Sandakan, formerly known as Elopura is the second-largest town in Sabah after the Kota Kinabalu City, on the north-eastern coast of Borneo in Malaysia. It is the gateway to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary and the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary.
It is located on the east coast of the island in 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 Rehabilitation Centre, the Rainforest Discovery Centre, Turtle Islands Park, Kinabatangan River and Gomantong Caves. On 2010, Sandakan has a population around 157,330.
Sandakan was the former capital of British North Borneo until 1946. The town prospered in the early days due to its port with visiting traders from about the world. Sandakan is an important town to Australian and British WWII history with the infamous Death Marches commencing here in 1945 and. After WWII the capital moved to Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu).
"Sandakan" is derived from the Suluk word "sanda" meaning, to pawn and "kan" being the suffix. So "Sandakan" means the place that was pawned. Who pawned it, and to whom, remains a mystery.
The town does not see too many foreign tourists and specially non-asian tourists. Most people are nice and friendly if treated with respect and a smile but be prepared to be stared by everyone and to be the constant target of laughter and jokes by youngsters if you are from a different race.