data enabled SIM for your smart phone at most Malaysian airports. Phones with 4g capability have the best signal/ data/ internet on the island. Any phone will work for email, sms or calls. (PLEASE do not get Maxis, Hotlink, Digi, Umobile or other Network provider – THEY HAVE NO SIGNAL ON THE ISLAND).