Discover the Pristine Nature of Sandakan and Beyond

Nature calls! We mean being connected with nature by surrounding yourself with great views, breathing in the fresh scents of flowers, diving in pristine waters, and stargazing at the beautiful sky.

It’s always fun to do an outdoor activity with your friends in a secluded haven such as Sandakan, Sabah. From catching sight of orangutans in search of fruit in their habitat at the most famous Orangutan rehabilitation center to sampling the local seafood delights and sea kayaking in the crystal-clear water, you’re up for a real treat.

Here is our guide on how you can explore Sandakan and its surrounding destinations to the fullest, while having some fun with close friends.

How to Get there

First things first: secure transportation. At this point, it’s pretty easy because your only options are direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan via AirAsia and Malaysian Airlines (MAS).

Where to Stay

There is nothing more liberating than removing yourself from everyday life and going for a vacation with your best friends. Spending quality time in an unfamiliar location will somehow make you feel alive and intensely connect with your travel companions. We have selected two resorts, Sukau Rainforest Lodge and Lankayan Island Dive Resort, that are great options for creating these “holiday bubbles”.

Lankayan Island Dive Resort

About one and a half-hour boat ride north of Sandakan, this small luxury resort offers 13 beach chalets and 9 water chalets that you can choose from. Important: the main building is equipped with Wi-Fi connection.

Situated in the Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area (SIMCA), which is a No-Take Marine Protected Area category II under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Lankayan Island is one of the best diving destinations on the map today, it boasts unbelievably colorful macro, fauna, and more. If you’re lucky, you might catch sights of gigantic and harmless whale sharks upon your visit somewhere from March to May.

Lankayan Island Dive Resort, Sabah

One of the fun activities to do is to explore the Sulu Sea. Rent a few kayaks to go around the island at your own pace and be captivated by the crystal clear waters and its inhabitants.

Kayaking around Lankayan Island Dive Resort

Sukau Rainforest Lodge

Nestled along the banks of the Kinabatangan River, this award-wining eco-lodge offers more than great accommodation. Located in Borneo’s magnificent jungle, immerse yourself in the tranquility of the rainforest and listen to the sound of its inhabitants. It offers great packages, including nature trails and boat trips, as well as an opportunity to get up close to pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, orangutans and even rare bird species.

Sukau Rainforest Lodge Villa

Sukau Rainforest Lodge River Cruise

Gomantong Cave

Perhaps a walk at Gomantong Cave makes it a trip to remember. There are two cave complexes that you can explore––Black Cave and White Cave. If you want to take it easy, then it’s best to avoid the White Cave due to its inaccessible terrain.

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

Get up close with the endangered proboscis monkeys in their natural environment. Known for their large, prominent noses, a visit there will help you to learn more about this fascinating species and the efforts being made to get them off the endangered list.

Proboscis Monkeys

Sepilok Orang Utan and Sun Bear Conservation Centre

The best place to learn more about two of Malaysia’s rarest animals, the endangered Borneo sun bear and Orang Utan is at this Conservation Centre in Sepilok. The highlight of your visit will include feeding time, catching sight of the whole group getting together and interacting over their food.

Orang Utans. Photo by Heinz Rickers

Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve

Situated in Sabah’s most accessible Forest Reserve, the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve is the perfect spot to view birds and other rich flora and fauna. The 363 meters canopy walkway allows you and your friends to discover life from the treetops. If you’re up for hiking, you will find many exciting things to learn about the rainforest along the main trails.

Bornean Bristlehead. Photo: Azahari Reyes

Experience the local food and dining scene in Sandakan

It’s a fun and sumptuous affair when it comes to exploring the local dining scene. While seafood is a must-try dish there, don’t overlook the cool and hip restaurants around to keep you full and entertained throughout your trip.

Ba Lin Roof Garden Bar & Bistro

A hidden gem situated at a 46-year-old local landmark, Nak Hotel, this rooftop resto-bar serves good food and cocktails. It’s a good place for brunch and to get your groove on at night. The mouthwatering menu includes Brulee French Toast, Black Angus Mb2 Tomahawk steak, Valrhona Chocolate Blackforest tart and more.

Ocean King Seafood Restaurant

Being a sea-side town, fresh seafood is a must on your itinerary. This restaurant serves everything from deep fried calamari in curry batter to classic fried rice and fresh coconut drinks. it is an ideal place to go for both lunch and dinner.

San Da Gen Kopitiam

Indulging in delicious food is not an exception when it comes to vacationing in Sabah. This hipster retro café has more than just that. Its beautiful interior and exterior definitely elevate the experience. They even serve the traditional cakes on unique serving plates.

It’s Time For Love, Luxe and Leisure in Sabah’s Romantic Paradise

Our Last Word

These off-the-beaten track destinations and activities will not only enhance your own senses and experience, it will also forge a closer bond with your friends. Whether it is the beauty of an island resort in the Sulu Sea or the excitement of an eco-lodge in the jungle, you are guaranteed of fun and new memories.

For more information on how you can experience Sandakan to the fullest, head over to Sabah Tourism Board’s official website. From now till 14th April you stand the chance to win a RM5,000 travel voucher  to Sabah, just head on over to

Frank Nelwan

Published by
Frank Nelwan

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