Orang Utan is an endangered species of ape. It shared 96.4% of human genes. It was estimated that only about 15000 of them survied in the wild. Most of them live in the treetops of the Malaysian and Indonesian Rainforests. You'll appreciate the effort of the staff there helping this lovely animal learn their survival skills and put them back in the wild
This is a large and very busy wet market in a double story building Sandakan city centre.
This Market has everything!
We were with a guide, so wandered around with him, having a look, asking questions, and getting to sample some of the unusual fruits (to us)
There was a huge selection of all types of Meats and Seafoods. In the Fish section, even though I didn't want to buy, the people were so friendly and wanted to have their photo's taking holding their "prize" fish!
On the2nd floor of the building, it is clothing and accessories, shoes, bags and Crafts for sale.
A great market to go and have a look at!
The Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre was established in 1964. Its main purpose was to rehabilitate orphaned orang-utans whose habitat was disrupted by logging, deforestation and poaching. Included are orang-utans that were rescued or confiscated from unlicensed owners. The orang-utans are trained to adapt to the jungle environment so that they could be eventually released to the wild. This is done by providing the animals with monotonous food, to encourage them to forage in the jungle on their own.
Located about 25 kilometres to the west of Sandakan, the centre is within the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, which covers an area of 5529 hectares. I had wanted to come here ever since I saw a programme about it, a few years ago on TV and had looked forward to getting here throughout my 6 weeks in Malaysia and it was virtually the last place I visited in the country. We turned up with the crowds for the 10 am feeding frenzy and watched in amazement as the orang-utans lazily made their way right past us with one particular chap doing multiple head-over-heel rolls along the boardwalk to the feeding platform. We then watched in amusement as the ever mischievous macaques stole whatever food they could from underneath the platform, right in front of the orang-utans! As well as seeing these wonderful creatures, you can also visit a Visitors Centre and Shop. For more photos and some video clips, visit my Sepilok page below:
Open: 9am-12pm & 2-4pm daily. Feeding times are at 10am & 3pm.
Admission: RM30 for foreigner plus RM10 for cameras/camcorders.
Masjid Jamek Sandakan is a mosque in the centre of Sandakan just along the road from the museum. It was originally built in the 1890's as a place of worship for the Indian Muslims in Sandakan. Muslims sought refuge here during the Second World War, and it even acted as a hiding place for a few Europeans.
Agnes Keith House was once the home of the famous American writer Agnes Newton Keith and is located on the hill overlooking Sandakan with the Sulu Sea behind it. Agnes Keith came to live in Sabah with her husband in the 1930's. While she was in Sabah, Keith wrote several novels, the most famous of which was Land Below the Wind, written in 1939.
Agnes Keith's house was destroyed during the Second World War. During that time, Agnes Keith endured imprisonment under the Japanese, while at the same time trying to raise her young son. This is documented in the house.
In 1946, following the war, the government rebuilt it on the same foundations. The Keiths continued to stay in the house, as Mr Keith worked for the government as the conservator of forests. Their son, George, was born in the house. After the Keiths left Sabah in 1952, the house continued to be known as the Agnes Keith House. It fell into disrepair by the 1990's, but was eventually restored and conserved as a heritage building, providing visitors a glimpse of life during the British administration of North Borneo. There is also an English Tea House within the compound - a departure from Agnes Keith's attempt to make her home more American and less British.
Admission: RM15 when bought with the ticket to the Sabah Museum in Kota Kinabalu but it has to be on the same day which is just impossible and silly. I got quite annoyed about this and complained at the tourist information office which is next to the Sandakan Heritage Museum.
This museum wasn't mentioned in my copy of Lonely Planet but was opened on 5th December 2003 to document the history of Sandakan. Sandakan had a head start over other cities in Asia in terms of development - it was the capital of British North Borneo from 1884 until the end of the Second World War. In 1923, it was installed with an automatic telephone exchange, and this was even before Hong Kong and Shanghai got theirs.
The Sandakan Heritage Museum is housed inside Wisma Warisan, which was a British government building during colonial times. The office of the British Resident was located on the first floor of the building, while on the ground floor, there was a post office where the Tourist Information Centre is located today. The museum is fairly small and simple and includes some black and white photos of various city scenes from the past, pictures of North Borneo stamps, and the British Residents desk.
Located in a small square outside the Sandakan Heritage Museum, this memorial is dedicated to William B. Pryer (1845-1899) who founded Sandakan in 1879. He named his new settlement Elopura, which means Beautiful City. A few years later, the name reverted back to Sandakan. The name Elopura still refers to a Sabah state constituency in Sandakan.
The Sam Sing Kung Temple is a Chinese temple that faces the municipal field of Sandakan. The name "Sam Sing Kung" means "three saints temple", and refers to Kwan Woon Cheung, the saint of righteousness, goddess Tin Hou, a deity worshipped by fishermen, and Emperor Min Cheong, a patron deity of students, worshipped for good examination results.
The temple was built by the four main Chinese communities in Sandakan, namely the Hakka, Cantonese, Hainanese and Teochew and was completed in 1887, making it the oldest structure still standing in the city.
Located on a small hill overlooking the western part of the seafront area of the city, St Michael's and All Angels Church was the first building in Sabah to be built of stone. Work began in 1893, but it was only completed thirty years later after the porch was completed. The building was designed by a New Zealander, B.W. Mountfort and conscripted prisoners were used to build the church. The structure was built with a belian timberframe, followed by bricks and then stones. The stones came from nearby Kampung Buli Sim Sim. In addition, white stones were also imported from Hong Kong. The nave and transepts were dedicated on 30 September 1906, in conjunction with the Michaelmas celebration. The church was locked when I visited but there is a guy who lives opposite who can let you in.
Nearly all people who come to Sandakan visit Sepilok to view the orangutans, but most bypass the Rainforest Discovery Center. If you come to visit one, you should take the time to visit the other.
The Discovery Building and ticket sales are open until 5pm. However once you have purchased your ticket (10MYR), you may walk the grounds as late as you wish.
The Discovery Center Building has may information posters and displays teaching visitors about the flora and fauna of the jungles. There are displays on the primates, the reptiles, the flowers, trees, insects, etc.
Once you leave the building, the rest of the park has a series of walking paths, bird observation towers (some going ~30m high), a suspension bridge over the pond and a well maintained garden of jungle flowers. Include there are things like pitcher plants, orchids, and more.
During our walks, we saw dozens of beautiful birds and a few flying squirrels too.
At several of the hotels, tour operators and the Tourist Information Center, you can pick up a free Sandakan Map. On this map is a walking circuit called the Heritage Trail.
The walking portion of it will take a little more than an hour, but then you must account for how much time you will want to spend at any of the sights. For reference, it took us about 2.5 hours to complete the entire circuit including stops. One of the sights is a large staircase behind the Sandakan Museum called "Stairs of 100 Steps", so portions of this may not be available to handicapped persons.
Points of interest are:
1. Jamek Mosque - just opposite the Sandakan Hotel, starting point of the trail
2. William Pryer Monument - opposite the Museum, he was the founder of modern Sandakan
3. Stairs with Hundred Steps - I actually counted more than 120
4. WWII Chinese Memorial - a modest plaque to the Chinese
5. Japanese Cemetery - see my other tip for more details
6. Agnes Keith's House
7. Rotary Observation Pavilion - see my main page photo for the view
8. Ancient Graveyard - possibly my favorite stop on the trail. It rather high on the hill above Sandakan and has a mixture of ancient Christian and Chinese graves
9. Old Stairs - the pedestrian way up the hill before the road was made
10. Goddess of Mercy Chinese Temple
11. St Michael's & All Angels Church - worth a good look at
12. Sam Sing Kung Chinese Temple - worth a few minutes
13. Malaysia Fountain - simply the fountain in the middle of the traffic circle, just below the museum
14. Sandakan Heritage Museum - Free entrance to see photographs of the old city since most artifacts were destroyed by fire set by the Japanese.
Most people come to Sandakan to see the orangutans at Sepilok, but one unique opportunity is to see the nesting turtles on Palau Selingan.
Reservations are highly recommended as most days are spots are sold out 3~5 days in advance. There is limited spaces since the eco-lodge on the island has a fixed number of rooms.
The visit is a full 24-hour trip, leaving Sandakan about 9am and returning the next day ~10am. Depending on who you book your tour through, there are a few various routes they may take, for example visiting Libaran Island.
All tour agents in Sandakan can book this trip for you, but prices may vary. Regardless, it is rather costly (I saw 450~700 MYR per person). For tips once you get on the island, visit my Palau Selingan page.
During the Japanese occupation, Sandakan was home of a large POW and internment camp. The truth of the conditions and treatment of those detained was almost completely stricken from the history books except for the fact that a six people survived to tell the real truth (two of which died shortly thereafter).
The Japanese forced the imprisoned to hard labor and rationed their food below sustainable levels, both against the degrees of international accords of war.
More that 2700 Australians and a few others perished under the Japanese. Deaths came from malnutrition, disease, hard labor and the final blow came when the Japanese knew of the impending surrender, they forced death marches through the heart of Borneo to Ranau. Trying to erase any evidence of their cruel treatment, the Japanese destroyed the POW camps and let fire to the entire city of Sandakan.
The Australian Memorial sits on the site where the POW camp once stood. There are a few recovered artifacts, like artillery cannons and a steam furnace which supplied electricity to the camp.
Entrance is free and hours are between 9am ~ 5pm.
They hold a special service on Anzac Day.
Due to the battles of WWII and the Japanese occupation, it is no stretch of the imagination that there were many war related casualties on both sides of the conflict. Up the hill behind Sandakan is a large Japanese Cemetery.
Built on a rather steep hill, the individual graves are well manicured and worth a visit. All have their own rather small flat pavilion at the foot of each grave, allowing family a place to pay their respects and leave any gifts.
Entrance is free and opening hours are same as daylight.
The Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre was set up as a means of housing injured or orphaned Orang-Utans, caring for them and nursing them back to health before they can be released into the forest.
Many Orang-Utans that end up here have strayed into logging camps or been rescued from captivity. Many are orphaned babies that cannot survive in the forest alone.
1ST STOP......The Visitor Reception Centre where you register and pay the entrance fee. Collect a 'Walking Guide' which show the location of trails and points of interest (available at minimum charge). You may have to leave some personal items here.
Ticketing counter is opened from 9.00am-11.00am and 2.00pm-3.30pm. daily.
2nd......Go to the Video presentation room to watch a short video on the plight of the Orangutan..... you can do this either before or after.
3rd.........Next, a walk along a raised wooden walkway to the observation deck where Orangutans would hopefully be. On the way, our guide pointed out Orangutan nests in the Trees. We arrived, to find three Orangutans.
The biggest Male Orangutan was there, and a couple of younger ones. Our guide said the all the other Orangutans were afraid of this male, so that is why there weren't more.
The keeper came with Banana's and milk, and all of them seemed to enjoy the free meal! After having the feed, they disappeared back into the Jungle, and we made our way back to the entrance.
As we were there in off season, hardly anybody was watching, our guide said in peak periods, it is packed with people
FEEDING TIMES ARE AT.....10.00am and 3.00pm.
OPEN......... Morning : 9.00 am - 11.00 am
Afternoon: 2.00 pm - 3.30 pm
ADMISSION to the park is RM30/RM15 (adult/child) as well as a RM10 camera fee
Although there is a high possibility of seeing Orang Utans during the feeding time, wildlife sightings can not guaranteed as the Orang Utans roam freely in the jungle.