[sahn-dah-kahn, san-dah-kuhn]
Sandakan, city (1991 pop. 157,180), Sabah, Malaysia, on N Borneo, on Sandakan Harbor, an inlet of the Sulu Sea. It is the trade hub for an agricultural and lumbering region. Sandakan was the capital of British North Borneo (now Sabah) until 1947, when it was supplanted by Kota Kinabalu (Jesselton).

Sandakan is the second-largest city in Sabah, East Malaysia, on the north-eastern coast of Borneo. It is located on the east coast of the island and it is the administrative centre of Sandakan Division and was the former capital of British North Borneo. Sandakan is known as the gateway for ecotourism destinations in Sabah, such as the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary, Turtle Islands Park, Kinabatangan River and Gomantong Caves.

The area is also infamous as the site of a World War II Japanese airfield, built by the forced labour of 6,000 Javanese civilians and Allied prisoners of war. In 1945 the surviving prisoners were sent on the Sandakan Death Marches; only 6 of them survived the war.


During the early 1870s, the east coast of Sabah was under control of the Sultan of Sulu, who also ruled what is now the southern Philippines. The first European settlement in the area was founded by William Clarke Cowie, a Scottish gun smuggler from Glasgow, who received permission from the Sultan to establish a small trading base. Cowie called his settlement Sandakan, which in Tausug (Sulu) means "the place that was pawned", but it soon came to be known as "Kampung German" after the large number of Germans who also set up posts there. The settlement was part of the lease Austro-Hungarian consul Baron von Overbeck acquired from the Sultan of Sulu in 1878. After the lease was purchased by von Overbeck's British partner Alfred Dent, Kampong German was accidentally razed to the ground on 15 June 1879. The new British Resident, William B. Pryer, decided not to rebuild the village but to move to Buli Sim Sim on 21 June 1879. He named his new settlement Elopura, which means Beautiful City. A few years later, the name was changed back to Sandakan. The name Elopura still refers to a region of Sandakan.

In 1883, the capital of the British North Borneo Company was moved from Kudat to Sandakan. In the mid-1930s, Sandakan's timber export reached the record figure of 180,000 cubic meters, making it the largest timber-exporting port of tropical wood in the world. At the height of the timber boom, Sandakan boasted that it had the highest concentration of millionaires anywhere on Earth.

The Japanese occupation of Sandakan during World War II began on 19 January 1942 and lasted until a brigade of the Australian 9th Division liberated it on 19 October 1945. The Japanese administration restored the name Elopura for the town. One of the many atrocities of World War II was the Sandakan Death Marches, when Japanese soldiers decided to move about 6,000 prisoners of war in Sandakan 260 km (160 miles) inland to the town of Ranau. The prisoners who did not die en route to Ranau were crammed into unsanitary huts; most of those survivors either died from dysentery or were killed by prison guards. When the war ended, Sandakan was totally destroyed, partly from the Allied bombings and partly by the Japanese. As a result, when North Borneo became a British Crown Colony in 1946, the capital was shifted to Jesselton, now known as Kota Kinabalu, (often just called 'KK' locally).

Sandakan remains Sabah's second most important port, after Kota Kinabalu. The port is important for palm oil, tobacco, cocoa, coffee, manila hemp and sago exports. Sandakan is also one of the most bustling towns in East Malaysia. The once dominant timber industry is now relatively small. It is likely tourism will become increasingly important to the town's future.

In recent years, businesses have shifted their operations away from the town centre to the suburbs due to the presence of illegal immigrants in the town centre. In January 2003, the Sandakan Harbour Square, an urban renewal project, was launched in an attempt to revive the town centre as the commercial hub in Sandakan. It will feature a new central market and fish market, a shopping mall, and hotels. It is to be built in three separate phases and is due for completion in 2010.

Sandakan residents have suffered serious problems with electricity and water supply for several decades. These problems has never been solved despite repeated promises during elections. The electrical power often fails whenever there is a thunderstorm or heavy rain. However, since mid-2007, the power failure has become much less common following the completion of the West-East Electricity Grid.

Schools & Academic Institutions

Primary Schools

SK Abai
SK Bambangan Sandakan
SK Bandar Sandakan
SK Batu 16, Gum Gum
SK Bawang Sandakan
SK Bilit
SK Bongon Besar
SK Buang Sayang Kinabatangan
SK Gum Gum Kecil
SK Inarad
SK Jaya Bakti
SK Kabuluh
SK Kampong Gas
SK Karamunting
SK Kem Tentera
SK Kenang-kenangan
SK Keniogan
SK Keramuak
SK Kg Bahagia - Web
SK Kg Baru Sandakan
SK Kg Batu Puteh
SK Kg Suan Lamba
SK Kiandongo
SK Labuk Subur
SK Ladang Sandak
SK Ladang Sg Bendera

SK Langkabong
SK Linayukan
SK Lingkabau
SK Lubang Buaya Sandakan
SK Lung Manis
SK Maidan Paitan
SK Malalin
SK Maliau
SK Masaum
SK Menanam
SK Mengkawago
SK Minusuh
SK Moynod
SK Muhibbah
SK Mumiang
SK Nangoh
SK Nunuyan Laut
SK Obah
SK Pamaguan
SK Pamol
SK Pantai Poring
SK Pekan Beluran
SK Perancangan Beluran
SK Pertanian
SK Pitas Mumiang
SK Pulau Lubukan

SK Pulau Sanghai
SK Pulau Timbang
SK Rancangan Lubuh
SK Saguon
SK Sakilan Desa
SK Sangau
SK Sapagaya Sandakan
SK Segaliud
SK Semawang
SK Seri Pagi
SK Sibugal Besar
SK Simpangan Sandakan
SK Sipinong
SK Sogo-sogo
SK Sri Ganda
SK Sri Tanjung Papat 1
SK Sri Tanjung Papat 2
SK Sualok
SK Sukau
SK Sungai Anib 1
SK Sungai Anib 2
SK Sungai Kayu
SK Sungai Madang
SK Sungai Manila
SK Sungai Nangka

SK Sungai Padas
SK Sungai Sapi
SK Sungai-sungai
SK Tagas-tagas
SK Taman Rimba
SK Tambisan
SK Tampasak Sandakan
SK Tampat Sugut
SK Tanjung Aru Sandakan
SK Tanjung Batu Sandakan
SK Tanjung Nipis
SK Tanjung Pisau
SK Telupid, Batu 4
SK Terusan Baru Sandakan
SK Terusan Sugut
SK Tetabuan
SK Tongod
SK Tundun Bohangin
SK Ulu Dusun
SK Ulu Sapi

SRJK Cheng Ming
SRJK Chi Hwa
SRJK Lok Yuk
SRJK Ming Chung
SRJK Pui Gin
SRJK Pei Ying
SRJK Pei Wha
SRJK Syn Hwa
SRJK Tai Tong
SRJK Yuk Choi

SRK Ladang Bode Kretam
SRK Ladang Sabapalm
SRK Ladang Tomanggong
SRK St. Gabriel
SRK St. Mary Convent
SRK St. Mary, Bandar
SRK St. Mary, Labuk
SRK St. Monica
SRK Sung Siew
SRK Tangkong

Secondary Schools

SMK Agama Sandakan
SMK Batu Sapi
SMK Elopura Bestari
SMK Elopura II
SMK Gum-Gum
SMK Muhibbah
SMK Pamol
SMK Penangah (UK)
SMK Perempuan - Sabah
SMK Sandakan
SMK Taman Fajar
SMK Terusan Sugut
SMK Datuk Pengiran Galpam

SM Teknik Sandakan - Link 1

St. Cecilia's Convent
St. Mary's Secondary School (Boys' School) - Sabah
St. Michael's Secondary School - Sabah -
Sung Siew Secondary School - Homepage

SMJK Tiong Hua - SMJK Education Portal

Yu Yuan Secondary School (Private School) - Homepage

Tertiary Academic Institution
Open University Malaysia, PPT Sandakan (Universiti Terbuka Malaysia) -
ILP Sandakan (Industrial Training Institute)
Kinabalu College - Link 1
Maktab Rendah Sains MARA sandakan
Pusat giat mara sandakan

Future & Ongoing developments

  • Sandakan Education Hub - a 1,200 acres site to be developed as an educational hub for five colleges that have expressed interest to establish campuses in Sandakan.
  • Sandakan Harbour Square - consists of 129 unit of shopoffices, a new central market, a Town Square, a shopping centre, hotels and a convention centre.
  • Sawit POIC (Palm Oil Industrial Cluster) - a new integrated palm oil industrial hub with 2,800 acres of land earmarked to cluster and centralised all palm oil related industries in one single complex. - and possibly the site of a coal powered plant....which is next to 2 housing estates and forest reserves for orangutan.
  • Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) branch campus
  • Sandakan Integrated Trade Exchange Terminal (SITExT) - a place for traders to conduct their activities with utmost ease and leisure. " A Sanctuary for Traders". The terminal will be developed on a 33.55 acres piece of land in Batu Sapi, Sandakan with custom checkpoint, jetty, warehouse, cold storage, grain terminal, container storage, CIQS (custom, immigration, quarantine and security complex), duty free complex, shop lots, hotel and main office. The Integrated Barter Trade Terminal will undoubtedly become a SANCTUARY that will manage and generate an intrinsic income stream to Sabah's economy. Link to SITExT's Official Website


As Sandakan was almost totally destroyed in World War II, there are few surviving buildings of any age. Some of the main sights today include:

  • Agnes Keith House, also known as Newlands - two-storey home of local author Agnes Newton Keith and her husband Harry (the Curator of the North Borneo Museum) from 1930 to 1952. The house was destroyed in World War II and was rebuilt on the same site. Mrs. Keith wrote several books about Sabah and its people, including Land Below the Wind, Three Came Home, and White Man Returns. The house has recently been restored after a number of years of neglect.
  • English Tea House - Located in the grounds of Agnes Keith Museum, fine restaurant on the hillside above Sandakan serving traditional English and Asian cuisine. address: 2002 Jalan Istana - tel: 6089 222544
  • Sandakan Memorial Park - built on site of the Taman Rimba prisoner-of-war camp.
  • Japanese Cemetery - housing a memorial to the Japanese war dead on Borneo.
  • St Michael's and All Angels Church - this beautiful granite church was built in 1897 and is one of Sandakan's few surviving pre-war buildings. It was recognized as one of the world's heritage since year 2005.
  • Puu Jih Shih Buddhist Temple - completed in 1987, this fiery red and gold temple overlooks the town centre.
  • Sam Sing Kung Temple - completed in 1887, it is the oldest building in Sandakan.
  • Sandakan Mosque - completed in 1988, it lies next to the bay and Kampung Buli Sim Sim.
  • Kampung Buli Sim Sim - stilt fishing village on the original site of Sandakan town.
  • Sandakan New Market - one of the largest and busiest in Sabah.
  • Crocodile Farm - located 12 km (7.5 miles) out of town, it houses more than 2,000 of the reptiles in concrete pools.
  • Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary - a perfect Proboscis monkey observation spot for tourists who wants to have a closer look at these monkeys in their natural habitat.

External links

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