Located on the east coast of Borneo, Sandakan has a long record of history stretching back to the British Colonial time. It is also the second largest city in the state of Sabah next to Kota Kinabalu.
In the present time, this historic city is a popular gateway to different eco-tourism destinations in Sabah. Besides being a gateway, Sandakan itself has various sights and activities that travelers can enjoy. Let us check our top 8 list of what to do while staying in this beautiful city and its nearby destinations.
Meet Wild Orangutans In Sepilok
One of the famous destinations among locals and tourists in Sandakan is the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center. It is located within the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve about 25 kilometers west of Sandakan. The center has two seating areas where you can view orangutans playing on a giant climbing frame. It is best to visit the place during their feeding times so you can spot wild and semi-wild orangutans come in from the forest to eat.
The center also has a rehabilitation center where injured and orphaned orangutans are taken cared of so they can have another chance to live in the wild. Around the forest, you can also spot other wildlife such as reptiles, birds, and macaques.
Discover Different Plant Species At Rainforest Discovery Center
For green-fingered and plant collectors, this second on our list will surely make you excited. Not far from the Sepilok Rehabilitation Center and still part of the Forest Reserve, Rainforest Discovery Center is Sabah’s best destination for learning about the ecosystem. The center has three acres of plant discovery garden that houses an extensive collection of the pitcher, aquatic, and desert plants, commercial crops, and hybrid orchids. It also has various types of local and exotic plants that will make your visit fun, as well as educational.
The center also offers other types of exciting activities for nature lovers, photographers, and bird watchers such as canopy walks.
Visit Selingan Turtle Island Park
While in Sandakan, you will also have the opportunity to experience a rare glimpse of hawksbill and green turtles. About 40 kilometers north of Sandakan in the Sulu Sea, The Turtle Islands Park welcomes all visitors who want to watch turtle landings that usually happens after dusk. Planning an overnight stay is advisable if you want to watch these rare species come to the coast to lay their eggs. While in the park, you can also watch how Park staff collect eggs and release baby turtles into the sea.
To arrange your visit, you need to obtain a permit from Sabah Parks coordinated by Crystal Quest agency.
Cruise Along The Longest River in Sabah
Kinabatangan River is considered as the longest in Sabah and acknowledged as the most reachable and diverse wildlife in the whole Southeast Asian region. This 560 kilometers river that runs across Sabah state and Borneo is one of the best ways to spot wildlife such as crocodiles, hornbills, hawks, eagles, and more. It is also among the only two places on Earth where we can spot ten primate species. The river cruise has numerous attractions that will keep you amazed by the wonders of nature.
Many local tour companies offer guided tours which include meals, transportation, and accommodation but homestay programs are also available if you wish to experience their local way of living. It is the perfect way to spend your vacation if you are fed up with the city life.
Scuba Diving At Lankayan Island
Sandakan is not only famous for wildlife sightings but also for underwater activities. The city has various beach destinations which are suitable for scuba diving, and one of them is the Lankayan Island. This whole and peaceful tropical island more than an hour away by boat from Sandakan is among the most popular destinations for diving enthusiasts. The island’s diving sites boast with fascinating wrecks and faunas. It is also a popular spot for sighting enormous and gentle whale sharks. You can also spot stingrays, giant jawfish, anemones, and other marine wildlife.
If you don’t know how to dive, you can still enjoy the island with other types of activities such as kayaking, turtle hatchery visit, and snorkeling.
Walk Along Sim Sim Water Village
A stroll in this water village on stilts is also included on our list of things to do in Sandakan. The place is among the most visited places for locals and tourists who want to wander around and at the same time learn about the culture of Sandakan’s original town. You can observe how fishers and local villagers make their living in this picturesque water village. After strolling, you can also dine in one of the famous seafood restaurants in the area.
Dine & Relax At Balin Rooftop Garden Bar
Balin Rooftop garden is one of the best hangout places to visit if you want to eat and relax after a long day of exploring the city of Sandakan. Located at the top of Nak Hotel, this rooftop restaurant gives visitors a fantastic view of the city overlooking the sea. The place has a great atmosphere most especially during the sunset. They also serve a variety of mouthwatering Western food and a wide range of beverages at reasonable prices.
Balin Rooftop Garden Bar is also one of the best places for romantic dating.
Have a Feast At D’Sandakan Seafood Paradise
Sandakan is also known as the seafood paradise in Sabah. Among the top reasons why people are exploring the city is to have a taste of their freshest catch of seafood. D’Sandakan Seafood Paradise is one of the must-visit restaurants to eat different seafood choices at affordable rates. It is a great place to pig out with friends and families.
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As a traveler and a writer, Jonalyn is always fascinated how every city and culture is unique on its own. She loves meeting new people, listening to different stories, and learning new cultures. Every travel adventure, either planned or unplanned, for her is an opportunity to discover new things. She wants to share positivity in every story she tells and make everyone believe that the earth is such a beautiful place to live. Besides traveling and writing, she spends most of her time reaching out to people and sharing them how to find genuine happiness in life.