Mention the state of Sabah and the thought of Sandakan would usually follow suit. This is unsurprising given the town’s rich history and its significance in contributing to the region. Formerly known as Elopura, the town which is located on the east coast of Sabah, was once the administrative capital of the old British North Borneo. Its strategic geographical location encouraged the British North Borneo Company to develop new settlements as far back as 1879, resulting in its growth as a commercial centre for trading. Unsurprisingly, much dispute was made over control over the town, resulting in struggles between several colonial powers in the region, until stability was established by the Madrid Protocol of 1885. While the war has shifted the capital to Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan’s importance persists as a point for oil, coffee, timber exports and lives on through the manufacturing and fishing industries present.
Within the town itself, Sandakan is connected by roads maintained by the government. From the west coast of Sabah, Sandakan is only accessible through Federal Route 22 while from the south, Sandakan can be connected through Lahad Datu, Kunak, Semporna and Tawau, which forms part of the Pan Borneo Highway. Bus, minivans and taxi services to and from can be found consistently. By air, Sandakan is privileged to have its own airport, with a lone international flight connecting it to its sister city in the Philippines, Zamboanga City. On the local scene, the airport caters to flights from Kota Kinabalu (40 mins), Kuching, Kuala Lumpur as well as the occasional flights to other rural areas in East Malaysia. Both the roads and airport are currently being improved in anticipation for larger crowds and the demands that come with them. A point to note is while a ferry terminal exists to connect the town to places such as Zamboanga City and Tawi-Tawi, there have been calls for its temporary suspension owing to the influx of illegal immigrants.
This trail may perhaps be your best route in discovering Sandakan’s treasures. Beginning from the century-old Masjid Jamik near Wisma Sandakan, travellers will then make their way to Pryer Memorial, in honour of the town’s founder. A walk up the Stairs of a Hundred Steps will then lead you to the house of Agnes Keith, celebrated author of Land Below the Wind. The house provides a glimpse of life in the North Borneo of old, one well experienced with tea at the gardens of the English Tea House next door, topped with breezy breath-taking views overlooking Sandakan and it’s harbour. From there, continue on to St. Michael's and All Angels Church, Sam Sing Kung (Three Saints) Temple and Goddess of Mercy Temple. All in all, this trip promises to demonstrate the diversity and history of Sandakan, at a pace most convenient to all.
It has been said that any trip to Borneo would be incomplete without a trek through the rainforests and on doing so, it would arguably also be amiss to not catch sight of the ‘one of a kind’ creature, the endangered orangutan. Founded in 1964, the 43-km square large Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is currently the home of approximately 60-80 orangutans, living freely within the centre. Here, visitors will get the opportunity to look at rehabilitation efforts such as medical care, diet supplementation as well as training of skills considered vital especially for the young orphaned infants. While there can never be guarantees of wild orangutan sightings, animal lovers can nevertheless take solace in knowing that every contribution made will go towards the survival of the species for generations to come.
More than just a roof over one’s head, Four Points by Sheraton is a great option to consider for lodging within Sandakan. Strategically located in the heart of the town, guests are welcomed to choose from a selection of rooms ranging from Deluxe, Club to Executive Suites, all with reliable Wi-Fi connection and an optional breakfast selection. In addition, having a 24-hour manned front desk ensures that assistance is never far away. While there, don’t forget to drop by their restaurant and swimming pool, complete with a sunset view that promises to live long in your memories.
Almost in any aspect of life, location is key and here in Sabah Hotel Sandakan, it is a value worthy to note. With attractions such as the Agnes Keith Home and St Michael and All Angels Church in striking distance, guests are thus welcomed to stay from a selection of rooms ranging from Junior, Deluxe to Superior classes, all with reliable free Wi-Fi and with the optional breakfast selection. To add, the premises also offer services of convenience such as a free parking lot, a restaurant surrounded by lush greeneries and a swimming pool catering to individuals and whole families alike.