Sandakan is famous as a gateway for ecotourism in Sabah. Formerly known as Elopura or ‘Beautiful City’ and later on as ‘Little Hong Kong’, it is the second largest city in Sabah after Kota Kinabalu.
Never considered Sandakan for a holiday destination? Probably you’ll change your mind after reading through our recommendation on things to do in Sandakan.
Now, where do we begin? Sandakan is a very much-to-see, much-to-do and much-to-eat kind of place.
Visit the Cute Orangutans, Proboscis Monkeys, & Sunbears
If you are an animal lover, well Sandakan is paradise for you! There are three animal centres that you can visit here. These animals are synonymous in Sabah, namely the Proboscis Monkey, Orangutan and Sun Bear. Why not go and meet them? You know, before it’s too late.
Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
Found only in Borneo, the proboscis monkey or long-nosed monkey is one of the most peculiar and bizarre animal in the world. This privately-owned sanctuary located within an oil palm estate gives you the chance to observe them up close and personal.
Did you know that male proboscis monkeys use their fleshy, pendulous noses to attract mates? Interesting fact.
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
Have you always dreamt about a close encounter with an orangutan? At this centre you’re able to see the orangutans in their rehabilitation programs. The centre opened in 1964 as the first official orangutan rehabilitation project for rescued orphaned baby orangutans from logging sites, plantations or illegal hunting. The orphaned orangutans are trained to survive again in the wild and are released as soon as they are ready.
Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre
The Borneon Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is a wildlife conservation and research centre for improving welfare and rehabilitation of the sun bears. The BSBCC is neighboured to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok and shares veterinary facilities, personnel, parking, access roads and ticket gates. A visit to the centre is a must when in Sandakan, these bears are too adorable to resist!
Delight Your Tummy with Delicious Food in Beautiful Settings
There are really a lot of delicious food you must not miss in Sandakan. Interestingly, a lot of the restaurants in Sandakan open very early for breakfast – almost as early as 6am! So you can start food hunting very early!
Sim Sim Water Village
No visit to Sandakan is complete without stopping by at Sim Sim Water Village where the local folks live in stilted houses on water. The village is a really big maze. It is divided into 20 zones and each zone is accessible by a long plank bridge or walkway.
If you want to taste iconic Sandakan food, go to 7th Bridge and order the Spring Noodle and Century Egg Dumpling. For seafood lovers, head to 8th Bridge, just next to 7th Bridge.
Mango Garden Restaurant Sepilok
The Mango Garden Restaurant Sepilok is located within Nature Lodge Sepilok, at the junction of Sepilok Road and Rainforest Rediscovery Centre . Here, you can have your lunch amidst the green garden surrounding and fresh air. They offer a selection of food and drinks to whet your appetite and served both ala carte and buffet. This beautiful restaurant opens from 7a.m to 9p.m daily.
Be Astonished at the Wonders of the Gomantong Cave
Sarawak may be known for its caves, but Sandakan has its own worth visiting. Gomantong Cave being the largest cave in Sabah, is not only home to millions of bats and swiftlets but also to cockroaches and dung beetles! Outside, other birds such as serpent eagles, bat hawks and kingfishers can be seen. You might even spot an orangutan or two!
Want a fun fact? Swiftlets are excellent flyers – they can actually mate during flight.
Cruise Along the Mighty Kinabatangan River
The mighty Kinabatangan River is renowned as the second largest river in Malaysia. This river sustains one of the world’s richest ecosystems. A trip up the river at dawn or dusk is the best opportunity to see the wildlife. From spotting the hornbills to seeing the leaves rustling and realising that it is caused by a group of proboscis monkeys, this place is a must-go if you are an animal lover. You might even get a sight of pygmy elephants wandering through the trees. Woah that would be a sight to behold!
Explore the Picturesque City of Sandakan
As the Malay saying goes, “tak kenal maka tak cinta” (you won’t love them if you don’t know them), you have to visit some of Sandakan’s highlights to better understand their culture and history. Our recommendations? Pu Ji Shi Temple and Sandakan Memorial Park!
Pu Ji Shi Temple
This well-known temple is located at the top of a hill. From up here, you’ll see the breathtaking panoramic view of Sandakan Bay and the town. Late afternoon, you may be lucky to witness the monks chanting, twinkling bells and beating the large drum.
Sandakan Memorial Park
Sandakan Memorial Park is one of the most important historical sites in Sabah. This site used to be a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp during the WWII and was also used as the place where the prisoners began the horrific ‘death march’ which led to Ranau. Of the 1793 Australian and 641 British troops originally imprisoned here, the only survivors by July 1945 were six Australian escapees.
This is a beautiful place, with a terrible history. A must-see for history enthusiasts.
Where to Stay in Sandakan?
We want you to have an enjoyable time as much as possible when in Sandakan and to feel right at home as it won’t be just a place for you to stay for the night but a home away from home.
At Beelik.com, we have a list of wonderful accommodations right here in Sandakan that will be not only the perfect setting for a getaway trip but will also be easier on your wallet.