Sandakan’s Hidden Treasures You Won’t Want to Miss

Sandakan was once known as Elopura, the old colonial capital of Borneo. But now it’s known as a base to visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. You can also visit one of the oldest buildings, St Michael’s and All Angels Church. Sandakan’s hidden treasures include Little Hong Kong and Kg Pukat Fisherman floating village. There is even an English Tea House.

Panoramic view of Sakakan, Borneo
Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia ©MDHarding

Reaching Sandakan

We flew with Malaysian Airlines from Kota Kinabalu to Lapangan Terbang Sandakan Airport. The non-stop flight took 40 minutes. The other less expensive option is to take the five-hour bus journey; it’s ideal if you have more time and are traveling on a budget. Now the wildlife watching and adventure could begin!

View of Sabah from airplane. Sandakan's hidden treasures
Malaysian Airlines over Sabah (Borneo) Malaysia ©MDHarding


If you’re looking for accommodation for an additional night, Hotel Sandakan is ideally located in the heart of the city. You can explore the oldest building and oldest church in Malaysia, the 131-year-old St Michael’s and All Angel Church.

This building and others are part of the Sandakan Heritage Trail. You can also visit Agnes Keith House and the English Tea Garden. Explore the story of the Keith family alongside a historical timeline.

While staying at Hotel Sandakan, don’t miss the delicious and fruity desserts. They also serve fluffy pancakes in the shape of fish!

Hotel Sandakan desserts.
Hotel Sandakan desserts ©MDHarding

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre & Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

We took an early flight from Kota Kinabalu and pre-arranged a private transfer on arrival in Sandakan. We arrived at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in time for the morning feeding. Don’t worry if you miss breakfast; the cafe serves amazing food.

It was a really interesting experience hearing in the visitor centre about the different orangutans, and watching them through the glass observatory. Afterwards we took a short walk to the feeding station for photographs and more observation.

Before leaving we visited the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, too. It was raining heavily that day and the walking platforms through the canopies were a bit slippery. After a short time, we could see the sun bears.

It was a great morning seeing both the orangutans and sun bears.

Top Tip: Leave any drinks and bags in the car/bus. Remember your waterproofs and camera!

Sun bear at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Sandakan's hidden treasures
Sun bear at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre ©MDHarding

Eco Jungle Stay Adventure – The Borneo Natural Bakau Bilit Resort


The little wooden bungalows at the Borneo Natural Bakau Bilit Resort were really comfortable, and in the evening it was so peaceful. The resort provides mosquito bed nets along with natural shower soap and towels.

Borneo Natural Bakau Bilit Resort bungalows. Sandakan's hidden treasures
Borneo Natural Bakau Bilit Resort bungalows


We were only able to stay one night, but two nights would have been perfect! The activities include an evening jungle walk, morning boat trip and another late afternoon boat trip. And let’s not forget the delicious afternoon tea and cake. These are all included, and each time you see something different, from monkeys and snakes to birds and bats.

It’s a great place to relax, switch off and immerse yourself in nature.

Top Tip: Remember your waterproofs, insect repellent and head torches. Rent boots in time for the evening walk, as it can get very muddy!

Monkey in a tree. Sandakan's hidden treasures
Monkey on the morning boat trip ©MDHarding

I hope you have enjoyed reading and are inspired to explore Sandakan’s hidden treasures. As always, we would love to hear from you with any comments/questions you may have. Until next time, happy travels:) x

About MichelleDeansHarding


 Michelle has a love of travel and photography, which has currently taken her to six continents. Experiencing other cultures/history and food both independently and while working on-board luxury cruise ships. Discover more about Michelle, her enthusiasm for travel and photography via:

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