With a number of 480.000 inhabitants, Sandakan is the second biggest city on Sabah. Sandakan became a big city because of wood chopping industries. Sandakan remains Sabah's second most important port, after Kota Kinabalu (KK). The port (at the Sulu sea) is important for palm oil, tobacco, cocoa, coffee and numerous other product exports. Sandakan is one of the most bustling towns in East Malaysia. The city used to be the epicenter of the Malaysian wood chop. Since this industry moved to the south, the city has become more of a starting point for several beautiful tourist destinations. In the past Sandakan was the capital city of the state of Sabah; later Kota Kinabalu became the capital of Sabah.
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Attractions in and around Sandakan
Famous attractions in Sandakan are the Sandakan War Memorial Park, Sandakan Big Market, Phu Jih Shih Temple, Labuk Bay, St Michael Cathedral, All Angels Cathedral, Buli Sim Sim and Agnes Keith House.
Outside the city the following attractions are worth a visit: Sepilok (entrance fee RM30, camera fee RM10), the canopy walk at the Rainforest Directory Centre, Turtle Island (Selingan Island), Lankayan Island, Libaran Island (for relaxing, river cruises or night fishing), Crocodile Farm, Heritage Trail, Gomantong Caves and the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary.
Sandakan is also the starting point of a trip to Sukau to visit the beautiful Kinabatangan River to do some nice river cruises. Visit Sepilok to see orangutans in this sanctuary; visit Kinabatangan to visit them in their natural habitat (if you are lucky). Besides the great apes you can also spot elephants, crocodiles, wild boars, snakes, hornbills and many other species. It is very easy to make the necessary arrangements at one of the many tour companies based in Sandakan. Our guide for example had his own 4x4 that he used to take us to Gomantong and to the Kinabatangan River.
How to get to Sandakan
The most popular way to get to Sandakan in eastern Sabah is by air as there are numerous daily flights from Kuala Lumpur. Sandakan Airport is a decent but small airport. Two airlines operate on this route; Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia. Malaysia Airlines departs from KLIA (domestic) and AirAsia departs from LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal). Sandakan is also reached by air from Kota Kinabalu; both Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia fly from this city (in 40 minutes). The city can also be reached by bus from Kota Kinabalu. We wouldn't advise taking a taxi from KK, as this will be very expensive. Transport around Sandakan usually takes place by taxi or rental car (with or without driver & guide); fare negotiation will be required as meters are not commonly available. From the city center you can also take buses to the airport, Sepilok, Buli Sim Sim and many other places.
Popular restaurants in Sandakan
- English Tea House & Restaurant
- Fat Cat V
- Ang Bang Guan
- Harbour Bistro Cafe
- Ocean King
- Hawaii Restaurant
- Sim Sim Ikan Bakar
Popular hawker centers in Sandakan are: Sandakan Central Market Food Court, Bandar Kim Fung Food Court, Mile 4 Pasar, Mile Eight Food Court and Ginza Food Garden.
Popular hotels in Sandakan
Below a list with some of the better hotels in and directly around Sandakan (view all hotels here in a new page).
Map of Sandakan
Below you can see a map of Sandakan. You can simply scroll through the map with your mouse. Use the markers on the left to zoom in or out of the city map.