Sandakan is a bustling city overlooking the Bay of Sandakan, where international trade and rich World War II history has produced an array of global restaurants and fascinating memorials. The city’s thriving seafood scene is complemented by immersive river cruises, tropical-style bars and surrounding nature experiences.
Things to do in Sandakan
Discover Sandakan’s sobering World War II history at Sandakan Memorial Park, where a rainforest garden now stands on the site of a Japanese POW camp that held over 2,000 Australian and British soldiers. Afterwards, head over to the Sandakan Heritage Museum and explore old photographs and memorabilia showcasing the city’s past. It’s located near the Sandakan Liberation Monument, which commemorates the civilians who died during World War II.
If you’re interested in Chinese culture and architecture, visit the historic Sam Sing Kung Temple that was built in 1887. The temple is part of the Sandakan Heritage Trail, which takes you around the city centre ticking off notable buildings, including the centuries-old Masjid Jamik, Agnes Keith House and the Goddess of Mercy Temple. Don’t miss climbing the Stairs with a Hundred Steps, which will reward you with uninterrupted views of Sandakan and the distant bay.
Do you love animals? Tick off one or more of Sandakan’s nearby wildlife attractions, particularly the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, where you can see friendly orangutans up close. Swap primates for reptiles at the Sandakan Crocodile Farm, which is also home to ostriches and fish.
Outdoor adventurers will love exploring the Gomantong Caves, which are a series of expansive limestone caves where you can hop on guided walking tours. You can also learn more about the region’s ancient rainforest at the Rainforest Discovery Centre or cruise over to Turtle Islands National Park to see turtles laying eggs or turtle hatchlings during specific seasons.
Getting around Sandakan
Sandakan is reached by flying into Sandakan Airport or catching buses from Kota Kinabalu. You can get around town using taxis, buses, communal vans or hired motorbikes.