Story by SANDRA HERNANDEZ
Sandakan has been Borneo Island’s best kept secret… until now.
Life can get too busy and despite the allure of posh commercialism and delightful epicurean adventures, we reach a tipping point where our inner selves long for a calm respite – a getaway where we can rest our busy minds, momentarily curb our fast-paced lives and attune ourselves to the beauty of nature.
Head east of Borneo Island
In a world of endless choices and 24/7 connectivity, Sandakan offers an uncomplicated intermission. It brings us back to the core of life – nature!
Sandakan is the second largest city in Sabah, located on the east coast of Borneo Island. During the British colonial period, Sandakan was the capital of the British North Borneo and was at some point the notorious site of a World War II Japanese airfield that was built by forced labour of Javanese civilians and allied prisoners of war.
Today, Sandakan is the epitome of tranquillity that’s fast gaining popularity as an emerging MICE destination in Southeast Asia. With its historical and cultural past as backdrops of an enriching stay, Sandakan is modernising. A newly-opened Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan is proof that the city is on its way to attract more visitors, particularly those who wish to refresh or get away while getting in touch with nature to fortify the mind and body. The presence of Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan boosted the city’s capability to host meetings and conferences with its 1600 square metres of event space – a space worth noticing by event and meeting planners.
Sandakan’s heritage trail
Experiencing Sandakan’s heritage trail is similar to going for a personal retreat. One looks back at the past to move forward into the future. A few must-see attractions include:
SANDAKAN MEMORIAL PARK
As part of the site of the original Sandakan prisoner of war (POW) camp, the Sandakan Memorial Park commemorates the bravery of the 2400 Australian and British POWs and the atrocity of war. By August 1945, only six POWs – all Australians, survived the death marches the men were subjected to.
ST MICHAEL’S AND ALL ANGELS CHURCH
St Michael’s Church was the first stone building erected on Sabah soil. It was designed by a New Zealander, BW Mounfort, and was completed in 13 years. The church houses the commemorative window of remembrance, a stained glass masterpiece by famed artist Philip Handel from Australia, in memory of the Australian and British soldiers who died at the death marches.
The unadulterated beauty of Sandakan is what captivates, and no trip to Sandakan is complete without going to a few eco-tourism stops that can offer some of the most fun and socially-responsible team-building activities.
SEPILOK ORANG UTAN SANCTUARY
Set in the lush 4300 hectare Kabili-Sepilok sanctuary, the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary rehabilitates orphaned baby orang utans to fend for themselves in the wild. Visitors can witness the sanctuary rangers in action during the scheduled feeding times.
BORNEO SUN BEAR CONSERVATION CENTRE
Looking into the needs of one of the most neglected mammals in Southeast Asia, the sun bears, visitors can sponsor one of these mammals or help build a natural habitat for them for a truly meaningful CSR group activity.
RAINFOREST DISCOVERY CENTRE
Learn and appreciate the rainforest ecology and biodiversity while walking along a network of self-guided trails in the forest. Night walks along the trail provide opportunities to witness nocturnal wildlife such as tarsiers, mouse deer, geckoes, stick insects and civets.