The 10 Best Museums in Sandakan

Sandakan, a city steeped in history and culture, offers a treasure trove of experiences for those who seek to delve into the past. Among its many attractions, the museums stand out as gateways to understanding the rich tapestry that makes up this corner of Borneo. Whether you’re a history buff, an art enthusiast, or simply in search of a deeper connection with the place, Sandakan’s museums are not to be missed. Let’s embark on a journey through the top 10 museums that are sure to enrich your visit.

Agnes Keith House

Nestled atop a hill with a panoramic view of Sandakan Bay, the Agnes Keith House is a window into colonial life in North Borneo. Once the home of the famous American author Agnes Newton Keith, it’s been beautifully restored to its former glory. As you wander through the rooms, you’ll feel transported back in time, surrounded by period furniture and personal belongings that tell the story of the Keith family. It’s a must-visit for anyone who’s read her vivid descriptions of life in her books.

War Memorial Park

Though not a museum in the traditional sense, the Sandakan War Memorial Park is a poignant reminder of the past. It stands on the grounds of the former POW camp from World War Ii, where soldiers endured unimaginable hardships. The park’s serene setting belies its somber history, but the information panels and monuments speak volumes. It’s a place for reflection and remembrance, honoring those who suffered and died here.

Heritage Museum

Located in the Wisma Warisan Building, the Heritage Museum offers a comprehensive look at Sandakan’s cultural heritage. From the indigenous tribes to the influence of British North Borneo, the exhibits cover a broad spectrum. The museum’s collection includes traditional costumes, instruments, and artifacts that are as informative as they are fascinating. It’s a cultural feast for the eyes and the mind.

Sandakan Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC)

While not strictly a museum, the RDC is an educational journey through one of the world’s oldest rainforests. The exhibition halls provide insights into the diverse Flora and fauna of the region. The canopy walkway offers a unique perspective, bringing you face-to-face with the treetops. It’s an immersive experience that combines learning with the sheer beauty of nature.

Sandakan Marine Museum

Dive into the underwater world at the Sandakan Marine Museum. Housed within the Sandakan Municipal Hall, this museum showcases the marine biodiversity of Sabah. Aquariums teeming with sea life give you a glimpse of what lies beneath the waves. The conservation efforts and ecological information presented here are crucial for understanding the importance of protecting our oceans.

Illeg Inn

For a quirky slice of history, the Illeg Inn is a hidden gem. This former brothel turned museum is a testament to Sandakan’s wilder days. The exhibits are a mix of the risqué and the historical, providing a candid look at the city’s underbelly during the early 20th century. It’s a spot that’s sure to raise eyebrows and elicit chuckles.

Buli Sim Sim Water Village Cultural Centre

Experience the traditional lifestyle of the Bajau people at the Buli Sim Sim Water Village Cultural Centre. This living museum allows you to walk on stilts above the water, exploring the stilt houses and learning about the local customs and crafts. It’s a cultural adventure that’s both educational and entertaining.

Chinese Temple Museum

The Chinese Temple Museum, located within a stunning temple, offers a glimpse into the spiritual and cultural life of Sandakan’s Chinese community. The intricate carvings and colorful murals are a feast for the eyes, while the exhibits on Taoism and Buddhism provide depth to the visual splendor. It’s a peaceful retreat that also educates.

Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

Although primarily a conservation facility, the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre includes an informative exhibit that educates visitors about these magnificent creatures. The chance to see orangutans up close is both heartwarming and a call to action for conservation. It’s an unforgettable experience that connects you with the plight of endangered species.

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

Another sanctuary that doubles as an educational experience is the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. Here, you can observe the unique proboscis monkeys in their natural habitat. The information center provides valuable insights into their behavior and the challenges they face. It’s a rare opportunity to learn about these fascinating animals while watching them in the wild.


  • What are the opening hours for the Agnes Keith House?

    The Agnes Keith House is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, allowing visitors ample time to explore the historic residence.

  • Is there an entrance fee for the Sandakan War Memorial Park?

    No, there is no entrance fee for the Sandakan War Memorial Park. It’s a public space dedicated to remembrance and education.

  • Can you interact with the orangutans at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre?

    While you can observe the orangutans at close range, direct interaction is discouraged to ensure their successful rehabilitation and eventual release back into the wild.


Sandakan’s museums offer a rich tapestry of experiences that weave together the natural, historical, and cultural threads of this unique region. From the colonial elegance of the Agnes Keith House to the immersive rainforest walks at the RDC, each museum provides a distinct perspective on what makes Sandakan so special. Whether you’re reflecting on history at the War Memorial Park or marveling at marine life in the Marine Museum, you’re sure to leave with a deeper appreciation for this city’s diverse heritage. So, pack your curiosity and embark on a museum-hopping adventure that promises to be as enlightening as it is unforgettable.

By exploring these museums, you not only gain knowledge but also support the preservation of Sandakan’s rich history and biodiversity. Remember, each visit contributes to the ongoing efforts to maintain these sites for future generations. So, when you’re planning your itinerary, make sure to include these top 10 museums – they’re the keys to unlocking the true essence of Sandakan.

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