Table of Content
- Overview of Sandakan
- How to get to Sandakan
- What to prepare before going Sandakan
- When is the best time to visit Sandakan
- Best Places to stay in Sandakan
- Best Places to visit Sandakan
- Places of attraction to visit Sandakan
- Sandakan Food Guide
- Shopping in Sandakan
- Average Cost to travel in Sandakan
- How to travel around Sandakan
- Sandakan Travel Tips
- Closing Thought
Overview of Sandakan
Known as ‘Little Hong Kong’, Sandakan is the second largest city in Sabah. Ranging from seeing elephants, orangutans to enjoying seafood, Sandakan can satisfy your needs!
How to get to Sandakan?
There are more than 20 flights a day flying from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Sandakan. It is best to choose a direct flight. The journey takes around 2 hours 30 minutes plus. There will be immigration counter once you have landed, you have to show your identity card or passport.
What to prepare before going to Sandakan?
If you plan to go for watersport,
- Bug spray
- Motion sickness pill (travelling to island)
Other items such as
- Money (Prepare extra for hotel deposit and tips)
- Boarding ticket
- Identity card
When is the best time to visit Sandakan
Based on my experience, the best time to go is from December to February every year. Try to avoid May as it is the hottest month for Sandakan.
Best places to stay in Sandakan
It is always great to choose accommodation based on budget, number of people and comfort level.
Affordable accommodations below RM80 per night with good reviews (more than 4 stars for google review)
If you want to experience hostel life and meet friends, this is a great place to stay. You get to enjoy free wifi, Rooftop terrace with seating and hammocks, common area with TV, secure luggage lock up facilities, laundry service, fully equipped kitchen,24-hour coffee or tea and family games.
Address: Lot 108, 1st Floor, Block HS-11, Sandakan Harbour Square, 90000 Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia
The price starts from RM50 per day
- 7min drive from Agnes Keith House
- 11min drive from Puu Jih Syh Temple
- 8 min walk from Sandakan heritage trail
This is a 2 star hotel. You get to enjoy free wifi, drinking water and free parking here. It is strategically located in Bandar Indah part of Sandakan.
The price starts from RM80 per day
- 23 minutes drive away from Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center
- 8 minutes drive away from Sandakan Rainforest Park
- 9 minutes drive away from Indah Jaya Waterpark
You get to enjoy free parking, wifi, luggage storage, contactless check in/ check out, laundry service, access to safety deposit boxes while staying here. They have plenty of room options based on your budget and number of family members.
The price starts from RM80 per night. It is also located nearby
- 7 minutes away from Agnes Keith House
- 6 min aways from Puu Jih Syh Temple
- 7 min from Sandakan Heritage Museum
Good accommodations with excellent reviews
If you want a glamping experience, you can try out their 2 bedroom glamping villa which starts from RM2,000 per night. It can accommodate 4 to 6 people per night. Else, you can opt for their chalet. Staying here gives you the convenience to tour around Sepilok Orangutan rehabilitation centre, Bornean Sun Bear conservation centre and other attractions.
I like this hotel particularly as they have a chic lobby lounge and a karaoke bar. You should definitely try out their recreational clubs and sweat it out after many delicious meals.If you are thinking of meetings or team building events, Sabah hotel also caters to your organisation needs. It is also strategically located nearby
- 6 min drive from St. Michael’s and All Angels Church, Sandakan
- 9 min drive from Bao Gong Temple
- 6 min drive from Sandakan Central Market
Best places to visit Sandakan
- Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center
Known as one of the biggest and well-known orang utan sanctuary, you can see about 70+ orang utan walking freely within the forest reserve. If you love the orangutan, feel free to adopt one.
There are two daily feeding sessions daily, 10am and 3pm. So, it is recommended to arrive at the center either 8.45am or 1.45pm so you can have plenty of time to purchase a ticket, watch the presentation and videos.
There will be a feeding platform which is 60m away from the viewing platform where two rangers will bring lots of fruits and sugarcane. It is no guarantee that orangutan will come as they are all wild. Do not get disappointed if you don’t see any orangutan during feeding time, but I always believe if they do not appear, it means they don’t count on the feeding to survive.
The entrance fee is as follow:
Do note that all camera and camera phones are charged for RM10.
Source: Orangutan Appeal UK
- Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center
We always think bears are very huge in size. But not for sunbears, they are the smallest bear in the world. These sunbears are endangered from extinction due to forest degradation, illegal hunting and poaching. In this center, there are 44 sunbears in total. You can read each of their stories while visiting the centre.
You can also adopt the sun bear from RM600 a month. They always need volunteers to help them run their operations. You can opt for their 2 weeks or 4 weeks volunteer events.
Some events you will do as a volunteer:
The entrance fee is as follow:
Operation hour: 9am to 3.30pm
- Rainforest discovery center
Source: the Star
Always wanted to explore the forest and be close to mother nature, this is the right place. You can explore three things here, the wildlife, the bird and the plant. It is home to 1,000 species of birds here. You will see a lot of bird lovers and nature lovers gather here. This is the only place with well-preserved tropical forest and allows visitors to travel easily.
The entrance fee is as follow:
Night walk is also available on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6pm. It is best to make a reservation and check the latest pricing.
- Firefly Mangrove cruise
Embark on a starry sunset cruise where you can see kingfisher, long tail macaques, sea eagles and crocodile and other unique species. The whole journey takes around 4 hours with dinner included. The mangrove view is truly magical. Their itinerary is as followed:
|5pm||Arrive at pangkalan B&B for Tea|
|5.15pm||Play local village games with the Villagers|
|5.30pm||Cruise along the mangroves and experience the Crab Trap activity|
|6pm||Cruise to Pamaguan Island to enjoy the sunset|
|7.20pm||Back to the Jetty to have dinner at the B&B|
Source: Sepilok Forest Edge Resort
- Selingan Turtle Island
Selingan island is dedicated to preserving turtles. It is best to visit anytime from July to October when the sea conditions are calmer and more turtle landings. Besides witnessing mother turtles laying eggs, you can also experience collecting the egg, tagging the mother turtle and be touched when you release the cute baby turtles back to sea.
You can watch the mother turtle laying eggs closely.
It is highly recommended to stay here for 2 days and 1 night as the turtle usually comes ashore after dusk. Do note that only 60 visitors are allowed to stay overnight, so please make your booking earlier. You will find green and hawksbill turtles nesting here.
Places of attraction in Sandakan
- Lankayan Island
Lankayan island is a small tropical island with many species of fauna and flora .You should definitely spend 3 days and 2 nights here, staying in Lankayan Island Dive resort.
You can enjoy on-site restaurants, airport transportation and breakfast buffett staying in this restaurant. It is a one and a half hour boat ride from Sandakan port. For divers, you have all the luxury to dive and explore the wonderful marine life. For non divers, you can snorkel and kayak to keep yourself busy.
- Sandakan Heritage Trail
You can find lots of green plants here. It is worth going and washing your lungs. Walking here, you can explore buildings such as Majlis Jamek, Heritage Museum, English Teahouse and Restaurant, Tam Kong Temples etc.
You will first start with the 100-year old Majlis Jamek, then go to the Pryer Memorial. The Pryer memorial is magnificent with its granite structure that is built to honour the founder of Sandakan. Next, you will go to the Stairs with A Hundred Steps where you can have a full view of Sandakan. You will then go to the Agnes Keith House. There are many places of worships nearby such as St Michael, All Angels Church and Three Saint temple.
- Puu Jih Syh Temple
Located at the hilltop of Tanah Merah, standing here allows you to view the whole Sandakan coastal view. It is a beautiful ornate temple with a peaceful atmosphere, definitely worth visiting and taking some good photos. Besides, this temple was featured in the Amazing Race 4 in 2003. You will see many buddha statues lining up at both sides of its entrance road. There is also a Buddhist swastika in the temple garden.
- Agnes Keith House
It is about 10km away from the Sandakan airport. This heritage house offers insight to life during British colonial history and tells a story about a remarkable lady, her books and her family.
Living room view
The English Teahouse is just beside the house.
Free for kids under 12, Malaysia student, senior citizens and disabled
- Indah Jaya Waterpark
The weather is hot and we know you want a getaway. Indah Jaya Waterpark is suitable for families. There are many theme parks here for both adults and children. You can definitely spend a day here. There are 4 slides in total. It is best to bring some snacks, water and food to avoid the crowd during lunch in the restaurant. You can also get your swimming stuff in one of their shops.
Do note that the waterpark is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
|Wednesday to Friday Admission Fee||RM12|
|Weekend Admission Fee||RM14|
- St. Michael’s and All Angels Church
It is one of the most historical buildings in Sandakan and still operates until now. Many people come here to take graduation, wedding and special ceremony photos. This church is also part of Sandakan Heritage trail. Besides, it is also the first stone building in Sabah.
Sandakan Food Guide
- Sim Sim Water Village
You must try their century egg dumplings and springy noodles.
You can also mix and match your bowl ingredients with fresh seafood or pork. Definitely a mouthwatering dish that you should try. Come early else their century egg dumplings are sold out.
Address: Lorong H, Jalam Sim Sim
Operating hour: 7.30am to 11am
- Kedai Makan Kong Teck
When you come here, you just need to order their fish noodles.
The texture is chewy. All you need to make a decision is to choose what soup base you want. Please come earlier as well as it will sell out very quickly.
Address: Jalan Pak Tak, Mile 7,90000 Sandakan.
- Persatuan Perikanan Sandakan (Sandakan Fisherman’s Association)
The seafood here is so good and fresh. You must try this if you come to Sandakan. I need to prebook the meal one month in advance before I come as the restaurant owners only serve four tables each day. Dining here allows you to eat fresh crab, fish and prawn whole heartedly! I think it is around RM80 per person from my last visit.
Address: Persatuan Perikanan Sandakan,Pusat Bandar Sandakan, 90000 Sandakan.
Operating hour: Tuesday is off, other days 6.30am to 5pm
- Good Taste Bak Ku Teh
Only in Sandakan, you get to enjoy bak ku teh with seafood. Do note that Bak Ku Teh here is slightly different and the soup base does not come with solely herbs. It is a pepper soup base, best to come during rainy days!
Address: Lorong Bandar Nam Tung 2,Pusat Bandar Sandakan 90000 Sandakan.
- English Teahouse & Restaurant
Enjoy a cup of English tea and some desserts with your friend here.
It is best for a high tea session with your loved ones as well. They also serve some Asian cuisine here.
These are some of the dishes they offer.
Address: 2002, Jalan Istana, 90000 Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia
Shopping in Sandakan
- Harbour Mall Sandakan
It is one of the popular and big malls in Sandakan. You can come here for karaoke or cinema.
- Gentingmas Mall
You can get lots of affordable stuff here. Many people see this mall as a supermarket to get their groceries settled.
- Sandakan Central Market
I get all my dried seafood here and bring them back as souvenirs to friends and families. The price is affordable here and most importantly the seafood is fresh.
Average Cost to travel in Sandakan
|Flight||Accomodation||Meal||Attraction||Transport||Average daily cost (RM)|
How to travel around Sandakan
- Taxi: such as grab while travelling within the town or airport pickup
- Rent a car
- Labuk Bus Station
Address: Jalan Coastal , Sandakan Harbour Square , 90000 Sandakan , Sabah, Malaysia
- Express Bus Station Sandakan
Sandakan Travel Tips
While eating at restaurants near the sea, it is always best to be cautious about the surroundings. Many years ago, there was a famous kidnap incident that caused the death of some rich businessmen.
While travelling alone, try not to go to places which are quiet or doggy. There might be pickpockets around.
Sandakan is a wonderful place to explore for wildlife and seafood. It is best to rent a car to drive around Sandakan. The price for seafood and tourist attraction places are affordable.