Sandakan, Malaysia

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Sandakan, Malaysia

Region: Sabah

Geographic Coordinates: 5.838800, 118.117000
Temperature Range: 24.0°C to 32.0°C (75°F to 90°F)
Climate: Tropical climate with high humidity and rainfall throughout the year, with no distinct seasons.
Population: 396290
Language: Malay

Sandakan is a coastal city situated in the eastern part of Sabah, Malaysia. It is located on the northeastern coast of Borneo Island and is renowned for its diverse culture, Natural beauty and rich history. The British North Borneo Company established Sandakan in 1879 as a trading post which quickly became an important center for rubber and timber production. The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is one of Sandakan’s most famous attractions. Established in 1964, This centre helps rehabilitate orphaned orangutans rescued from logging sites or kept as pets.

Visitors can witness these magnificent creatures up close during feeding times or while they play and swing through the trees. Another must-visit attraction in Sandakan is the Agnes Keith House Museum. This museum was once home to American author Agnes Keith who lived there with her husband Harry Keith during World War II. The house has been preserved as a museum showcasing their life during that time period including their personal belongings such as photographs, Books, Furniture pieces and other items.

Sandakan also offers several opportunities to explore its rich cultural heritage with visits to temples such as Puu Jih Shih Temple which offers stunning views over Sandakan Bay or St Michael’s Church which dates back to 1893 making it one of Sabah’s oldest churches. For nature lovers, There are plenty of options available too! One such place would be Kinabatangan River where you can take a river cruise down this famous river which hosts an abundance of wildlife including proboscis monkeys, Pygmy elephants and more than 200 species of birds!

Another option would be Turtle Islands Park where visitors can observe sea turtles laying eggs on pristine white sand beaches! but not leastly – foodies will love exploring Sandakan’s culinary scene! With fresh seafood being readily available due to its coastal location; visitors should definitely try local dishes such as the famous seafood noodle dish, Sang Nyuk Mian or fresh seafood dishes like grilled fish and prawns. Overall, Sandakan is a charming city that offers a perfect blend of history, Culture, Nature and culinary delights. It is definitely worth visiting for anyone looking to explore Sabah’s rich heritage!

Important Landmarks

  1. Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
  2. Sandakan Memorial Park
  3. Agnes Keith House
  4. St Michael and All Angels Church
  5. Puu Jih Shih Temple
  6. Sim-Sim Water Village
  7. Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
  8. Crocodile Farm Sandakan
  9. Buli Sim Sim Water Village
  10. Rainforest Discovery Centre

Primary Industries

  1. Agriculture: Sandakan is known for its agricultural industry, especially palm oil plantations.
  2. Tourism: Sandakan is a popular tourist destination due to its proximity to wildlife reserves and natural attractions such as the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and Turtle Island Park.
  3. Fisheries: The city has a thriving fishing industry due to its location near the Sulu Sea.
  4. Timber: Sandakan has a long history of timber production, with many sawmills still operating in the area.
  5. Manufacturing: There are several manufacturing plants in Sandakan that produce products such as textiles, electronic components, and food products.
  6. Service sector: The service sector is also an important part of the economy in Sandakan, with businesses such as banking and finance, healthcare services, education services contributing significantly towards its growth.

Noteable History

  1. Sandakan Death Marches: During World War II, thousands of Allied prisoners of war were forced to march from Sandakan to Ranau by the Japanese army. The marches resulted in the deaths of over 2,400 prisoners due to disease, starvation and brutal treatment.
  2. Agnes Newton Keith: An American author who lived in Sandakan during World War II and wrote about her experiences in her book Three Came Home. She was imprisoned by the Japanese army for three years before being liberated by Allied forces.
  3. William Pryer: A British colonial administrator who served as the first resident magistrate of Sandakan in 1879 played a significant role in developing the town’s infrastructure and economy during his tenure.
  4. St Michael’s Church: A historic church built-in 1893 that is considered one of Sandakan’s most iconic landmarks.
  5. Sabah Museum: Located in Sandakan, this museum showcases Sabah’s rich cultural heritage with exhibits on local history, art and anthropology.
  6. Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre: Established near Sandakan in 1964, this centre is dedicated to rehabilitating orphaned or injured orangutans and releasing them back into their natural habitat.
  7. Sir James Brooke: The first White Rajah of Sarawak who visited Sandakan during his travels through Borneo in the mid-19th century.
  8. Sim Wong Hoo: A Malaysian entrepreneur who founded Creative Technology Ltd., a multinational technology company known for its Sound Blaster sound cards.
  9. Turtle Islands Park: Located off the coast near Sandakan, it is a protected area comprising three islands where sea turtles come ashore to lay eggs every year.
  10. Masjid Jamek: One of the oldest mosques located at Jalan Leila, built around early 1900s.

Museums and Things To See

  1. Sandakan Memorial Park
  2. Agnes Keith House
  3. St. Michael’s and All Angels Church
  4. Puu Jih Shih Temple
  5. Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
  6. Rainforest Discovery Centre
  7. Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
  8. Sim Sim Water Village
  9. Sandakan Heritage Trail
  10. Buli Sim-Sim Water Village Floating Mosque

Sports Teams

  1. Sandakan Football Association (SFA) – The SFA is the governing body for football in Sandakan. The association was formed in 1979 and has been instrumental in promoting football at grassroots levels. The SFA organizes various leagues and tournaments throughout the year to promote football among young people.
  2. Sandakan Rugby Club – The Sandakan Rugby Club was established in 2007 and has since become one of the most popular sports clubs in Sabah. The club participates regularly in local rugby competitions and has also represented Sabah at national tournaments.
  3. Sandakan Basketball Association (SBA) – The SBA was established to promote basketball among young people in Sandakan. The association organizes regular basketball events such as tournaments, camps, clinics to develop skills among players.
  4. Sandakan Hockey Association (SHA) – The SHA was founded to promote hockey games within the community of Sandakan and its surrounding areas. The association provides training sessions for aspiring hockey players from different age groups.
  5. Sandakan Taekwondo Association – This association aims to provide opportunities for individuals who are interested to learn taekwondo as well as those who want to compete on a higher level. Their main goal is not only focusing on physical fitness but also discipline, self-control, and respect towards others.

Cultural Events

  1. Sandakan Regatta Festival is a well-known event that honors the city’s maritime heritage by featuring boat races, water sports, and cultural performances.
  2. Sandakan Food Festival is a culinary celebration that highlights the diverse cuisines of Sandakan, including Chinese, Malay, and indigenous dishes.
  3. Harvest Festival is an annual celebration of Kadazandusun culture showcasing traditional dances, music performances, and a beauty pageant.
  4. Dragon Boat Festival takes place every year with dragon boat races on the Sibuga River in Sandakan.
  5. Sabah Fest is an annual cultural festival held in Kota Kinabalu but also celebrated in other parts of Sabah like Sandakan. It showcases the diverse cultures of Sabah through dance performances and exhibitions.
  6. Pesta Gambus (Lute Festival) happens annually where musicians from across Malaysia gather to showcase their skills using a traditional lute instrument called gambus.
  7. Borneo Bird Festival is an international bird conservation event held annually in Sabah where bird enthusiasts come together to celebrate and learn about birds found in Borneo including those found around the Sandakan area such as Sepilok Forest Reserve which is home to various species of birds like hornbills and kingfishers among others.

Note: Due to COVID-19 pandemic some events might be cancelled or postponed until further notice.


  • Fresh seafood: Sandakan is known for its fresh seafood, especially prawns, crabs, and fish. Some popular seafood restaurants in the area are Sim-Sim Seafood Village and Ocean King Seafood Restaurant.
  • Bak kut teh: This is a pork rib soup dish that is popular in Malaysia. Some of the best places to try it in Sandakan are Kedai Kopi Yee Fung and Restoran Sin Hwa.
  • Nasi Lemak: This is a rice dish cooked with coconut milk and served with various sides such as fried chicken or sambal (spicy sauce). Try it at Restoran Sri Utara or Restoran City View.
  • Satay: Skewered meat that is grilled over charcoal fire and served with peanut sauce. You can find it at many street food stalls or at Satay House Sandakan.
  • Chinese cuisine: There are many Chinese restaurants in Sandakan that serve delicious dishes such as dim sum, roasted duck, and stir-fried noodles. Some popular ones include New Mui Fatt Restaurant and Hong Kong Recipe Restaurant.
  • Local desserts: Don’t miss out on trying some of the local desserts such as cendol (shaved ice dessert), pulut panggang (grilled glutinous rice cake), and kuih lapis (layered cake). You can find them at most food markets or street stalls around town!

  • Parks and Recreation

    1. Sandakan Memorial Park
    2. Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
    3. Rainforest Discovery Centre
    4. Puu Jih Shih Temple
    5. Agnes Keith House and Museum
    6. Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
    7. Crocodile Farm and Mini Zoo Taman Buaya Sandakan
    8. Bukit Buli Sim Sim Water Village
    9. St Michael’s and All Angels Church
    10. Sandakan Central Market


    Enjoy The Journey.

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