Sandakan Death March

Imagine this…

It is mid 1945 the days of the Japanese Occupation in Borneo are numbered.
The Allied forces are closing in on them…the noose is tightening….desperate to cover up their atrocities…

The order to kill the prisoners is received…Brutalised, bashed, starved, tortured and denied medicines over three long years……dressed only in rags, no shoes, putrid weeping wounds, ulcers so severe that their shin bones are exposed.Bodies, twisted, bent and bloated from poor nutrition, tropical disease, ulcers, scabies and lice rage over their bodies.The POW Camp at Sandakan on Borneo’s North East Coast held 2600 Australian and British Service personal.Now just over 500 men were left to struggle inland through inhospitable and impenetrable jungles 250 kilometres to Ranau… Their fate long sealed by their captors.

Only 6 would survive…All Australian…

Sandakan is one of the most tragic Australian stories of World War Two.

It is also one of our most heroic.

After 70 years, you can walk the Sandakan Death March track in the footsteps of these heroes.

We will never forget their sacrifice, courage and endurance…
Their Spirit will live forever……..

About Sandakan Spirit Adventure

Sandakan Spirit Adventures is owned by Wayne Wetherall who specialises in small group tours designed to provide you with lifelong memories to Sabah, Borneo Malaysia.

Wayne Wetherall, Managing Director of trekking company Kokoda Spirit and Sandakan Spirit has walked the Sandakan Death March Track on 6 occasions and has been very fortunate to meet a number of the old local people from Borneo and hear first hand their experiences of the Sandakan Death Marches.

Our trekking partners are Dusuns, direct descendents of the carriers and locals that helped the POW’s.We stay at local villagers, purchase our fruit and vegies ensuring that the local communities benefit from tourism.

Over the past two journeys Wayne and his team of local Dusun’s, who are direct descendents of the carriers and villagers along the track have meticulously, using the latest in GPS mapping technology and old fashion hard work we were able to faithfully piece together as close as it is possible to get to the original route.

Our treks across the Sandakan Death March route faithfully as close as possible follow the original route.

We avoid using short cut or alternative treks that are logistically easier to ensure you see the real Borneo, the real Sandakan Death March Route. We use a variety of accommodation on our treks including camping next to Rainforest Rivers and staying in traditional Dusun Villages along the way, this gives you a great chance to embrace the traditional culture and mix with the locals and hear firsthand the stories of their forefathers.

If you are comparing Sandakan trekking companies, make sure you are on the correct route.

We have over 10 years experience in the design and delivery of a wide range of challenging expeditions and adventure based programs around the world.

Wayne is also the owner of Kokoda Spirit, which is an Australian and PNG based company specialising in treks across the Kokoda track in PNG.

Wayne has been developing adventure programs, tours and itineraries to show case the wonders and beauty of Sabah, including the infamous Sandakan Death March. Wayne has the flexibility and local experience to tailor an itinerary and program to suit your individual or group requirements.

Waynes goal is to deliver a world class Sandakan and Borneo experience while ensuring all stakeholders including the local villages and communities benefit from tourism.

Our journeys are a mix of culture, soft adventure, challenge and most of all, safe and enjoyable experiences.

Our tours are designed with the aid of local people enabling Wild Spirit to support the diverse cultures in which we operate. Our philosophy of providing economic and environmentally sustainable practices in the countries we visit has enabled us to develop long lasting relationships with the local peoples.

Our Sandakan partner is reputable, an experienced operator who are proud of their culture and history. This relationship will allow you the opportunity to not just experience another country, but to experience people, their culture, and their environment. You are a part of the journey, not just an observer. You will gain a deeper understanding of place and people providing everlasting memories of your own international “Sandakan Spirit”.

Our Sandakan adventures ensure that our impact is minimal by adhering to a self imposed code of conduct. This not only involves adhering to the laws, guidelines and regulations of the countries we visit, but also operating in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. It is our own backyard and we need to look after it.

Our staff are passionate about people and about providing people with everlasting memories of the places we visit. They live and have families in the beautiful areas we operate in. Sandakan Spirit encourages and assists our guests in learning about the country, its culture, religion and its customs, resulting in a much more informed experience.

(In Regards To Our Sandakan Treks)


We Believe ‘The Lalosing River Track’ Which Is Part Of The Sabah State Forest Was Part Of The Original Sandakan Trek.

Local Sabah State Forestry Laws Do Not Permit Trekking Along The La Losing River Track.

Out Of Respect For Sabah Local Laws Sandakan Spirit & Our Affiliated Trekking Companies Do Not Walk The Lalosing River Track.

Adventure Sports, Adventure Culture, Adventure Education, Wild Life Safaris.

Sabah Borneo has some of the World’s greatest adventures including the infamous Sandakan Death March. Immerse yourself in an ecological treasure that is breathtaking, serene and thrilling. Whatever your mood, you have paradise in the palm of your hand in Sabah, the adventure land of eco-treasures.

So whatever excites or fascinates you, your children or friends, from mountain climbing, jungle trekking, wildlife safaris, white water rafting, mountain biking, kayaking, diving, fishing, sailing, windsurfing, water skiing, tennis or golf, Sabah promises excitement to fulfil every adventurers and sporting persons wishes and dreams. Sabah Borneo is also the place to experience the culture of this wonderful place, with traditional longhouses and village stays, exotic cuisine, traditional festive celebrations and the incredible “tamu” or local market place shopping experience. Sabah is also home to some amazing, unique and fascinating animals, including the incredible Borneo Elephants, Orang Utan, and Proboscis monkeys.

Why go to Africa when you can have your very own wildlife safari in Borneo. Come trek with us through the pristine Jungle of the lower Kinabatangan River in search of colourful tropical birds, crocodiles, huge monitor lizards, wild pigs, elephants, otters, several species of monkeys, tree snakes. It is also a haven for the Proboscis Monkey, Orang Utan, hornbills and kingfishers.

We pay tribute to our soldiers, the Sandakan Death March is acknowledged as the worst military tragedy for Australia in World War II. Tragic though it is, the story of the Sandakan Death March is an important chapter in the shared wartime history of Australia and Sabah Borneo. We offer treks exploring sections of the Sandakan Death March Route by vehicle and on foot. We visit the haunting 8 mile Prisoner of war camp at Sandakan; explore the Sandakan town including the Catholic Church where the prisoners first stayed on arrival in the area. Our trek across the Sandakan Death March Track takes us too many of the historical and heroic areas along the track, where our Australian Soldiers lost their lives in tragic and barbaric fashion.

Sandakan Spirit are dedicated to delivering to you some of the World’s greatest adventure. We are specialist in delivering the ultimate in Adventure Sports, Adventure Culture and Adventure Education. We specialise in tailoring adventure itineraries to suit individual and group requirements. Our itineraries and adventures can be swapped and modified to maximize your adventure.

For those that wish to indulge in the finer things of life, before, during or after their adventures, Sabah has a wealth of 3, 4 and 5 star resorts and hotels to choose from.

All of our adventures can be designed to suit the elite athlete with harder and more challenging adventures or modified to suit school groups, groups or individuals. Our trekking groups are small and personal, with most group sizes only around 8 people allowing for greater flexibility in the itinerary. We can also cater for 1 or 25 travellers.

Why Choose Sandakan Spirit?

We are the other trekking company that our competition talk about and try and emulate.
We carry a full $10 million dollar Public Liability Insurance, you are also protected by the Travel Compensation Fund which confirms the ability of the operator to be financially viable.

Make sure if you are dealing with overseas companies that they cover insurance in Australia and Malaysia and that you are covered under the TCF.

Make sure any operator you use is covered under Australian and Malaysian law.

It is important that you ask your trekking company important questions regarding the Sandakan Death March route that they walk and the itineraries and accommodation that they use.

There are a number of prominent and respected adventure companies offering packages to Borneo and the Sandakan Track, be sure to check out their itineraries, routes and accommodation offered.

Our treks across the Sandakan Death March route faithfully as close as possible follow the original route. Our treks are based on research from the premier and respected authorities on the Sandakan Death March,Don Wall and Kevin Smith.

We avoid using “short cut”,“eco” or alternative tracks that are logistically easier to ensure you see the real Borneo, the real Sandakan Death March Route. We use a variety of accommodation on our treks including camping next to Rainforest Rivers and staying in traditional Dusun Villages along the way, this gives you a great chance to embrace the traditional culture and mix with the locals and hear firsthand the stories of their forefathers.

The most acclaimed authority on the Sandakan Death March and Sandakan POW camp is Don Wall.

Don Wall is a Veteran of WW11, volunteering for service with the AIF, serving with the 2/20 Battalion 8 Division. After the fall of Singapore Don then became a POW.

Don had the full co-operation during his research of Sandakan Death March survivors Keith Botterill, Owen Campbell and Nelson Short. These in-depth discussions covered all aspects of the events of prisoner of war life in Sandakan.

Don wrote his first book Kill the Prisoners way back in 1988 and his revised fourth edition in 1995.

Don also had full access and permission to use the private records of Lt. Col. H.W.S Jackson, MBE (Ret.) in particular records of the recovery of remains, his first hand knowledge of the people of Borneo, those that witnessed the prisoners on the marches and those who saved the lives of the six survivors.

The other prominent authority and author on Sandakan and the Sandakan Death March is Kevin Smith.

Do not be deceived in believing that there has only been one book written about Sandakan and the Sandakan Death March.

Don and Kevin have researched and written excellent books.

We also base our treks on the reports compiled by Veterans of Borneo, Major R.E. Steele, WO W. Wallace and SGT R.J. Kennedy.

Wayne Wetherall, Managing Director of trekking company Kokoda Spirit and Sandakan Spirit has walked the Sandakan Death March Track on 8 occasions and has been very fortunate to meet a number of the old local people from Borneo and hear first hand and record their experiences of the Sandakan Death Marches.

Over the past two journeys Wayne and his team of local Dusun’s, who are direct descendents of the carriers and villagers along the track have meticulously, using the latest in GPS mapping technology and old fashion hard work and intense research we were able to faithfully piece together as close as it is possible to get to the original route.

Trekking the Sandakan Death March route with usis an experience not just a holiday. We see things as an explorer, historian and adventurer.

When you trek the Sandakan Death March with Sandakan Spirit, you’re participating in a personal discovery experience; you are truly living and participating in an historic and monumental Borneo adventure.

Our travel arrangements are by Spirit Holidays – Travel Agents License TAG1611. Make sure your tour company complies with both Australian and Malaysian laws.

Sandakan Death March Itinerary

B =full breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner Arrival Day

Depart home Capital; Arrive in Kota Kinabalu.
Pick up at airport by Sandakan Spirit representative, transport to your 5 star Le Meridian Hotel.
5 pm briefing at Hotel.
Overnight at your 5 star Le Meridian Hotel

Day 1
Pick up from Hotel at 6.00 am and transfer to Kota Kinabalu airport for early 7.20am morning flight from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan. From airport we transfer to Sandakan Memorial Park, the site of the Sandakan POW Camp, we then visit the World Famous Sepilok Orang-Utan Centre. After lunch at a local restaurant, we drive along the original Death March route from Sandakan to Telupid. Along the way we see the locations that both Campbell and Braithwaite escaped.
Overnight at the new tourist class Telupid Hotel

Day 2
(B/L/D) Distance 9kms, walking time 6 hours
The trek begins with an early morning walk up through the river before commencing our 450m climb up Bauto Hill through the dense jungle of Gambaron Hill. We continue our journey along the track and break out of the Jungle on our descent down towards Telupid. Bauto was the area that Sandakan Death March survivor Botterill witnessed the murder of two Australian POW’s.
We return to our Hotel for a well-earned refreshing shower before exploring the delights of Telupid.
Overnight at the new tourist class Telupid Hotel
Day 3
(BLD) Distance 12kms, walking time 7 hours
After our early morning breakfast we continue our trek up the second Gambaron Hill, this is a physically challenging trek through primary jungle climbing over 550 m of height, with tough steep ascents and descents through low overhanging jungle. We have spectacular views of the Telupid Valley from our rest spot on the mountain. This is one of the tough days on the track with high temperatures and humidity adding to the tough climb.
Overnight at the new tourist class Telupid Hotel

Day 4
(B/L/D) Distance 18kms, walking time 8 hours
Today we break camp from Telupid and start trekking from our hotel. We walk through Maliau and onto a walking track through plantations and an abandoned road through Ulu Tapaang and onto Wonod. After lunch we continue our walk to the Village of Koperung, where we camp near to a refreshing river. The Village of Koperung was one of the areas that locals witnessed POW’s being cannibalised.
Overnight at tented Camp site at the Village of Koperung.

Day 5
(B/L/D) Distance 18kms, walking time 7.5 hours
Our start today is from Koperung village, passing through forested and cultivated land as we trek to Taviu Village then onto Mungkadai and Miru. The route across to Miru is scenic with walking through delightful Villages. The local kids and villages are very excited to meet us and are all smiles as we walk through their villages.
We enter the Village of Miru with its towering hills and cliffs surrounding this delightful and traditional village. We return to Koperung Village where we are entertained with a local feast.
Overnight tented accommodation in the Village of Koperung.
Day 6
(B/L/D) Distance 4kms, walking time 2 hours
Today we depart Koperung Village and trek down Taviu Hill towards lalosing. We then ascend Taviu Hill and transfer by vehicle to Sabah Tea for our overnight accommodation. On the way to Sabah Tea we stop at Paginatan and visit the house of the “Ring Lady” and the area that the POWs were buried. Paginatan was also the area that the rice carrying parties operated.
Overnight accommodation at Sabah Tea in traditional longhouse accommodation or Cottages.

Day 7
(BLD) Distance 14kms 7 hours
Our early morning walk takes us up from the village of Nabutan through forested and cultivated land to the village of Nalapak. We then trek up towards the Sabah Tea Gardens and onto Quailey’s Hill for a small service to commemorate the murder of POW Quailey near this spot. After lunch, we continue our trek to Muruk, which was also a major Japanese camp and POW camp for the POW’s along the Sandakan Death March route; we then transfer back to Sabah Tea Estate for overnight stay in a traditional long house.
Overnight accommodation at Sabah Tea in traditional longhouse accommodation.

Day 8
(B/L/D) Distance 12kms, walking time 4 hours
Transfer to Muruk village by bus before we commence a steep ascent up Marakau Hill. Marakau Hill is also known as Botterill’s Hill, named after Sandakan Death March survivor Keith Botterill. Botterill trekked up this hill 6 times lugging 20kg bags of rice to keep himself fit and also gave him a chance to pinch some rice to help his escape. We then follow a short steep trek through jungle, before descending and crossing Ranau Plain for lunch and pay our respects at the Ranau POW Camp sites 1 and 2. We then visit the magnificently restored Kundasang War Memorial to participate in a service to remember all those who gave their lives for Australia and those that lost their lives on the Sandakan Ranau Death March. We have some time here to watch a video and reflect as we walk through the various memorial gardens. We then transfer back to Kota Kinabalu for celebration, shower and relaxation for overnight stay at Hotel.
Overnight at your 5 star Le Meridian Hotel

Day 9
After an early morning breakfast we depart by plane from Kota Kinabalu to Labuan Island to pay our respects to our fallen heroes.

Our Tour of Labuan Island includes the following;
• Tour of Labuan Island, visiting surrender point, Australian Memorial, Commonwealth War Cemetery, Water Village.
We then depart Labuan around midday and catch a fast boat to commence our drive down the Liberation highway through Klias and Beaufort.
Along the way we visit the areas that our special forces operated in during operation Stallion and we visit the areas that Jack Sue operated.

Our tour also includes visits to;
•The Graves of the Borneo resistance Heroes including Albert Kwok.
• The Japanese Kempetai HQ.
We return to Kota Kinabalu around 5pm and overnight at your 4 star Kota Kinabalu Hotel.
Overnight at your 5 star Le Meridian Hotel

Day 10
After breakfast your tour ends

Join us for our history making treks.

We are running three exclusive commemorative Death March Treks during 2014 across the complete and entire Sandakan Death March Route.

We have pioneered the correct route uncovering lost sections of this tragic march.

Our route takes us into the remote, deep, virgin Sabah Jungle. The route we walk has been made possible with the assistance, support and cooperation of the Sabah Forestry Department.

29/07/14 – 07/07/14 **Anniversary Trek Third Death March

13/08/14 – 24/08/14 Sandakan Day Trek

Contact us now to find out how you can come part of this history making treks!

Our News


Wayne Wetherall, the man behind Kokoda and Sandakan Spirit, is doing Australian history a great justice by providing trekkers what is more than likely to be the most accurate track through Borneo that retraces the steps of over 1700 Australian men whom were incarcerated by the Japanese in WWII.

Read the full story of Waynes discovery here



TWO elderly Malaysians who risked their lives more than 60 years ago to help Allied prisoners of the Japanese during World War II will fly to Sydney next month to take part in a commemoration of the infamous Sandakan death marches.

Read the full story here



AN Australian trekker says he has uncovered two new sections of the infamous Sandakan Death March track in Borneo which would help with the preservation of one of the country’s most tragic and heroic wartime histories.

Read the full story on the Herald Sun



TWO elderly Malaysians who risked their lives more than 60 years ago to help Allied prisoners of the Japanese during World War II will fly to Sydney next month to take part in a commemoration of the infamous Sandakan death marches.

Read the full story here on The Australian

Trekking Gear List Sandakan

1Roll on deodorant
2Rolls of toilet paper
1Wet ones
3Small soaps (small soaps are best in case you lose one in the fast flowing rivers)
1Nail brush
1Ladies hygiene products

Camping Trekking Gear
Daypack (for personal use)
1-2Walking poles – this is essential
1-2Gloves (optional)
1Head Torch (and spare batteries)
2Dry bags or waterproof bags (available from camping stores)
Water - need minimum of 3 litres
(your choice of water bottles or water bladder, you will need easy access to bottles)
3ltrBackpack bladder and 1 water bottle (for mixing supplements)
OR2-3Water drink bottles Whatever your preference
Camera + SD Cards, spare batteries, disposable camera

Medical Kit
Medications as Prescribed by your Doctor
(Anti malaria, antibiotics for wounds and infections, anti inflammatory, anti vomiting, epi-pen etc…)
12Gastrolyte (must have)
1Headache Tablets
1Strong Pain Relief
1Diarrhea Tablets
1Travel Calm Tablets
1Anti-Inflammatory medications (eg. Ibrofen, Voltaren, Nurofen)
1Antihistamines (e.g. Telfast, Phenergan 10mg)
2Antibacterial hand gel (e.g. Aqium)
1pktBlister Pads
1Roll of strapping tape
1 pktLarge size band-aids (Elastoplast)
1Knee and/or ankle guards
1Foot fungi powder (Johnson baby powder works well)
1Antiseptic lotion/cream (e.g. Paraderm Plus, Betadine, Bepanthen)
1Papaw ointment
1Hydrocortisone cream (for bites)
3Insect repellent roll-on / cream
(we suggest ‘Bushman Plus’ – always keep it on)
2 pktWater purification tablets (highly recommend)
1Sunscreen (always keep it on)
1 pktGlucose Jelly Beans or Glucose lollies
1 pktGlucodin Tablets
For every dayMunchies (muesli bars, lollies, beef jerky etc..)

Walking boots and spare boot laces
1Sandals – adventure style with good grip (we do not recommend crocs)
1Long cotton pants or equivalent and long shirt (for night time)
1-2Shirts for trekking
1‘skins’ style sports clothing shorts
(highly recommended, great to reduce chafing)
2Walking shorts or walking pants
1Costumes (for rivers and hotel)
1Light rain jacket
3Pairs of woolen hiking style socks
3Comfortable underwear / bras
1Gaiters (optional)
1Hat / cap / bandana
2Microfiber Towels
2Face washers (to dry feet during the day)

Extras (Below are some ‘optional extras’)
Diary and pen
Playing cards
Large zip lock bags (for personal items, clothes, lollies)



(This is our recommendation of gear required)

* Note: There is no where along the Track to get access to medications
* If travelling as part of a group you may be able to share some of the above items e.g. betadine
(Please check your What’s Included/What’s Not Included list)

Sandakan Trek – Videos





Sandakan Death March

Relax and enjoy?

Every effort is made to make your trip as memorable as possible. Please remember, you are going to a third world country and you may see things and experience things you may have never seen before.
Expect the unexpected in Malaysia. Keep an open mind; schedules/itinerary may and can change without notice, internal transfers may be late, planes may be late due to bad weather, please understand it is out of our control. Schedules work to Malaysian time, not Australian time. Patience and a relaxed attitude are essential for an enjoyable trek. All internal flights are booked and confirmed through our office. If there is a problem internally we have direct communications with the airline and our staff. This is no holiday, but a fantastic trekking adventure, it is a trekking experience, a lifetime experience! Enjoy!

When do I make payments for the trek?
Deposit – your deposit payment is due when your booking is confirmed. Wild Spirit will provide you with a Booking Confirmation letter.
 Final Payment - The final payment is due 6 weeks before your trek date.
What are your Booking Terms and Conditions?
 We ask all trekkers to read our Booking Terms and Conditions. Some of abovementioned points are outlined in more detail in our Booking Terms and Conditions. These can be found on the website or contact our office and we can send this to you. Every trekker who books a trek will also receive Wild Spirit Booking Terms and Conditions upon their booking.
How do I book?

Contact the Sandakan Spirit office by email or phone us on 07 5445 2758 we will advise you regarding the different options available.

Do we get a completion certificate and a Sandakan Spirit shirt?

A Sandakan Spirit shirt will be posted to each trekker. With large groups the shirts are posted to the person who has organised the trek. Completion certificate will be handed out to trekkers on the completion of their trek.

Do you have a training program?

Our training program is on our website alternatively if you would like a copy we can email this to you upon request.

How fit do you have to be to walk Sandakan?

While you do not need to be an Olympic athlete, you still need to be in great physical condition, with good endurance and stamina. You need to be able to walk up to 9 hours per day in hot and humid conditions. The terrain over the Sandakan Track is tough and very steep. You need a strong heart, lungs, quads, calves and a strong and positive attitude. A dedicated training program is required.
Contact your fitness professional or check out our training program on the website. We recommend you consult your medical practitioner before undertaking any new training program.
Please Note: All trekkers need to be aware that being well above your healthy weight range seriously impacts on your ability to complete the Track. Should you fall into this category we highly recommend that you concentrate your training on an intensive weight loss/fitness program. You may like to consider hiring a personal trainer to assist you with your fitness goals. If you require the services of a personal trainer please contact our office as we may be able to assist.
Once again we recommend you consult your medical practitioner before undertaking any new training program.

How do I minimise my risks on the Sandakan Track?

The best way to minimise risk on the Sandakan Track is to trek with a professional trekking company like Sandakan Spirit. Sandakan Spirit has a comprehensive risk management plan and safety procedures.
Our guides are first aid trained for wilderness situations; our Australian guides carry first aid kits and on all treks we carry satellite phones.
It is important that you get yourself a full medical check before training. Sandakan Spirit requires a full medical clearance from your Doctor before trekking with us. Proper preparation and training before your trek is absolutely essential. It is also essential to ensure you take precautions to prevent, dehydration, Hyponatremia and overheating.

Do we walk the real Sandakan Death March Track?

Yes we do walk the real Sandakan Track. You will walk in the footsteps of the POWs.

Do we have exclusive use of the campsites and guesthouses?

No, we do not have exclusive use of the campsites or guest houses along the Sandakan Death March Track. It is quite possible that some campsites will be shared by other campers.

Do I need to wear boots on the Sandakan Track?

It is not essential to wear boots across the Sandakan track but I highly recommend good quality comfortable footwear. My boots are 100% water proof. (At least they are until the water comes over the top) They are also a light weight Gortex construction for quick drying. They have an aggressive Vibram flexible grip and sole for better traction on the track. Companies will push their own brands and preferences and attempt to convince you of the benefits. My suggestions are that the boots must be comfortable, be at least one size bigger then you would normally wear. This will prevent you from getting sore toes on the declines; your feet can also swell causing discomfort. They should also be light weight quick drying and have a good flexible and aggressive grip. The track is harsh on boots so do not risk old or suspect boots. I have found Aku and Scarpa boots to be the best for me.

Do I need a medical kit?

Yes, absolutely. It is essential that you have an appropriate first aid kit for the conditions.

What camping gear do I need?

Our web site has a complete list of gear required to trek Sandakan or contact us and we will send the list out to you. We can also supply a range of cost effective camping gear to suit your requirements.

What happens to the rubbish on Sandakan?

It is very important that we all take good care of the Track. If you purchase soft drinks along the Track, then you need to crush the cans and carry them out with you.
Whilst trekking, please put your own rubbish in your backpack until you arrive at the next campsite. If you see rubbish on the Track, pick it up and put it in our rubbish bags.

Can we drink alcohol on the Sandakan Track?

Sandakan Spirit has a “no alcohol/no drugs” policy while trekking on the Sandakan track. It is however possible in our accommodation to buy local beer to be consumed with your meal, as this is not on the track itself but in a motel style facility.

Do I need a Dr’s Clearance to trek the Sandakan Death March Route?

Yes. Approximately 3 months prior to your trek Sandakan Spirit will post to you a letter for you to take to your Doctor.
We ask that the original Drs Letter be posted to the Sandakan Spirit office no later than 4 weeks before departure.
It is Sandakan Spirit’s requirements that every trekker must obtain medical clearance from their Doctor. If we do not receive the original Sandakan Spirit Drs letter, unfortunately your trek will be cancelled.

Do I need travel/medical insurance for Sabah Borneo?

Yes, you do need Travel Insurance, it is very important. You are responsible to organise your own Travel/Medical insurance, which can be organised at your Travel Agent.
You will need coverage for medical evacuation; medical, theft, loss etc… speak to your Travel Agent about the inclusions. Travel Insurance MUST include Medical Evacuation (anywhere in Malaysia) and medical expenses including hospital coverage in Malaysia and Australia. It can be a very costly experience for you if you do not have your Travel Insurance! **
We require a copy of your personal, Travel and Medical Insurance no later than 4 weeks before departure. Failure to have travel and medical insurance will prevent you from trekking.
Should you require assistance with your travel insurance, please contact our travel department at

Is a walking pole necessary?

Walking poles are a personal choice but are a very good aide for trekking. They are used as a support and breaking system for the steep downhill sections. You can buy walking poles through our office or from camping stores. It is a good idea to train with the poles. Some people find one pole sufficient, but it is your choice.

What is the accommodation like on the Sandakan track?

Our Hotel accommodation on the track is clean, safe and basic.
The Jungle camps and camp sites along the Sandakan Track are basic at best.

What happens in case of an emergency?

Sandakan Spirit carries satellite phones on all treks; we have an emergency evacuation plan which is implemented. On receiving call for assistance we activate our plan and organise medical, travel insurance and evacuation plans. Contact us if you required more details.
Whilst in the villages we recommend you do not give money to anyone, as this does create problems between the village people. They live as a community and money needs to be shared between all in the village.
If you would like to take something to the villages, a gift that they can share is more appropriate, clothes, ball games, colouring in items books reading and writing.
First aid items are also very much needed (and appreciated) e.g. Band-Aids, antiseptic lotions, strapping etc.
We also ask our trekkers not to wander around the villages in swimming costumes. Please cover up while walking around the villages; it’s a sign of respect.

Do we trek at night?

Sandakan Spirit does not trek at night. Our itineraries are designed to ensure you are at your accommodation well before night fall.

When are the best conditions to trek Sandakan?

The Sandakan Death March track can be trekked all year round, but the conditions on the track vary due to the changes in the season. The seasons are broken up into the dry season and the wet season. These seasons also have sub seasons which fringe the wet and dry season.
The dry season is normally from late May to late October. Good conditions can still be expected in April and November. It is possible to get rain and consequently mud on the Track during any season or month. Late November, December, January, February and March are wet and muddy.
The temperature will range from 24-28 degrees under the canopy and up to 36 degrees out in the open areas. The night time temperature will range from 18-24 degrees. Humidity will range between 80% – 95%

What are the walking times and distances each day?
  • Wake up time on the track is usually around 6.00 am
  • Breakfast is usually served from 6.30 am
  • We usually start walking around 7.00 am
  • There is usually 5-10 minute breaks every 30 mins or so along the track and depending on the size of the hill more often and a stop for morning tea and lunch.
  • The walking pace is best described as a shuffle which is a consistent but reasonably easy pace. This can vary depending on the terrain.
  • Each walking day will vary between 5 to 9 hours with 7 to 8 hours being the average. Arrival times in the camps and villages are around 3.30 pm to 4.30 pm.
What are the washing/cleaning/toilets/shower facilities on the Sandakan Death March Route like?

The facilities on the Sandakan Death March track are very basic at best.
However our Hotel accommodation has showers toilets and basic washing facilities.

  • Toilets on the Track and villages are known as ‘long drops’ and ‘short drops’. These are simple, deep pits or short pits that have been dug in the ground for use as toilets. There are no toilet seats. These facilities have a roof and screen over them for privacy.
  • You do need to take your own toilet paper (2 rolls).
  • An Antibacterial Hand Gel is essential.
Can we bring food into Sabah Borneo?

Yes you can. This has not been an issue before. You must declare your food and advise customs that it is for trekking.

What food do we eat on the Sandakan Death March Route?

Sandakan Spirit needs to be advised when booking if there are any particular dietary requirements. We do our best to manage your requirements, but accept no responsibility due to availability. Supplements may be implemented.
We are able to supply Gluten Free and Vegetarian menus on request, we do need to be advised at least 6 weeks prior to trek departure.
Below is a general outline of meals whilst on the trek.
Dinners are at a local restaurant and will either, Malaysian, Indian or Chinese.

  • Breakfasts we have cereals, usually Weetbix or porridge, rice cakes with spread and limited fruits depending on availability, tea, coffee, biscuits, sometimes pancakes and damper.
  • Lunches are often sandwiches, chicken, fruit, cheeses, biscuits, spreads, rice crackers and snack bars
  • We recommend you take your own energy treats/snacks e.g. lollies, muesli bars, energy bars, protein bars, trail mix etc for extra supplements (enough for the duration of your trek).
  • PEANUTS – when cooking our meals some of our sauces have peanut traces. Our porters and trekkers do eat peanuts, muesli bars, biscuits which may contain peanuts. Upon booking it is the trekker’s responsibility to advise Sandakan Spirit should they have an allergy to Peanuts.

    What size back pack do I need?

    You will need a 30/40 litre pack for your day pack.
    You will need to carry a minimum of 3 litres of water on you. There are not many places to fill water bottles along the Sandakan track. Your porters will carry extra water and advise the best places to fill up your water bottles.
    It is essential that you take electrolytes/Gatorade/Staminade etc with you. Put in your water, every 3rd litre, it prevents dehydration due to high perspiration losses due to exertion and high humidity. Dehydration, overheating and Hyponatremia can become major issues on the track. It is very important to keep drinking fluids and utilising salt and electrolyte replacements on the Track. Because of the higher level of activity, temperature and humidity you will tend to sweat more. With the increased fluid intake and sweating you also tend to flush out of your system essential minerals, salts etc. This is why it is important to use electrolytes, salt replacements and Glucose type products. We highly recommend Endura and salt tablets.
    Water purifying tablets should be taken as a precaution. The water is generally very good along the Track but always check with the Trek Master or Trek Leader about the quality of the water. We only source our water from the streams that do not pass through any villages or campsites.
    With the different environments, conditions, food and water, upset stomachs, vomiting and diarrhoea can occur. Please ensure you bring adequate medication.

    What do I need to bring?

    Sandakan Spirit has a comprehensive trekking gear list to help you with your essential items. Refer to our website for your gear list requirements.

    Do I need Gaiters?

    Gaiters are a personal choice; I just use the light weight cotton “gardening/mowing” style to prevent sticks rocks etc from getting into my boots. Refer to our website for your gear list requirements.

    Do we tip the local guides?

    Malaysia is a non tipping society, so tipping your guides, cooks and driver is not necessary. However you may want to reward a job well done, so RM200 is a good tip. Any of your excess clothes or caps, t-shirts etc would be very much appreciated.

    Is a Personal Porter necessary?

    The hiring of a personal porter is not necessary; you will only need to carry a light day pack.

    What is the size of the groups?

    Our Sandakan Death March led treks have a maximum group size of 16, with an average size of 12.
    Our Australian led treks have a maximum group size of 20, with an average size of 16.
    Group sizes will vary for Anzac Groups and private groups and special occasions.

    How much money will I need on Sandakan Death March Route?

    On the Track you need to take with you local currency (Malaysian Ringgit). You can organise to buy Malaysian currency through your local bank before you leave Australia or at the money exchanger at the International Airports. I would highly recommend that you have Malaysian currency before leaving Australia.
    There are shops near our accommodation where you can buy food and drinks to top up your stocks or for a treat.

    Do I need a Visa for Sabah Borneo?

    If you hold an Australian Passport No Visa is required.
    Travel tip
    Wear your boots on the plane and bring essential items in your carryon luggage. Bags do go missing; bags can be left back in Australia. If you have got your boots, medical supplies and some personal items with you and your bag goes missing, then you still have your basic requirements to trek.

    Does the Le Meridian have storage facilities and safety deposit boxes?

    The Le Meridian has baggage storage facilities and safety deposit boxes.
    This means you can leave your non trekking gear in the storage facility while you trek. Make sure you leave passports/travel documents, valuables in the safety deposit boxes. To organise this please ask the staff at the Hotel reception. Please leave all non essential valuables at home.

    Where do we stay in Sabah Borneo?

    Our preferred Hotel in Kota Kinabalu is the 5 Stars Le Meridian. If no availability we will source a similar quality Hotel.

    What happens when we arrive in Sabah Borneo?

    After you pass through Malaysian Immigration, collect your luggage and then you will go through Customs.
    If you are arriving the day before your trek, you will be met at the airport. You will then be transported to the Hotel where you will be checked in.
    If you are arriving earlier than the day before your trek, you will need to arrange with the Hotel for airport transfers. I would suggest when booking your extra night accommodation that you request with the Hotel for airport transfers.

    Do you abide by a Code of Conduct?

    We are part of the committee that developed the draft policy. We will continue to support the Code of Conduct to ensure the long term protection of the track.

    How do you help the villagers and locals along the Track?

    Please refer to our Sustainable Ecotourism strategy policy on the web site. It will give you an insight into our philosophy and policy.

    How knowledgeable are your Sabah Dusan guides?

    Our Sabah Dusan guides are the best; they discovered and uncovered sections of the forgotten war time track. Our guides will show you all the historic and cultural sites across the Sandakan track.

    Do you cover the Military History and Cultural aspects of Sabah Borneo?

    Sandakan Spirit is dedicated to showing and telling the story of the POWs along the infamous Sandakan Death March Route to our trekkers. It is a story that every Australian should know about.

    Our guides are passionate about the history and will share their detailed knowledge of the route and its history with you. We are also dedicated to looking after the villagers and village people along the Sandakan Death March track. Our Sabah Dusan Guides and Porters will share their history and culture with you.

    Do you have an office in Sabah Borneo and Australia?

    Sandakan Spirit has an office in Kota Kinabalu that is run by our experienced and reputable local partner. This office deals with administration and logistics once clients are in Sabah Borneo and our Head Office is on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.

    Sandakan Maps



    Kevin Smith Testimonial

    Kevin Smith Testimonial

    Dear Wayne,
    Your call this morning was most interesting and I thank you for it. I have two maps obtained from a Government office in the early 2000s, although I cannot now recall exactly from whom. They are dated in the mid-70s and I was going to post you copies today. However that will now have to wait until Monday as the place where I have been doing my photocopying has been getting more inefficient by the month. I must now try somewhere else.

    You might find the following comments useful.

    It is pleasing to see Wayne Wetherall’s trek route taking in the very toughest section of the track that was walked by prisoners of war all those years ago between Sandakan and Ranau. That is the section that followed the Liwagu River north from near Taviu to Mankadai and then onto Miru. From Miru the track climbed precipitously to the very high razor-backed ridge, and on through Maringan before it again descended to the Liwagu at Tampias. Prewar, of course, the route from Ranau to Sandakan came down to Tampias as a pony trail, from where the travel was down the Liwagu River by boat into Labuk Bay and around to Sandakan or by boat to Beluran where a foot trail to Sandakan was picked up.

    On that Taviu to Tampias section alone, approximately fifty of our Australian prisoners of war perished,mostly on the first March in February 1945. Their names documented in an Appendix to Lynette Silver’s own book. There were British deaths as well.

    Your clients who walk that authentic Miru track must be proudly yet sadly conscious that they walk in the faltering steps of heroes, men already tragically weakened by their ordeals.. A Japanese officer described the ordeals of that track to Miru: ” . . . before Milulu we met a heavy rain and the path along the cliff was washed away everywhere. We fell down and crawled up the cliffs several times.”

    Nelson Short, one of the four survivors from Ranau, described in interview his own experience of the steep vally sides that they had to traverse. ” I went over the top of a cliff. I fell and rolled down and down. I thought I was never going to stop. I had a – - was carrying a little mat with me and I come to rest on this rock and it saved my life. I crawled back up again and got back onto the march with them, but there were some terrible – - the precipices you know, little paths you had to go around, and everything were shocking – - shocking country through there.”

    Just a day or so later, climbing up the mountain beyond Miru called for unbelievable reserves of strength. In my book I have described that climb in the following terms:
    ” Clinging to the stems of shrubby bushes and liana vines, getting a good footgrip before hauling themselves up one more step, avoiding the spiny rattans and the evil barbs of one or two other bushes, resting whenever they could against the uphill side of an occasional huge tree trunk, panting and gulping for air, each man fought his own way slowly upwards to the top of the razor-back ridge.”

    Be proud of your venture, Wayne. In enabling young Australians and others to experience that track you greatly honour the memory of all who passed that way in 1945.

    My kind regards to you.

    Kevin Smith – Author

    Borneo- Australia’s Proud but Tragic Heritage
    Escapes and Incursions


    Hi Wayne and Jerome

    Just a note to say thanks to Sandakan Spirit for making our trek memorable.

    Being able to walk the Sandakan Death March and particularly visit the Sandakan Memorial and Labuan War Cemetery is something that I have long to be able to do and I know now it was well worth the wait.

    Jerome, Kazz and Loddie made the experience that bit more special with the passionate and knowledge, not only on the history of the war but also the local culture shared along the way.

    The food was great and we had many opportunities to try traditional cultural food including Indian and the most delicious satay kebabs.

    I haven’t stopped talking about the trip since arriving home and I’m already asking everyone who wants to come again with me!

    I recommend anyone that is considering this trek that it is well worth it. The history that you learn along the way, the amount of pride and respect for the POWs I can’t explain in words, it’s something that needs to be experienced.

    I can’t wait to hear more about the Head hunters trek.

    Casey Hatch


    Camp Quality

    Thoughts on the Sandakan Track Trek

    Ali – the adventure is drawing to a close as we head home to reality. Awesome experience that we shared together and one that I would love to see others experience.

    Sharkie - sad the trip is over but happy to be able to unpack the bag full of pressies for others!

    Rhi - adventure of a lifetime with amazing people. Sad it’s over but happy to be home.

    Carol - fantastic time with wonderful group of people and can’t wait to see Sharkie’s documentary.

    Lou - life changing experience. Found it tough but had great bunch of friends to help me through it. So glad I took on the challenge.

    Holly - great historic adventure and challenge and amazing mateship.


    Camp Quality

    Highlights of the Trek

    Following our decent off the mountain into Ranau in the pitch black dark over a very slippery gravel track we walked another 7 kms to the monument that has been erected by the Australian Government.

    Following the elation of US ALL making it to the end of the 100km journey we held a very emotional and touching remembrance service where we spoke of the courage and love we have for our loved ones; those that were up above watching over us every step of the way and the amazing kids of Camp Quality that continue their flight and challenge every day.

    My beautiful nephew in heaven, Harry, inspired me every step of the way and it is because of him that I embark on these challenges.

    It is way too difficult to deliver on this blog the feeling we all have tonight.

    Our bodies are tired beyond belief, our personal satisfaction for making it is high and our hearts are full of love for you all back home who have supported us to be able to come here to Borneo and walk in the footsteps of the men who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

    And at this point we have raised over 110K to be able to continue putting laughter into the lives of our Camp Quality kids who inspire us.

    All 13 of us cannot thank you enough for your support and are looking forward to seeing you all very soon.

    So for now I will finish my Tiger beer and my great friend Donna will be back with you tomorrow.
    So our amazing adventure has come to an end. We have all come back safe and sound, created new friendships and cemented old ones.

    An amazing bunch of people from all different walks of life who came together to do something incredible for Camp Quality. CQ is so lucky to have such courageous and passionate people as part of its family.

    We have all come back with such knowledge of what actually went on during the POW’s captivity and with a real desire to pass this knowledge on.

    What happened to these soldiers is described as Australia’s holocaust and one of its worst war time atrocities and yet barely any Aussies even know about it.

    Having walked in their footsteps we get some idea of where these death marches took them but we will never fully understand how they just kept going without food, water, boots, and clothes and riddled with sickness such as malaria, ulcers or battered and bruised bodies from beatings from the Japanese.

    They continued to drag their poor bodies along the track as they knew that if they stopped then they would be shot or stabbed.

    Their story needs to be told – they need to be recognised for their bravery. Do yourself a favour and contact Wayne from Sandakan Spirit and book a trip over to Sandakan to walk the Track. You will get to meet the amazing Jerome – a guide who goes way beyond what is expected to ensure all your needs are catered for. He is a wealth of information regarding the Death March and is so passionate about ensuring that these courageous POW’s story is told.

    What a great bunch we have doing this Trek. We are all looking after each other and getting on so well. Today turned out to be a lot harder than a lot expected but everyone came through it with a big smile on their face.

    It is so hard to believe the conditions that the POW’s had to trek through this jungle in – it definitely puts things into perspective.

    After leaving here we made our way to the Sandakan Memorial park which incorporates the original Sandakan POW Camp. Here we got to see where the Australian and British compounds were, sites where lots of POWs were buried as they died from malaria, starvation, beatings, etc.

    We all formed a horseshoe around the Sandakan memorial and spent some quiet time paying our respects to the POW’s who went through such atrocities at the hands of the Japanese. It was very real and very moving.

    We left this memorial really well armed with lots of knowledge about the Trek we are about to embark on

    Once again today everyone was helping each other. Jerome our guide is amazed at how our group is so gelled and all get on so well.

    It is the thing that keeps you going – the people around you, checking on you. Helping you, sharing a laugh or a tear. I am sure a lot of this sort of mateship was what kept these courageous POW’s going in such horrendous conditions.

    Mateship is an amazing thing and when you are out in these elements and conditions, it is often all you have.

    When we finally came out of the jungle and Jerome once again took us all to the river to cool off, there was a huge sense of relief and pride at what we had all accomplished.

    Lots said they had never experienced a day like it and Rhi made the comment it was the second hardest day of her entire life.

    Keep going and never, never, never give up. You’ll be so deservedly proud of yourselves by the end.

    Seriously, though, you are doing a fantastic job & I know you will all be an amazing support for each other. I know it is unimaginably hard work at the moment, but as many of you have experienced in the past, the bonds you are forming out there will, for many of you last a lifetime!!!

    We visited the Kundasang War Memorial. Here we watched a 20 minute DVD about the March we had just completed and some interesting footage of interviews of a couple of the POW’s who had escaped.

    The Memorial also had lots of things that were later found on the track like money, bullets, buckles, hats and a pocket watch which one of the little boys from a Village along the Track was given by a man he said was extremely thin and very hungry.

    He gave it to the little boy for some food – the watch is still working some 70 years later.

    There were letters that had been written by the POW’s to their loved ones, all of them saying they are fine and not to worry about them!

    From there we visited the various Memorial Gardens – Australian, British, Borneo and the Garden of Remembrance where all the POW’s names are listed. It is a beautiful solemn place and a great way to top off our Trek.

    When we left here we made our way back to Kota Kinabula to Le Meridien Hotel – hard to believe we left this place 7 days ago to start the Trek.
    We really had no idea what was in front of us and so much has happened to all of us emotionally and physically since then.

    Michelle Y said…

    I am speechless at the selfless act you have all just completed for our families at Camp Quality. Your generosity of spirit, motivation and resilience to just keep going and your ability to laugh in the face of the adversity you all experienced over the last few days of that trek is nothing short of amazing.

    You are all such wonderful ambassadors for our organisation and we are so lucky to have you. We are even more lucky to have you all as friends! Love to you all and look forward to all the stories when you get back. The enormity of what we have accomplished is starting to hit us and we are looking forward to the night together.