Although it has a turbulent history, Sandakan is not a place to stay very long. The only thing what brings you here are a visit to see some orangutans or nosy prowoscis monkeys, to visit the islands for some turtle sightseeing or to catch a flight to somewhere else. Because we heard that turtle island becomes a bit of a circus we skipped this and only went to see our orange friends in the forest.
From Bali we flew to Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia Borneo. We stayed here 2 nights at the Halo Hotel and after some shopping and a short visit to the Floating Mosque we took the bus to Sandakan.
First you have to take bus 4A (takes about 15 minutes) to the North City Bus Terminal called Inanam. From there, there is a hourly bus going to Sandakan for 44 Ringgit per person (ours left at 9 am). This bus dropped us 6 hours later about 8 km outside Sandakan. Because there is no other transport we had to take a taxi for 20 Ringgit to the city centre. If you want the bus to drop you at Sepilok that is possible, we passed it on our way to Sandakan.
Around the waterside are a lot of little restaurants where you can get your dosis of fresh fish. Because it was Ramadan, these places were filled with people around dinnertime and we weren’t really into seafood after 5 months Indonesia where we had our portion of seafood. We ‘treated’ ourselves and had McDonalds. Which is really cheap here! You have a large menu for about 12 ringgit.
We stayed at Harbour Side Backpackers and it is the cleanest guesthouse we’ve ever seen. We paid 70 Ringgit for a double room with shared shower and it was money well spent. As said, it is really clean, they have a nice ‘living’room where you can watch tv and dvd’s, breakfast is included and you make your own fried eggs, the showers are nice and warm and the staff is really friendly, helpful and their English is perfect. We really enjoyed our stay here.
There are several sanctuaries that you can visit. We only visited the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. For only 6 Ringgit you can take a minibus from the busstation, which takes about 40 minutes. Here you can see orangutans that are for example rescued from cages and orphans that can’t survive on their own. There is a feeding platform where they feed the orangutans twice a day: at 10 am and 3 pm. Don’t expect to be here alone, there are a lot of people with some huge camera’s. Standing here gave us mixed feelings. We were a bit disappointed because we only saw 3 orangutans who came to the platform. But we know this is a good thing because it means that the other orangutans don’t need to be fed anymore because they can survive on their own.
There is also a nursery where we saw 6 little orangutans. Really funny to see them eating, playing with each other, swinging the ropes and looking back at us. Who’s watching who?
It isn’t really spectacular to go here, because you sure will see them and you’re standing with a big group of people. On the other hand it is always nice to see these wonderful apes and admire them. The entrance money you pay (30 Ringgit and 10 extra for your camera) is worth the money and it is well spent. You can also do a 5 kilometer walk but you have to wear good shoes and long pants.
Note: when visiting the centre, you are not allowed to take a bag and/or water with you. They have free lockers where you can leave your belongings.