Confession time – I wasn’t blown away by Sandakan BUT it is a fantastic base if you are wanting to visit Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.
It’s a 30 minute flight from Kota Kinabalu (KK) and has a selection of hotels, eateries and shopping malls to feed your appetite for Western culture. It’s more rustic than KK but I found refuge in the bar at Four Points Hotel and enjoyed a cappuccino or seven and watched the sun go down over the waterfront.
Unfortunately, as part of our tour we were booked into S’kan Styles Hotel just around the corner which had tiny rooms, no storage and stunk of damp, however, the shower was the best we found in Borneo. I would definitely stay at the Four Points Hotel if I were to go again.
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
Without a doubt this was one of the highlights of the trip. I enjoyed it so much that I written a dedicated post which you can find here.
Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
Situated just a short drive from Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is this little gem of a place. After the crowds at Sepilok this seemed relatively quiet and there was loads of room to move around the platform and watch the proboscis monkeys at feeding time. Having enjoyed the morning feeding at Sepilok we then headed to Labuk Bay for the 11.30am feeding which was perfect timing.
There were also plenty of long tailed macaques hanging around waiting for the scraps left behind by the proboscis monkeys.
Sandakan Memorial Park
When I heard that we were going to a war memorial I thought ‘oh no, not another boring museum’. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
It is a beautiful park built on the site of the original second world war prisoner of war camp and the starting point of the Sandakan Death Marches. Near the entrance you can see the rusted old machines that were used during the war giving you a sense of why the park is here. There is also a pavilion which houses an exhibition about the POW camp and the death marches.
After reading about the harrowing events I spent an hour wandering around the park on my own, taking a moment of reflection and soaking up the beauty of the nature all around.
Sampling Local Delicacies – Stinky Durian Fruit
Every hotel had signs up saying that durian fruit was banned, I’d seen them in the market and they looked like massive lychees and I was curious to find out what they tasted like. Surely they couldn’t be that stinky? Wrong. They are absolutely revolting in both taste and smell.
Firstly, you need some sort of machete to get into it.
Once opened, the smell wafts towards you making you instantly feel nauseous. If you are brave, you work through the sick barrier and pick up a piece.
If you are braver still you can put this hideous little thing in your mouth.
I did. It was disgusting. And once tasted it never seems to go away. I was still getting flashbacks in the evening. Our guide loved it though and was delighted that the rest of us hated it as he happily munched the rest of the fruit.