Formerly known as Elopura, Sandakan is the former capital of British North Borneo. This hub of wildlife, nature and history offers plenty for people of all ages to see and do. The history of the charming town is also a rather interesting one, and can be traced back to the early 1870s. All in all, this gem of a place offers an interesting mix of everything, making for a wonderful holiday destination. From caves to parks and islands, there are endless choices for those who wish to get closer to nature!
Sandakan Rainforest Park
The Sandakan Rainforest Park, also known as Kebun Cina, is where early botanical experiments were carried out. Currently covering an area of 148.6 hectares, the park used to be much bigger, but is still very much alive and filled with tropical wildlife to this day. There are around 110 different specimens to be found here, making this the ultimate spot for nature lovers. Visitors can either swing by to spot unique birds and insects or carnivorous pitcher plants while hiking along the gorgeous trails. If that’s not your thing, simply take the time to admire the scenic rainforest views from the suspension bridge in the park or enrich your knowledge with a visit to the exhibition building. Located about 9 km away from the city center of Sandakan, the best way to get here is by car.
Unnamed Rd, 90000 Sandakan, Sabah
Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre
Situated about 25 kilometers from Sandakan town, this center has been around since 1964 and was set up with the intention of rehabilitating orphaned and confiscated orangutans. There are now 60-80 wild orangutans who call this reserve home, with another 25 orphaned orangutans taken care of by trained staff in the reserve’s nursery center. Visitors will get to learn how our furry friends get readjusted to the wild and see a daily feeding session as well. Those who are lucky may also get the chance to see other creatures like sun bears, gibbons, and rhinos as the center occasionally provides treatment for them too. The main aim of the center is to educate people about the rehabilitation process, so you can be assured that this will be an eye-opening and enriching experience – especially for the young ones! You can get tickets for this experience here.
Sabah Wildlife Department, W.D.T. 200, Sandakan, Jalan Sepilok, Sepilok, 90000 Sandakan, Sabah
Friday-Wednesday, 9am-11am and 2pm-3pm; Thursday, 9am-11am and 2pm-4pm
Sandakan Heritage Trail
You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy this one, just enjoy the sights. The Sandakan Heritage Trail connects several historical sites in the town of Sandakan. Easy to find, the trail is marked with red footprints on white concrete tiles showing the words “Heritage Trail”. There are currently eleven stations on the trail, including the Sandakan Jamek Mosque, the 100-step staircase, Agnes Keith House, and Sam Sing Kung Temple. Other than it being a fun learning experience, the best part is probably the fact that you can enjoy this at your own pace! No need to worry about keeping up with the rest of the group or worry about losing your way.
Selingan Turtle Island
The Turtle Island Park is made up of three small islands, of which Selingan Turtle Island is the main island for tourists. This conservation area off the coast of Sandakan is dedicated to taking care of turtles and releasing them into the wild. Visit during March-July if you want to see baby turtles going into the sea to start their new life or during July-October to see turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs. Those who like cute hatchlings will love the turtle hatchery as you get to watch turtle eggs hatch! If you feel like a quick visit isn’t enough, there is also accommodation available here so you can stay close to these sweet creatures. As with other rehabilitation centers, visitors will be able to learn and understand more about conservation activities, making this a wholesome learning experience.
Selingan Island, Sabah
As one of the biggest caves in Sabah, Gomantong Cave is known for its huge bat population. It is believed that there are millions of these creatures here, and the main chamber of the cave is full of swiftlets at night. The nests these swiftlets leave behind are pretty special – they are what we use to make bird’s nest soup! Visitors should take note that there are two main chambers here, one of which is open to the public, while the other is difficult to access. On the outside, there are thousands of acres of virgin rainforest with plenty of wildlife around.
Gomantong Hill, Sandakan, Sabah
Saturday-Thursday, 8am-1pm and 2pm-5pm; Friday, 8am-11.30am and 2pm-5pm
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