SandakanMalaysia

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Visit Sandakan

This historic township, once occupied by the Japanese in World War II, is now a gateway to northern Borneo’s rich world of ecotourism.

The Sabah region’s largest center is the historic town of Sandakan, located on the northern coast of Borneo. The town is surrounded by natural beauty and an abundance of wildlife, and is considered the gateway to Sabah’s ecotourism region. Beyond the ecotourism, Sandakan is an important historical site. The Japanese occupied the town for much of World War II. The area was used to host a number of Prisoner of War camps, and the Sandakan Airport was built by forced labor. Today, a war cemetery and memorial park mark the events.

Tour operators are abundant in Sandakan, and ecotourism is by far the biggest draw card to the region. Elephants, monkeys, crocodiles and rhinoceros call the area home, and the dramatic shifts in landscape produce one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Within a few miles you’ll see swamps, limestone cave systems and three types of forest. See endangered species of ape and monkey at the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary and Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. The largest mammals mingle with the smallest birds on the banks of the Kinabatangan River, a short drive from the town. Dive the Semporna Islands, known as one of the best dive sites in the world, just off the Sabah coast.

Life underwater is even more abundant than it is above in Sandakan, and many of the local dishes revolve around seafood. Sample freshly caught shellfish, or try dried, salted fish from the local markets.

Sandakan enjoys a tropical rainforest climate, with temperatures averaging 87 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius) year round. The wet season brings monsoons that often cause the Kinabatangan River to flood during December and January. Between April and October visitors can expect a mostly dry experience with the added bonus of the new season of flora in the region.

Sandakan can be reached by plane from Kuala Lumpur or by bus from southern Borneo. Once in town you’ll have no problem walking between your hotel, restaurants and local attractions, while a bus system will take you further afield. Taxis are readily available and cars can be hired from within the town.

Top Hotels in Sandakan

Estimated price for 1 night / 2 adults
Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan
Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan
4 out of 5
Lot 106 & 107 Blk Hs 11, Sandakan Harbour Square, Sandakan, Sabah
¥5,569
per night
Feb 3 - Feb 4

Located in the heart of Sandakan, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Sandakan Harbour Mall, Saint Michael's and All Angels Church, and Agnes Keith House. ...

4.4/5Wonderful! (831 reviews)

"i have a wonderful stay at the hotel.unfortunately the pool wasnt ready during my stay on 11&12th january but they upgrade my room.the location was great.food just around the corner."…"

Reviewed on Jan 13, 2020

Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan
Sabah Hotel Sandakan
Sabah Hotel Sandakan
4 out of 5
Km 1 Jalan Utara, Sandakan, Sabah
¥4,356
per night
Jan 22 - Jan 23

Situated in Sandakan, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Bukit Buli Sim Sim and Agnes Keith House. Sandakan Harbour Mall and Saint Michael's and All Angels ...

4.1/5Very Good! (217 reviews)

"This is a local hotel and as such can not be judged to the same standard as a Western 5* hotel and does not claim to be such. If you accept this fact then the hotel is fine. Staff are excellent. Food acceptable and facilities although a little tired are ok. You need a car to visit Sepilok and just ..."…"

Reviewed on Dec 13, 2019

Sabah Hotel Sandakan
Sepilok Nature Resort
Sepilok Nature Resort
2.5 out of 5
KM 22.5 (Mile 14), Jalan Sepilok, Off Jalan Sapi Nangoh, Sandakan, Sabah

Situated in Sandakan, this hotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre and Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary. Rainforest Discovery Centre is ...

4.7/5Exceptional! (210 reviews)

"Brilliant accommodation in an amazing setting. Short walk to the Orangutan and Sun Bear Rehabilitation Centres. Staff were excellent."…"

Reviewed on Nov 30, 2019

Sepilok Nature Resort

Popular things to do in Sandakan

Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary
Image for Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary

Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary

5/5(12 reviews)

Watch as a community of orphaned orangutans play in the trees above you at this sanctuary.

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
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Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

4.5/5(6 reviews)

Two daily feeding sessions draw crowds of tourists to watch monkeys as they swing through their natural habitat.

Gomantong Caves
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Gomantong Caves

Explore the great outdoors at Gomantong Caves, a lovely green space in Sandakan. Amble around the area's rainforest or visit its temples.

Top activities in Sandakan

Sepilok Orang Utan & Sandakan City Tour
Image for Sepilok Orang Utan & Sandakan City Tour

Sepilok Orang Utan & Sandakan City Tour

¥8,959

Visit endangered orangutans up close in their natural habitat and discover the rehabilitation work accomplished at Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre. Then visit the city of Sandakan’s main attractions, including serene temples, lively markets, and water villages.

Private Sandakan Tour & Orangutan Sanctuary with Lunch
Image for Private Sandakan Tour & Orangutan Sanctuary with Lunch

Private Sandakan Tour & Orangutan Sanctuary with Lunch

¥14,845

Set off for Sandakan for a full day of adventure exploring the second-largest city in the state. Tour the impressive orangutan sanctuary for an up-close encounter with the fascinating animal and make stop at other points of interest at the market, observation point, and a water village.

Sepilok Orang Utan & Labuk Bay Adventure
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Sepilok Orang Utan & Labuk Bay Adventure

¥14,755

Interact with nature in this full day tour of the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, where orangutans are given a second chance at survival and the Labuk Bay mangrove forest, to observe the elusive Proboscis monkeys in their natural habitat.

Afternoon River Cruise to Kinabatangan
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Afternoon River Cruise to Kinabatangan

¥23,641

Take a cruise down the second largest river in Malaysia, encountering a staggering array of exotic plants and animals, including some endangered species of monkeys and elephants. Relax aboard a leisurely cruise boat as you encounter Borneo's most incredible wildlife.

Gomantong Cave & Sukau River Adventure
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Gomantong Cave & Sukau River Adventure

¥16,521

Enjoy the scenic countryside dotted with villages on the way to Gomantong Caves, located within the Gomantong Forest Reserve. Venture into Sabah's largest bird's-nest cave before heading to Sukau Kinabatangan River for a leisurely cruise and wildlife observation of proboscis monkeys and pygmy elephants.

Sepilok Orang Utan & Sandakan City Tour
Image for Sepilok Orang Utan & Sandakan City Tour

Sepilok Orang Utan & Sandakan City Tour

¥22,700

Itinerary This is a typical itinerary for this product Stop At: Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Sepilok Malaysia Pick up from your hotel in Sandakan, drive to Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre.

Reviews of Sandakan

4.1

Top Destination

5 - Excellent
5
5 - Excellent 35.714285714285715%
4 - Good
6
4 - Good 42.857142857142854%
3 - Okay
3
3 - Okay 21.428571428571427%
2 - Disappointing
0
2 - Disappointing 0%
1 - Terrible
0
1 - Terrible 0%

4/5 - Good

Verified traveler

Jul 23, 2019

OK place to pass through en route to other things.

4/5 - Good

Verified traveler

Jul 23, 2019

Sandakan is a gateway to other places like the Kinabatangan River and wildlife viewing. That was why I chose it for my stay but I didn’t really explore Sandakan itself.

3/5 - Okay

Verified traveler

Jun 30, 2019

Sandakan should really just be seen as a stop over place. You don’t need a “free day” as there’s nothing to explore. One day to see orangutans, sunbears, and proboscis monkeys is more than sufficient.

3/5 - Okay

Verified traveler

May 20, 2019

LIKED Sepilok, did not otherwise visit Sandakan

3/5 - Okay

Verified traveler

Mar 27, 2019

Just a stop over on your way to jungle adventures. Not worth spending a full day in sandakan. The town is boring

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveler

Feb 18, 2019

Wonderful people, nice quiet location to relax with beautiful scenery