Delivering once-in-a-lifetime Borneo experiences, since 2013

Borneo Holiday Travel Experts

Travel Guide

to Sandakan

April, 2017
Don’t have any idea where to go in Sandakan? Some guides for you to make your Sandakan trip exciting!

Sandakan, the second largest town in Sabah after Kota Kinabalu, is located on the northeast coast of Borneo. Sandakan was the former capital of British North Borneo until 1946, due to its busy port with visiting traders from around the world. Sandakan town has a history that is very important to the Australians and British for its infamous Death Marches which commenced here in 1945 during World War II (WWII). After WWII, the capital moved to Jesselton ( now Kota Kinabalu).

Not only does Sandakan hold precious history to the Australians and British, it also serves as the gateway to Sabah’s best ecotourism destinations for travelers. Read here for more information on Sandakan. In this blog post, we will share some of the attractions around Sandakan and food to try.

Top 5 Alternatives to Mount Kinabalu for trekking in Borneo

Sandakan is so worth visiting for its proximity to some of Borneo’s most accessible wildlife attractions. Just over 30 minutes drive from Sandakan town, Sepilok is one of the main attractions in Sandakan. The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is the place that travelers should go to watch Orangutan up close in their natural habitat. Beside to it, travelers can go to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Just nearby to Sepilok, Rainforest Discovery Centre is also worth a visit by travelers when in Sandakan, as it offers jungle trails and magnificent canopy walk for travelers to get intimate with nature, as well as get in some birdwatching activities.

In addition, travelers can go to the Turtle Island Park for a rare experience to watch turtle nesting and laying eggs, as well as witness turtle conservation at work. Travelers can check out our tour information on Turtle Island Borneo Conservation Project for booking. Other places of interest in Sandakan which can be visited by travelers would be the Sandakan Crocodile Farm which is located at Labuk Road and have over 3000 reptiles. If travelers want a chance to see the big-nosed Proboscis Monkey, then Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary is the place travelers should visit on a combo day trip tour.

For more wildlife destinations, travelers should head to Kinabatangan River – Sukau and Bilit for more Proboscis Monkey sightings or head to Gomantong Caves to see how the edible bird nests are harvested. Travelers can also continue overland and south of Sandakan to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve and Danum Valley. Our company does provide these tours for travelers to get the chance for a wildlife adventure in Borneo.


Sandakan was the major port for early settlers to Sabah. It is nicknamed as “Little Hong Kong” due to many Chinese settlers coming from Canton to Sandakan. Thus, this is the reason that until today the Chinese people in Sandakan have a stronger Hong Kong – Cantonese accent compared to other parts of Malaysia. A spillover effect of this, one of the places of interest in Sandakan is Puu Jih Shih Chinese temple, built for the Chinese people in Sandakan, a majestic temple definitely built to awe as it faces the Sandakan Bay.

Another must-visit attraction is the Sam Sing Kung Temple – the oldest temple in Sandakan that was built by the four main Chinese communities in Sandakan, namely Hakka, Cantonese, Hainanese, and Teochew.

Travel Guide to Sandakan
Travel Guide to Sandakan

Sandakan also was known as Sabah’s most historic town, has many other places of interest, which travelers can go through while doing the Sandakan Heritage Trail which covers the historical points of interest and sights around the city. The walk can take about 2 hours or more, and it commences at the 100-year old Masjid Jamik, then to the Pryer Monument –  a granite structure erected to honor the founder of Sandakan, William B. Pryer.

Travelers can climb up to the Stairs with Hundred Steps which will lead you to see a panoramic view of Sandakan town and bay. Along to that, travelers can also visit the Agnes Keith House – which used to be the home of the famous American writer who penned “Land Below The Wind” in 1939, and next to it is the English Tea House and Restaurant. Travelers will have the option to have refreshment and enjoy the view overlooking the town.

Next stop, travelers can go to the remains of an old staircase, that was once a part of the Chinese Consulate before the war. Visit the Goddess of Mercy Chinese Temple, which was built in the 1880s. Then, continue the journey reaching the St Michael and All Angels Cathedral, which was erected in the late 19th century and one of the oldest stone buildings in Sabah. The Sandakan Heritage Trail ends when travelers pass the Malaysia Fountain and can see the Harrisons Trading Building and two oldest banks in town, HSBC and Standard Chartered.

When in Sandakan, trying out Sandakan food should not be missed! Since Sandakan is located next to the sea, seafood in this town are so much fresher, and it makes up the town’s favorite and popular eats. Drop by to Sim Sim Water Village (Bridge no.7) to try out the tasty springy noodle, served with dim sums, century egg dumplings, and curry laksa. Travelers also can try grilled fresh fish at Pasar Sim Sim, served with amazing home-made sambal chili. Moreover, travelers should stop by at Nam Chai Restaurant for the famous seafood Bak Kut Teh or travelers can eat more fresh seafood at the 1Malaysia Steamboat Restaurant located at Trig Hill for only RM30.00 per person.

Travelers can drop by at Pasar Kim Fung located at Mile 4 for a quick delicious bite, available for dinner or supper too! Another do-not-miss food item is the Sandakan famous UFO tarts – a thin butter sponge cake as the base, top with a meringue enclosing a yellow center of eggy custard, which is so yummy to eat with a cup of hot tea/coffee and can be found in any Chinese bakeries in Sandakan.

Travel Guides to Sandakan

Want new articles before they get published?
Subscribe to our Awesome Newsletter.