Top 12 Attractions in Sandakan (2024)


Sandakan is a beautiful city located in the state of Sabah. With a year-round temperate climate, you can do plenty of things, such as enjoying the scenery from your veranda or jungle trekking. With so many options of activities here, these are some of the top attractions in Sandakan you should check out.

1. Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

For starters, you should visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, a unique facility located on an island near Gunung Malipo National Park. It is a sanctuary for orangutans that have been poached or captured illegally from their natural habitat, and you get to see it up close, observing them in their most authentic state. There are also some truly breathtaking natural wonders like caves filled with stalactites and other prehistoric-looking formations that are more than 4 million years old here, one of the must-visit attractions in Sandakan.

2. Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

If we are talking about the best attractions in Sandakan, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is on the list. It is an organisation that seeks out these beautiful but endangered creatures and is a part of the Sepilok Rescue Centre. Like the orangutans, these innocent bears are popular poaching targets due to their small size. Besides ensuring their return to nature, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is a haven for them.

3. Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

Due to logging activities, these adorable Proboscis monkeys are teetering on the brink of extinction. The Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary strives toward protecting these fascinating creatures through breeding and releases them back into reserves or other areas untouched by humans. Not only does the sanctuary have a feeding platform for Proboscis Monkeys, but it also has Silver Leaf Monkeys. In addition to these primates – visitors can see Oriental Pied Hornbills as well.

4. Puu Jih Shih Temple

Puu Jih Shih Temple

One of the most beautiful attractions in Sandakan and temples is Puu Jih Shih Temple. It is distinctive from other buildings, with vibrant red and gold decorations and elegant lanterns lighting up the courtyard. The enchanting beauty also made this temple appear in The Amazing Race 4 in 2003.

When you visit this temple, you will not only witness the fascinating craftwork but also enjoy the panoramic view of Sandakan Bay because it is located high on a hill. There are also stairs leading down to what seems like endless vast beauty: lush greens surrounded by blue waters below yet higher mountains beyond – every photographer’s dream. It is also said that visitors are allowed (but not obliged) to wander around and take pictures, though it is generally understood that respect should be given to those performing prayers.

5. Agnes Keith House

Agnes Keith House

The Agnes Keith House is a two-storey museum that was once the home of an American writer, Agnès Foka-Keith, who lived here from 1935 to 1952 while writing about Sandakan’s natural beauty during World War 2-era. This museum, built in colonial style with wood from trees cut down around Sandakan Bay, displays her famous works and insights into Sandakan’s history. You’ll need to climb at least 100 steps of narrow winding stairs to get to this unique site, one of the historical attractions in Sandakan.

6. Selingan Turtle Island

Selingan Turtle Island

The Selingan Turtle Island is a conservation area off the Sandakan coast established to take care of young turtles before releasing them back to their natural habitat when they are older. There is an excellent hatchery where you can see the baby turtles as they emerge from eggs and grow up in captivity before being released at sea, apart from basic accommodations on-site for those who wish to stay longer. The release of the turtles to the sea happens in late July or early August, so make sure not to miss out on this beautiful experience.

7. Gomantong Cave (Gua Gomantong)

Gomantong Cave (Gua Gomantong)

Gomantong Cave is one of the largest cave systems in all of Sabah and another one of the must-visit attractions in Sandakan. This cave has two main cave complexes – the Black Cave (as high as 90 metres) and the White Cave (where valuable swiftlets’ nests are located). Only the former is accessible to the public, while the latter requires some extreme caving.

Apart from that, you will also see bats with a population in the millions in this cave, which is evident at night when they come out hunting for food. You can also find swiftlets here, whose valuable nests are eventually processed into edible bird’s nest soup once left behind.

8. English Tea House and Restaurant

English Tea House and Restaurant

If you are looking for a traditional English cafe in Sandakan, you should visit the English Tea House and Restaurant. This Sandakan attraction is modelled after a gorgeous colonial-style villa encircled by pretty gardens and shady trees, perfect for those who want some downtime. Visitors can relax on the private terrace, enjoying the beautiful scenery while sipping a tasty beverage from the cafe’s selection and enjoying some English meals like fish and chips and stewed meats.

9. Buli Sim Sim Water Village

Buli Sim Sim Water Village

For those who want to get close to nature, Buli Sim Sim Water Village is one of the best options out there. This Sandakan attraction is unique because it stands on stilts over the water and features delicious seafood restaurants with signature dishes. Once you are done filling your stomach with delicious food, you can walk along the village to enjoy the sounds of waves.

10. Sandakan Memorial Park

Sandakan Memorial Park

The Sandakan Memorial Park is an important historical site in Sabah built to remember prisoners who died during a forced march from Sandakan to Ranau during World War 2. This park is well-maintained and beautifully divided into lush gardens with floral exhibits and ponds filled with colourful fish. A large part of what makes it so interesting is the feature of all the different trees around Asia, such as the Oricon Cedar and Banyan trees.

11. Rainforest Discovery Centre

Rainforest Discovery Centre

Sabah is blessed with one of the most beautiful rainforests in the world, and Rainforest Discovery Centre was introduced to educate the public about the uniqueness and importance of this forest. Over here, you can explore the different jungle trails and also the steel canopy walk. On top of that, if you are an avid birdwatcher, you will be glad to know that not only can you see rare bird species like the Bornean Bristlehead, Black and Crimson Pitta, and Rhinoceros Hornbill, the annual Borneo Bird Festival is also held here (usually at the end of the year).

12. St. Michael’s and All Angels Church

St. Michael’s and All Angels Church

St. Michael’s and All Angels Church is one of the oldest attractions in Sabah and is also one of the few surviving pre-war buildings. This stone church is a relic of colonial times and is recognised as one of the world’s heritage sites. Inside the church, you will see a chapel with beautiful stained glass windows (donated by Australia) that allows sunlight to shine in and bring colours to the wall.

Sandakan is an unnervingly beautiful place with abundant natural resources and experiences. If you’re unsure where to start your journey in Malaysia but want something extraordinary, you can visit this city, and the many attractions in Sandakan are sure to fulfil that.