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Sabah ~ Sandakan

History & People Kota Kinabalu Kinabalu Park Kudat Sandakan Wetlands Nature Retreats
Other Places Mantanani Island Pulau Tiga Danum Valley Pulau Layang Layang Sipadan Dive Islands

• History • About Sandakan • Accommodations • Getting There •

Billed as the “Gateway to Borneo’s Wildlife, Sandakan is known as the gateway for ecotourism destinations in Sabah, such as the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary, Turtle Islands Park, Kinabatangan River and Gomantong Caves.

Sandakan was ruled by the Sultan of Sulu from the Philippines in the 18th century. William Clarke Cowie, in the early 1870s, a Scottish adventure and engineer, delivered guns and ammunitions to the Sultan of Sulu.
He did this for protecting territory of the Sultan against the Spanish conquerors. In return, Cowie was granted permission by the Sultan to set up base on Pulau Timbang, in Sandakan Bay, where a small Suluk village existed. Cowie called his base Sandakan, which in Tausug (Sulu) means "the place that was pawned", but it soon came to be known as "Kampung German" after the large number of Germans who also set up posts there. An Austrian, Baron von Overbeck acquired the lease from the Sultan in 1878, and this was later sold to Alfred Dent, a Hong Kong-based publisher. It was only later that William Pryer appeared on the scene as the new British Resident. When Kampong German was accidentally razed to the ground on 15 June 1879, William B. Pryer, decided not to rebuild the village but to move to Buli Sim Sim on 21 June 1879. He named his new settlement Elopura, which means Beautiful City'. A few years later, the name was changed back to Sandakan. In 1883, the capital of the British North Borneo Company was moved from Kudat to Sandakan.

In the early years, Sandakan served as a major port for early settlers to Sabah, and most Chinese came through this port that once earned the nick-name of "Little Hong Kong". The trading post developed into a striving little town, but all business came to an abrupt end when the Japanese invaded Borneo during WWII. To liberate the town Allied bombers nearly flattened Sandakan towards the end of the war, and in retaliation the Japanese burnt whatever had survived the bombings. Sandakan virtually ceased to exist in June 1945. After WWII, British North Borneo Company relinquished its rights to the British Crown, and in 1946 under colonial administration Sabah’s capital was moved to Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu).

Almost totally destroyed in the air bombings of World War II. Sandakan has since been rebuilt and became dominant in the timber industry and the foremost port for the export of timber. It grown into second-largest city and second most important port, after Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. Timber, once a prime industry, is now relatively small. Today, it looks certain that tourism will become increasingly important to the town's future.

About Sandakan
Sandakan is a small compact and captivating town with its very own charm, friendly people and with its own intriguing history. The main waterfront street, where the Old Market is situated, is named after Pryer. Being close to the seas and a large fishing community means there's an abundance of fresh and fabulous places to eat inexpensive seafood. The Ocean King Seafood Restaurant, built on the water at the Sandy Plain, is a popular seafood eatery in Sandakan, with a view of the bay that looks out to various nearby islands in the Sulu Sea.

If you stroll through Sandakan you will find it an intriguing town full of the colours and scents of Asia. It is a truly bustling town and at times you have to push your way through crowds and merchandise that spill over into the sidewalk from the many shops, especially along Pryer Street. Here you find bargain clothing, cheap watches, jewellers, birds nests, Indonesian cigarettes, cobblers, preserved ducks and other exotic foods, and much what could be collected under the term ‘colonial ware’ in a happy profusion. The shops are mingled with restaurants that serve all sorts of delicious foods, from 'coto Makassar' over Indian ‘roti canai’ to Chinese fried noodles.

The Sandakan Central Market is where you find perhaps the most amazing and largest variety of seafood in Sabah, along with vegetables, spices and oils, cheap clothing and Indonesian sarongs. The busiest time is on Sunday, when it is tamu (open market) in Sandakan! In the harbour behind the market you find the wooden vessels of Suluk fishermen, and those of barter traders from the Philippines. Located a short walking distance from the centre of town at Kampung Buli Sim Sim, which is a large water village where the neat wooden houses are perched on stilts above the sea and reached by plank walkways.

In the evening, Sandakan offers a variety of night markets and food stalls popping up everywhere and selling local charcoal grilled specialities, from freshly caught fish and squid to chicken wings and 'Western Burgers', all served with a hot chilly sauce. Local restaurants and coffee shops are open until late, serving Chinese and Malay cuisine at its best, in convivial and unpretentious company. But the town gets quiet rather early in the evening; people in Sandakan get up early in the morning!

There are the four-star Sabah Hotel and the three-star Sandakan Hotel. A five-star hotel will be built as part of a new urban re-development project - the Sandakan Harbour Square.

Getting There
There is a highway that cuts across Sabah from the East Coast to the West Coast, linking the town with Kota Kinabalu that take visitors through a picturesque countryside.


Sandakan - Sights & Visits

Sights & Places to Visit in Sandakan

Australian WWII Memorial - Agnes Keith House - The English Tea House - The Sam Sing Kung Temple - Puh Jih Shih Buddha Temple - St Michaels & All Angels Church

Lankayan Island

The dive island paradise surrounded by a massive coral reef. It's small enough to be private and far enough to be isolated.
Lankayan is not only for discerning divers but for anyone who appreciates the tranquility of a paradise island that offers magnificent seascapes

Turtle Island Park & Selingan Island

The Turtle Island Park is a safe haven for the endangered green and hawksbill turtles. Visitors can go to Selingan Island to witness the rare opportunity to watch turtle landings and lay their eggs

Sandakan - Other Places

Other Places of Interest around Sandakan
Agop Batu Tulug - Gomantong Caves - The Sandakan Crocodile Farm

Orang Utan & Proboscis Sanctuaries

Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary
The centre allows a close-up view of these arboreal creatures and visitors can observe trainers teaching orphaned or displaced Orang Utan apes to adapt in their natural habitat.

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
This sanctuary makes an easier and more accessible place for seeing this handsome monkey only found naturally in Borneo

Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary

Kinabatangan River sustains one of the world's richest ecosystems and is the only place in Sabah or even Borneo for that matter, that the wildlife is so accessible







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[History & People] [K. Kinabalu] [Kinabalu Park] [Kudat] [Wetlands Nature Retreats] [Danum] [Sandakan] [Other Places] [Mantanani Island] [Pulau Layang Layang] [Sipadan Dive Islands] [Pulau Tiga]

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