Sandakan on the island of Borneo has something for everyone, whether you are interested in WWII history, getting up close with an Orangutan, or just simply soaking up the sun.
Sandakan is a paradise for animal lovers looking to relax and recharge during their Malaysia holidays. The second largest city in Sabah, after Kota Kinabalu, the town of Sandakan is predominantly used as a base for exploring local islands and attractions. With a fascinating history of changing hands – from the Spanish to the British with French and German occupation at times – the town offers a unique glimpse into the prosperity and subsequent downfall of this Malaysian city. From 1879 Sandakan started to flourish and welcomed the migration of Chinese from British Hong Kong, however when the Japanese occupied the city the Chinese halted their migration, and with allied bombing starting in 1944 – a plan to flush out the Japanese in the region – the town was all but destroyed. Today the Chinese and Japanese cemeteries are tourist attractions for those staying in Sandakan for a few days during their Malaysia trip. Travellers also spend time at Sandakan Memorial Park, which marks the site of a Japanese POW camp and the starting point for the region’s death marches to Ranau. The park is now a tranquil escape from the heat and humidity of Sandakan as it has been converted into a series of gardens and orchard. The park also contains a central pavilion with accounts and photos from survivors, personnel, inmates and liberators. Today it’s possible to follow the original death march route as it has become a memorial trail; click here for more information. Today, Sandakan is one of Malaysia’s main ports for oil, tobacco, coffee, sago and timber exports. The city’s main economy, however, is drawn from tourism. Near to Sandakan is one of Malaysia’s most visited tourist attractions, the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary, as well as Turtle Islands National Park, the unforgettable Gomantong Caves, the Sun Bear Conservation Centre, Nature Lodge Kinabatangan and many more rainforest lodges and nature escapes. Even if you only plan to spend a few days of your Malaysian holiday in Borneo, we recommend speaking to our travel experts and planning some extra time in the area to see everything on offer. While we include a trip to the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary in many of our Malaysia holiday packages, we can also assist in organising trips to the other sites listed above. Whether you’re a history buff or a nature lover, Sandakan provides an excellent point to begin your trip throughout Borneo. The delicious food, views over the water, variety of day trips and interesting mix of cemeteries and colonial structures let your imagination run wild.