LAHAD DATU is a town and district located in Tawau Division, in the east of Sabah. It occupies the peninsula on the north side of Darvel Bay. Its population was estimated to be around 118,000 in 1991 and 156,059 in the 2000 census. Lahad Datu is surrounded by stretches of cocoa and oil palm plantations. It is also an important timber exporting port. The town has an airport for domestic flights. A settlement is believed to have existed here in the 15th century, as excavations have unearthed Ming Dynasty Chinese ceramics. Just east of Lahad Datu, is the village of Tunku, a notorious base for Lanun pirates and slave traders in the 19th century.
Lahad Datu is a gateway to the Danum Valley Conservation Area, the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in the east, and Madai Caves further south. At the end of the 14th century, it was believed that Islam was first introduced in Sabah. This based on a jawi manuscript in the Idahan language dated 1408 A.D, which gives an account of an Idahan man named Abdullah in Darvel Bay who embraced Islam. Lahad Datu is also home to Sabah's population of Cocos Island Malays, who settled in this area in the 1950s when the Cocos Islands became part of Australia.
Photo credit: Murphy Ng/Sabah Tourism