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The historical city of Sandakan is the second largest city in Sabah after Kota Kinabalu. It is located on the eastern coast of Borneo Island and is the administrative centre of the Sandakan Division and formerly the capital of British North Borneo during the British colonial time.
Sandakan is the gateway for eco-tourism destinations such as the Sepilok Orang-Utan Sanctuary, the Turtle Islands Park, Sukau Proboscis Lodge, and the archaeological Gomantong Caves. It is also the notorious site of a World War II Japanese airfield which was built by the forced labour of Javanese civilians and Allied prisoners of war. In 1945, the surviving prisoners were sent on the Sandakan Death Marches, after which only 6 survived the war.
Sandakan is one of the six districts involved in the eastern Sabah sea curfew, enforced by the Malaysian government since 19 July 2014 to repel attacks from militant groups in the Southern Philippines.
The port town of Sandakan faces the Sulu Sea on the east coast of Sabah - approximately 1,900 kilometres from Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, and 319 kilometres east of Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah. It is only 28 kilometres from the international border with the Philippines. Off the coast of Sandakan are many islands. Not far from town are the three Malaysian Turtle Islands - Selingaan, Gulisaan and Bakkungan Kechil. Sepilok is located 20 kilometres (35 minute drive) from Sandakan Airport.
Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre
One of only four orang-utan sanctuaries in the world, the centre which was established in 1964 attracts tourists and researches alike and is the most popular place to watch these lovable apes up close in their natural habitat. Orphaned and injured orang-utans are brought to Sepilok for rehabilitation so they can return to forest life.
A boardwalk leads to the viewing gallery and feeding platform where the orang-utans are fed milk and bananas twice a day at 10am and 3pm by the rangers. Feeding time also attracts long-tailed macaques to the area. Several walking trails lead into the forest.
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Located adjacent to the Orang-Utan Sanctuary, visitors can now get close to the world's smallest bear! One of the most threatened bear species due to habitat loss and for their value for use in traditional Chinese medicines, this adorable bear is named for the patch of bright yellow fur spread across their chests. The Sun Bear Centre is equipped with key facilities including an observation platform, boardwalk and a visitor centre.
Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
In the centre of the mangrove forests of Semawang, within an oil palm estate, is the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. This privately-owned sanctuary gives you the chance to observe Borneo's indigenous monkeys up close and personal.
The remarkable males sport big dangling noses, reddish flat-top hairstyles, white tails and markings and pot bellies. The females are much smaller with up-turned noses. During a night tour you may also see wild boars, flying squirrels, fireflies and crocodiles. The sanctuary also has a lodge with air conditioned twin or double rooms, family chalet and dormitories.
The massive cave is home to swiftlets, who’s nests are harvested as a Chinese delicacy, and bats. Outside, other birds such as serpent eagles, bat hawks and kingfishers can be seen. You might even spot an orang-utan or two. There are two cave complexes from which to observe the harvesting.
The 90 metre high Simud Hitam (Black Cave) is a 5 minute walk from the registration centre and is the more accessible of the two. A well-maintained boardwalk gives you easy access to do some exploring or watch the skilled harvesters at work.
Simud Putih (White Cave) is where the more valuable nests are found. You will need to make prior arrangements for exploring the more challenging Simud Putih which calls for more serious caving.
Birds' nest collecting is done usually between February and August.
Kinabatangan Wildlife Safari – 3 Days / 2 Nights
Embark on a 2.5 hour speedboat journey from Sandakan jetty up the Kinabatangan River to Sukau Rainforest Lodge. There will be opportunities along the way to view wildlife and birds, including the Proboscis Monkey and if you're lucky, even the shy Bornean Pygmy Elephants.
Take a morning river cruise in search of waking wildlife and birds which are most active in the morning on the way to the Kelenanap Ox-Bow lake. Upon returning to the lodge, proceed for an educational walking tour along the Hornbill Boardwalk with the in-house naturalist.
In the afternoon, head out onto the river once again in search of more wildlife.
Sandakan Memorial Park
This site which commemorates a tragedy and atrocity which struck Sandakan between January and August 1945 is a must-see for history enthusiasts. The Memorial Park witnessed the death of approximately 2,400 Australian and British prisoners of war held by the Japanese in the Sandakan POW camp, within the sight of Allied victory in the Pacific war.
Situated about 11 km outside of Sandakan and now the suburb of Taman Rimba, the former site of the notorious WWII prisoner of war camp is well maintained and beautifully landscaped. The park also includes a small museum that serves as a memorial to the thousands of Australian and British who lost their lives in the hands of the Japanese during WWII. Rusting remains of an excavator and a generator and a boiler still lie in their original positions near the steps leading up to a small Commemorative Pavilion.
Sandakan Heritage Trail
The Sandakan Heritage Trail is a comprehensive walk that covers the town's important and interesting sites which have contributed to her rich historical past. A leaflet maps out the entire trail.
The walk begins at the 100-year old Masjid Jamik, then continues to the Pryer Memorial, a granite structure erected to honour the founder of Sandakan, William B. Pryer. You will then climb the Stairs with a Hundred Steps which leads to a beautiful view of Sandakan town and bay and to the famous Agnes Keith House.
Next is the remains of an old staircase which is believed to be what is left of the Consulate building of the pre-war Chinese Government. From restored colonial buildings like Agnes Keith's House, to places of worship - St. Michael's and All Angels Church, Sam Sing Kung (Three Saints) Temple and Goddess of Mercy Temple, this one hour walk takes you back over a 100 years.
Turtle Islands Park
Selingaan, Gulisaan and Bakkungan Kechil Islands are where you can see turtles laying eggs as well as turtle conservation at work. Overnight stays can be arranged on Selingaan Island.
Sandakan, like the rest of Borneo, has a tropical rainforest climate, relatively hot and wet with daytime temperatures in the low 30’s °C and dropping to around the mid-20’s °C at night. Rain is common throughout the year, with a tendency for October to February to be the wettest months, while April is the driest month.
Avoid the wettest months if travelling up the Kinabatangan River as the river flats are prone to flooding.
A dawn service is held on ANZAC Day in Sandakan. Attendance should be registered with the Department of Veteran Affairs.
|Sepilok Nature Resort
35 minute drive from Sandakan Airport
Onsite Shop: Yes
Onsite Dive Centre: No
Please Enquire about accommodation options
There is no diving in Sandakan-Sepilok