Top Things to Do in Sandakan

Sandakan Malaysia Tourist Spot
Vacationing in Sandakan, which is one of Malaysia’s most exotic locales, is a city that has an interesting past where it was once sought out by visitors from around the world. They come to tour their fishing-friendly waterways and diving in the pearl-rich waters. Outside of its tropical environment, Sandakan is also a bustling city that has a welcoming populace and an active nightlife.

Things To Do in Sandakan

Gomantong Caves Sandankan Malaysia

Spelunk in Gomantong Caves

Exploration is the name of the game in the Gomantong Caves. This cave system is where the region’s famous bird’s nest soup is harvested from the nests of swiftlets. One of the more interesting aspects of this cave is its rich and diverse ecosystem; it’s not for the faint of heart because not only are there millions of bats and birds, but there is also a healthy amount of insects roaming the cave freely.

These include giant crickets, several types of centipedes and millipedes, guano-feasting cockroaches, and even some tick species – it’s a bug lover’s paradise. Over the years, the various bats and birds are actually expanding the size of the cavern, and as a result, the cave system is truly humongous and ripe for exploration.

Get more information about the Gomantong Caves in Sandakan at MySabah.

Shop Like a Local in Sandakan Central Market

If you really want to understand what it’s like to live in this area, then you should consider checking out Sandakan Central Market; you’ll be exposed to fishermen selling their fresh catches, more than a few people hawking various wares, and you’ll be able to buy some fresh fruits and vegetables from the area. The whole market is in a large, three-story building that has both retail opportunities and more than a few delicious places to eat.

The market, like other markets around the world, has hours that start very early; the venue opens up at 4:00 AM and closes up shop around 6:30 PM, daily.

Find out more about the Sandakan Central Market in Sandakan at Discover Sabah.

Help Conserve in the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Sun bears are among the most beautiful creatures that inhabit Malaysia, and unfortunately, some have been raised in captivity and don’t quite know how to live in the wild. The Sun Bear Conservation Centre is specifically designed to help these bears learn how to live in nature once again.

Run by conversationalist, the center is designed to provide education to its visitors and a chance to see the sun bears in their natural habitat. The sun bear is an endangered species, and watching them at play and interacting with each other can help you understand the value of conservation. During your visit, the team at the facility will tell you more about the species, and you’ll be able to stand on wooden observation decks in order to get to know the creatures.

Learn more about the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sandakan by Rough Guides.

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Top Things to See in Sandakan

Sandakan Malaysia - Puu Jih Shih Temple

Explore Puu Jih Shih Temple

Sandakan has experienced a lot of cultural influences throughout the centuries, and this temple, which is of Chinese Buddhist origin, is a perfect example of this. Entering this towering Sandakan temple will provide a sense of serenity, but don’t let the ancient design fool you – this temple was actually constructed in the late eighties. Throughout the temple, you’ll smell ceremonial incense, and you’ll also be presented with gold-colored images of dragons and golden Buddhas; it’s truly a unique experience for a visitor.

Learn more about Puu Jih Shih Temple in Sandakan by Kwong Fei’s Blog.

Tour Kinabatangan River

If you really want to experience the various species of animals in the Sandakan area, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by booking a Kinabatangan River tour. There’s just an abundance of animals in this area around the mangroves, and just traveling down the river will also expose you to some truly beautiful natural vistas. While it isn’t a great idea to attempt one of these tours between the months of December and February (the wet season), just about any other time of year can provide a truly memorable experience. In fact, you can even book a lodge and spend a few days just getting to know the river; you won’t regret the decision.

Learn more about the Kinabatangan River in Sandakan by The Vlog Expedition.

Hike in Rainforest Discovery Centre

Do you enjoy trail exploration? The Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sandakan is a great place to get to see some of the growing things in this area of Malaysia. This part of Sandakan is crisscrossed by a network of trails that will expose you to some of the beautiful wildlife species that call this area home, so don’t forget to bring a camera. This discovery center will help you explore the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, but don’t worry, you won’t get lost because every trail provides information so that you always know where you’re going.

Learn more about the Rainforest Discover Centre in Sandakan by Joyfun.

Monkey Around in Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

sandankan tourist spot - monkey tour

Nature is beautiful, and if you’re looking to see some of nature’s most interesting animals in their natural environment, then you should check out the Proboscis monkey sanctuary in Labuk Bay. Probosci’s monkeys are known for their unique-looking noses, and the sanctuary is nestled deep in a mangrove forest that you’ll have to navigate in order to see the amazing animals.

You’ll be able to watch the monkeys feed from observation platforms during two preset feeding times. Since the sanctuary is in a place that’s filled with nature, you’ll also be able to see some colorful birds as they go about their business throughout the mangroves.

Want to learn more about this sanctuary in Sandakan? Check out Revealing World’s article.

Where to stay in Sandakan Malaysia

Food to Try in Sandakan

Kedai Makan Kong Teck

The sea and Sandakan are closely linked, so it should be no surprise that the residents of the area love their seafood. Kedai Makan Kong Teck is a place that serves up wontons, fish balls, and several tofu-infused dishes that are absolutely delicious. Want to really try a local favorite style of food? Check out the clear soup and fish balls options that are available in this restaurant; the fish is typically fresh and the soup is flavorful.

Learn more about Kedai Makan Kong Teck in Sandakan by FoodPoi.

Sim Sim Bridge no. 7

The Sim SIm area of Sandakan is actually the earliest settlement in the area. In this village, the houses are on stilts due to the consistent flooding during the wet season, but this is also an area of Sandakan where you can get some of the most authentic food. Sim Sim Bridge no.7 is well-known for their spring noodles, which is something of a delicacy in the area. The eatery also serves century egg dumplings and the delicious curry laska as well.

Learn more about Sim Sim Bridge no.7 in Sandakan by SabahaEats.

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Facts and Statistics of Sandakan

Malaysia Flag - Tourist Spots

  • The city was formerly known as Elopura.
  • Sandakan is a major port for coffee, oil, and tobacco.
  • Sandakan used to be the capital of Sabah until it was moved to Kota Kinabalu.
  • Sandakan literally means “the place that was pawned” in Suluk.
  • Sandakan was completely destroyed during World War II, but it was rebuilt.


Sandakan has a lot to offer a visitor. The city is rich in opportunities to explore the area, to get to know the locals and to satisfy your desire for good food. If you are looking for a place to visit that is truly unique and has some of the best exploration opportunities in Malaysia, then you should definitely consider Sandakan.


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