Sandakan is the second largest city located on the east coast of Sabah. Sandakan is well known as the gateway for ecotourism destinations where fauna, flora and cultural heritage are the main attractions.
Out of many interesting places around Sandakan such as Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, Turtle Island Park, Kinabatangan River and Gomantong Caves, the top tourist spot is Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre.
Tourists come all the way just to have close contact with orang utan, ‘Man of the forest’ in Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre.
Just 5 minutes walk to Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, Sepilok Jungle Resort offers comfortable lodging for visitors around the world to get close but un-intrusive glimpse of this nature paradise.
The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre was established in 1964 to return orphaned “apes back to the wild. The centre was being administered by the wildlife section of the Forestry Department which in 1988 was upgraded as a department under the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Development. All administration and management was given to the new Wildlife Department of Sabah.
The objectives of the project have expanded in recent years. While Orangutan rehabilitation is stilt the primary goal at Sepilok, present aims include public education on conservation, research and assistance to other endangered species such as captive breeding of the rare and endangered rhinoceros.
This centre is now under the supervision of more than 37 staff, including a Wildlife Officer who is also officer-in-charge of the centre, a veterinary doctor, wildlife rangers and general workers.
The centre has a reception centre, information centre, offices for wildlife staff, an animal clinic, quarantine area and enclosures for various animals such as the rhinoceros.
Sepilok, renowned for its orangutan rehabilitation project, has stimulated a greater local and international awareness of the protection laws for endangered species, and the Centre has resulted in an increase in detection and confiscation of illegally held captive animals
As Sandakan was almost totally destroyed in World War II, there are few surviving buildings of any age. Some of the main sights today include:
- Agnes Keith House, also known as Newlands – two-storey home of local author Agnes Newton Keith and her husband Harry Keith (Conservator of Forests and Curator of the North Borneo Museum). The Keiths lived on this site from 1930 to 1952: they rebuilt the present house on the foundations of their pre-war home which had been destroyed in World War II. Mrs. Keith wrote several books about Sabah and its people, including Land Below the Wind, Three Came Home, and White Man Returns, and a novel, Beloved Exiles
- Sandakan War Memorial Park – built on site of the Taman Rimba, Mile 7 prisoner-of-war (POW) camp
- Japanese Cemetery – housing a memorial to the Japanese war dead on Borneo
- Parish of St Michael and All Angels – this beautiful granite church was built in 1897 and was one of Sandakan’s few surviving pre-war buildings. It was recognized as one of the world’s heritage since year 2005.
- Puu Jih Shih Buddhist Temple – completed in 1987, this fiery red and gold temple overlooks the town centre
- Sam Sing Kung Temple – completed in 1887, it is the oldest building in Sandakan
- Sandakan Mosque – completed in 1988, it lies next to the bay and Kampung Buli Sim Sim
- Kampung Buli Sim Sim – stilt fishing village on the original site of Sandakan town
- Sandakan Market – one of the largest and busiest in Sabah
- Crocodile Farm – located 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) out of town, it houses more than 2,000 of the reptiles in concrete pools
- Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary – a perfect Proboscis Monkey observation spot for tourists who wants to have a closer look at these monkeys in their natural habitat
- Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre
- Berhala Island
- Selingan Island (Turtle Island)
- Gomantong Cave