Sandakan, Sabah Vacation Guide 

Sandakan City Guide

Information, guide and tips for Sabah vacation and travelling in Sandakan - Hotel to stay, what to do and places to go for sightseeing.


Sandakan is a port city located in the mouth of Sandakan Bay, facing the Sulu Sea in the east coast of Sabah. Sandakan is one of the oldest surviving cities in Sabah, having been established in 1879 by an Englishman, William B. Pryer. Originally, named as Elopura which means 'beautiful city', Elopura thrived under the rule of the British and become an important trading post for the British in North Borneo. Elopura was later renamed as Sandakan which means 'a place that was pawned' in Sulu. It became the capital city of Sabah (or North Borneo) when the British North Borneo Chartered Company (BNBCC) was appointed by the British Government to administer North Borneo in 1881. The city have been used by the British since then as their administrative center until 1946 when it suffered heavy damage by Allied bombings and the burning of the town's building by the retreating Japanese army during the World War II.

After World War II, the city was rebuilt and many shops were back in business within a few years as the people tried to get back with their life after the hardship and suffering of the war where many of the locals died. Today, it is the second largest city in Sabah with a population of more than half a million people. It is the administrative center for the Sandakan division and is an important gateway to the surrounding areas.

The city is also an important stop-over for visitors coming to visit the area unique nature and wildlife during their Sabah vacation. Just outside the city, with less than an hour road journey, visitors can visit the forest reserves and animal sanctuary to view exotic animals such as orangutan, proboscis monkey, pygmy elephant and many more. Visitors can also go spelunking in the limestone caves which are famous for its birds’ nests. A short boat ride will bring visitors to the many beautiful pristine tropical island paradise located off its coast. The city has flourished to become the prime eco-tourism destination and was aptly declared as the "Nature City of Sabah' in 2004.

Sandakan City aerial view
Sandakan City aerial view

Getting There: By road, Sandakan is about 185 miles (300 km) from Kota Kinabalu and is about six to eight hour ride across some hilly and winding road. The beautiful and picturesque views along the roads will help to break up the monotony of the ride during your Sabah vacation. By air, the flight from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan takes about 40 minutes.

Sandakan Crocodile Farm:

Largest Crocodile Farm in Malaysia with over 3,000 crocodiles.


Agnes Keith House:

The house which the famous American journalist/writer, Agnes Newton Keith stays in Sandakan during the 1930's to the 1950's.


Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary :

The place to view up close the endangered and unique protruding big nose Proboscis monkey in their natural habitat.


Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary Center :

The place to view up close the endangered orangutan in their natural habitat.


Rainforest Discovery Center (RDC), Sandakan :

The place to learn about rainforest's flora and faunas.


Sandakan Memorial Park:

A park to rememeber the suffering and death of the British and Australian POW.


Kinabatangan River And Cruise:

A cruise along Sabah's longest river.


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