Sandakan is one of the major cities in Sabah. It is known for its natural beauty and rich culture of the people. Once a major trading town, Sandakan has since grown to become a major city in the East Malaysian state, welcoming thousands of visitors to its shores every day.
Sandakan – Location Facts
One of the major places that you can visit in Sabah is Sandakan. Located not far from the capital of Kota Kinabalu, it is a great location that promises a lot of attractions both modern and natural for tourists.
Facts about Sandakan
- Currency: MYR (Malaysian Ringgit)
- Dialling code: Sandakan follows the same fixed line prefix of +6088 prefix. To call mobile numbers, you will need to use those provided by the respective telco operators.
- Airport: Flying into Sandakan is possible through its own Sandakan Airport which is connected to Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu respectively.
- Airport Tax: This is applicable for both domestic and international flights
- Distance from airport to city centre: The airport is very near to the city centre which is about 15 minutes away.
- Temperature: Sandakan experiences annual average temperature between 23 and 36 degrees Celsius
- Climate and Weather: Tropical with high humidity
- Common languages: Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin and Kadazandusun
Transportation Facts of KK
Getting to the city centre from the airport is very easy and will cost you about RM30 per trip. If you like an adventure, you can take a bus that will cost you about RM3 per trip.
Highlights around Sandakan
Sandakan has a lot to offer for visitors. You get to experience a lot of nature and beautiful sights and sounds as well. Among the places you can visit include:
- The Sandakan Memorial Park – To get here, it takes you less than 10 minutes. This is where the Japanese Prisoner of War camp used to be. Specially sanctioned in memory of those who sacrificed during World War II at the Borneo Death Marches, you can see what happened from the pictures here.
- Puu Gih Jih – A significant place of worship for the Chinese community here, you can enjoy the picturesque view of Labuk Bay as well.
- The St Michael and All Angels Church – One of the oldest structures in the entire state, it is known to be the only one who stood through the test of time even during the Second World War
- The Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre – This is one place you will like as it is where orang utans rescued are being rehabilitated to survive back into the forests.
- Turtle Islands Park – Another sanctuary for the endangered species, this place is made up of 3 islands along the Sulu Sea.
- Gomantong Caves – Find the home of thousands of swiftlets here.
- Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary – A great place to go to see the monkeys living in their most natural communities
Foods around Sandakan
You will find a lot of seafood around Sandakan. However, there are others that you could try which include:
- D’Sandakan Seafood Paradise – One of the very popular places here.
- ‘Sandakan Curry House – for something spicy, this would be the best place to go
- Ocean King Seafood Restaurant – located in Pasir Putih, it has much to offer if prawns and fish are what you like
Background of Sandakan
In late 1880s, Sandakan was one of the largest towns in Sabah since traders from around the world namely Europe, Africa, China as well as Arab conduct business within the vicinity. Today, Sandakan has become one of the major tourists’ hubs in Malaysia with famous Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary. The sanctuary was once featured in Amazing Race as one of their pit-stops.
Before World War II, Sandakan was the capital for British North Borneo but Jesselton later took over the role as state capital after WW II. Sandakan was formerly known as ‘Little Hong Kong’ considering the large numbers of Chinese traders settling down in the town.
Once a major trading port
Sandakan was once rich with various foreign cultures since traders from around the world came through the port before continuing their journey. Tourists, backpackers or holiday makers can now easily travel to Sandakan by taking MAS or Air Asia daily flight. Getting around town is rather easy since the town is small or you can even take a bus to get around town.
Attractions in Sandakan
Besides Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary, tourists can visit Turtle Islands Park, Sandakan Crocodile Farm, Gomantong Caves or even Rainforest Discovery Centre. With the availability of such places of interest, Sandakan is best known as the gateway for ecotourism.
For Buddhist devotees, remember to visit the magnificent temple atop a hill that offers you scenic view of Sandakan Bay – Puu Gih Jih Temple. Also, another picturesque architecture is the oldest stone building in Sabah – St Michael and All Angels.
Other places of interest around town are Sandakan Memorial Park, Buli Sim Sim and Agnes Keith House and Museum. Sandakan Memorial Park is a must visit destination since it is situated on the former Japanese Prisoner of War camp. An educational trip to the small museum right in the heart of the park is great for holiday makers with kids.
Meanwhile, Buli Sim Sim is a scenic water village on stilts located about 3 kilometres east of Sandakan. Agnes Keith House and Museum used to be the official residence of Agnes Newton Keith and has now been refurbished as a museum.
If you prefer other famous places of interest, you’ll need to travel further afield to Gomantong Caves and Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. You can book the trip to these two attractions from a local tour operator. It is difficult to get to Gomantong Caves via public transport. Be well-prepared if you plan to get to the monkey sanctuary since the road to the destination is rough but the sight of monkeys in the wooden balcony built right in the heart of the mangrove forest will definitely mesmerize you.
Great shopping location
A visit to Sandakan is never complete without buying some local handicrafts. The best bargain hunting shopping is Borneo Trading Post. Besides that, you can also check out one-stop handicraft centre located on the third floor of Karamunsing Complex. Lastly, remember to buy and try out famous local products such as salted fish, prawn crackers, dried ikan bilis (Anchovy) and dried shrimps.