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
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.