Nova Fisher,
Total Solar Eclipse of 2016
From Bali to Borneo


Sandakan, the 2nd largest town in Sabah, was built in 1879 as a water village on stilts reachable by plank walkways.  It  is the notorious site of a World War II Japanese airfield which was built by the forced labour of Javanese civilians and Allied prisoners of war. In 1945, the surviving prisoners were sent on the Sandakan Death Marches—after which only 6 survived the war.  Our first stop was the Memorial Park, the site of the prisoner of war camp. We visited the English Colonial Agnes Keith House, rebuilt in 1946/47, as the first government permanent timber dwelling to be built after the 2nd World War. It was occupied by Mr. Harry Keith, a Conservator of Forests with his wife, Agnes Newton Keith and their son, George. Living in Sandakan in the 1930s, Agnes Keith wrote several books about her experiences there, including the famous Land Below the Wind. The Keiths were engulfed by war and the family of three was interned in POW camps, where Agnes and little George were separated from Harry until the war ended. All through their captivity Agnes secretly kept notes of their horrific experience that were published after the war in her second book "Three Came Home".

Sepilok Centre

We visited the Sepilok Forest Reserve, a centre for the rehabilitation of orangutans to see orangutans in the third stage of the rehabilitation program before being returned to the forest. Sepilok is a primary lowland forest and the one of the few remaining rainforests in Sabah. It has a fascinating diversity of plants and more than 450 species of trees and more than 250 species of birds.

Sun Bear Conservation Centre

We also visited the Sun Bear Conservation  Center. Populations of Sun Bears are rapidly diminishing due to serious threats from habitat loss and commercial hunting. There are 2 species of sun bear, Malayan sun bears found on the Asian mainland and in Sumatra, and the Bornean sun bears only found in Borneo. They eat a variety of fruits, invertebrates and honey. The Bornean sun bears are half the size of Malayan sun bears, thought to be an evolutionary adaptation to food shortage. Bornean sun bears grow to a height of 120-150cm weighing 30-60kg (males) and 20- 40kg (females).


Tawau is the 3rd largest town in Sabah. In 1893, the first British merchant vessel sailed into Tawau, marking the opening of the town's sea port. In 1898, the British set up a settlement in Tawau and the British North Borneo Chartered Company (BNBC) accelerated growth of the population by encouraging the immigration of Chinese. Tawau boomed in the early 1980s with its lumber and cocoa farming industry. We visited the fish market and the 6,000 stall Tawau Tanjung Market, which is said to be the largest indoor market in the whole of Malaysia.