Skip to content

Sandakan!

April 4, 2016

The urban jungle had been taking a heavy toll of late.  Wanting to get away from KL’s traffic and haze we headed to a place we fell in love with last year during the Rhythms of Rimba Festival–Sandakan.  Three hours away by airplane, Sandakan is a sleepy town where nature abounds and tranquility prevails.

Rainforest Discovery Centre

Rainforest Discovery Centre

We started our trip at the Sepilok B & B,  which is a lovely place to decompress and enjoy nature.  The accommodations are very basic, but also spacious and clean.  The Pitta Lodge easily accommodated our family of five with two bedrooms, a living room, balcony and small kitchen.  I love falling asleep (and waking up) to the sounds of nature, and that’s exactly what you can do here.  The food is also very tasty and the staff extremely warm and friendly. We truly enjoyed our time there.

A snapshot of the living room in the Hornbill Lodge

A snapshot of the living room in the Hornbill Lodge

Another advantage to staying at the Sepilok B & B is that is close to several attractions.  The Rainforest Discovery Centre is within walking distance and is a great place for bird watching.  Guided tours are available.  At dusk we headed to the observation point and spotted a flying squirrel.  These monkey-sized squirrels climb to the treetops and essentially  base jump down, which is a spectacular thing to behold.

Sandakan at dusk

Sandakan at dusk

The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre and Seplilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre are adjacent destinations that are a short  (and traffic-free!) car ride away.  Here you can spot rescued sun bears lazing about and get an up-close view of rehabilitated orangutans.  For the kids, seeing the outdoor nursery (the very one featured on the TV show Meet the Orangutans) where baby orangutans tease and play with each other was a highlight of the trip.

Orangutans roam freely around this center.

Orangutans roam freely around this center.

While this is an amazing place, it is heartbreaking to remember that the very reason these animals need rescuing is due to humans destroying their habitat.  Seeing these animals up-close really brought home how precious wildlife is, and how we need to take steps everyday to help remedy the destruction.

Sun Bears at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Sun Bears at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Orangutan in action

The next night we left the comfort of the B & B to head deep into the jungle to visit the Danau Girang Field Research Centre.  It took about 2 hours by car followed by 40 minutes by boat to reach the centre, which is doing amazing work in the conservation of countless rainforest species.

Danau Girang Field Research Centre

Danau Girang Field Research Centre

Accommodations here are a bit rough for city-dwellers like us, with shared showers and dorm-style rooms, no hot water, and extremely limited electricity (the generator is turned off at night, and runs for only a few hours during the day), BUT the experience was like no other.  We took a boat ride along the river and spotted crocodiles, wild boars, hornbills, sea eagles, proboscis monkeys, long tailed macaques, silvery lutungs,  to name a few.

Sea eagles in the treetops.

Crocodile!

Proboscis Monkeys in the wildProboscis Monkeys in the wild

Proboscis Monkeys in the wild

wild boars in borneo

Monitor Lizard

Monitor Lizard

Then at night we took a hike through the rainforest to see beautiful birds sleeping on branches, a pit viper, a tarantula, frogs, scorpions, and many more wild creatures.  The rainforest is a different place at night.  Our guides pointed out animals hidden in plain sight and were exceedingly patient with all of our questions.

Boat ride Borneo

Vibrant and teeming with life, we navigated the darkness with headlamps firmly in place.  Experiencing this wild landscape in a completely new way was an unforgettable experience.

Wild orangutan at Danau Girang

Wild orangutan at Danau Girang

As we left Danau Girang we spotted a wild orangutan in the trees above us.

After our incredible night at Danau Girang, we headed back to Sepilok for the remainder of our time in Sandakan.

The food at Lindung Gallery Restaurant was incredible.

The food at Lindung Gallery Restaurant was incredible.

The food and atmosphere at Lindung Gallery Restaurant was so good we visited twice during our stay.  The five of us are vegans/vegetarians while our accompanying friends are not, but we all found something to love on the menu.

Sim Sim Village Restaruant

Sim Sim Village Restaruant

Sandakan is famous for its seafood, so for our friends the trip would not be complete without a visit to a local seafood place.  Sim Sim Village offered delicious vegetarian options while also satisfying our friends’ cravings.  Set in a water village, this open air restaurant is a great place to relax and enjoy the sunset.

View from Balin Rooftop Bar & Bistro

View from Balin Rooftop Bar & Bistro

Another excellent spot enjoy a great meal and beautiful view is the Balin Rooftop Bar & Bistro. Brought to you by the same folks behind Lindung Gallery Restaurant, this little place offers sumptuous desserts, creative cocktails, and a bird’s eye view of Sandakan.  It’s definitely worth stopping in to treat yourself to something great.

proboscis monkey

proboscis monkey sandakan

There are very few places in the world where you can see proboscis monkeys.  Their dietary needs are so specific that they don’t fare well in captivity.  The Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary feeds these wild monkeys twice a day on platforms such that onlookers can get a great view of these strange creatures. Proboscis monkeys have features so unique and  mannerisms so human like, that they are fascinating to watch.  Don’t forget to bring sunscreen and a hat/umbrella as the feeding platforms are located within the grounds of a palm oil plantation and it can be quite a hot walk in the afternoon.

hornbill in flight

sea eagles in flight

We headed to a local market to pick up some fresh fruit to enjoy.  Sandikan market

sandikan marketMuch like the town itself, the market was a friendly and colorful place to spend some time.

sandikan market

This kind lady asked me to take her picture.

This kind lady asked me to take her picture.

sandakan

A trip to Sandakan was just what the doctor ordered.  After being fully immersed in the sights and sounds of nature, we felt ready to once again face the urban landscape.  If you get the chance I highly recommend visiting this engaging and wholly interesting town.  Whether your pleasure is food, bird watching, or nature walks, Sandakan will definitely leave you wishing you had a couple more days to spend in this enchanting place.

Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu

Sandakan was a refreshing adventure!

 

Advertisements
2 Comments leave one →
  1. Annie Welsh permalink
    May 27, 2016 12:52 am

    Hello, Melany! I am Annie (Arend’s Malay instructor). Arend’s mentioned your blog to me when I was teaching him…and I remembered browsing through some of your posts, reading some very interesting stories, and enjoying the beautiful pictures that you share. As I sat in front of my computer tonight and recounting each of my student at FSI, again I remember Arend mentioned ‘wanderlust’ and that brought me back to your blog :) And the one word that captures my attention – SANDAKAN (my hometown :). I enjoy reading every word and looking at every picture in the entry! Thank you for sharing your adventure!

    P.S. Beritahu Maher Cikgu Annie kirim salam ya :)

    • May 27, 2016 1:06 am

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m very happy to hear that you liked this post! I loved writing about your hometown– it’s a truly special place : ) and I will definitely pass on your regards to Maher 😀
      Cheers!
      ~Melany

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: