Sandakan – Borneo

The Sandakan Memorial Trek

The Sandakan Death March was a tragic episode during World War II that involved the forced march of Australian and British prisoners of war in Borneo, Malaysia, by the Japanese Imperial Army during the early part of 1945.

Following the fall of Singapore in 1942, the Japanese captured around 2,700 Allied soldiers and transferred them to Sandakan POW camp.

The prisoners endured harsh living conditions, malnutrition, and brutal treatment.

In January 1945, as the war approached its end, the Japanese decided to move the remaining prisoners on a series of gruelling marches to Ranau, approximately 260 kilometres away.

The marches were marked by extreme brutality, and only six Australians survived.

This brutal chapter in history serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by the Australia Diggers, highlighting their bravery and resilience in the face of overwhelming adversity.

The Diggers were well-regarded for their fighting spirit, resourcefulness, and camaraderie. Throughout the war Australian soldiers fought alongside their British and American allies, often facing challenging conditions in unfamiliar territories.

The events of the Sandakan Death March exemplify the immense courage and resilience displayed by the Australia Diggers as they endured unimaginable hardships and remained steadfast in their commitment to their country and fellow soldiers.

ANZAC Day serves as a poignant reminder of the tremendous contributions made by the Diggers and honours all Australian servicemen and women who have served in conflicts around the world. The Sandakan Memorial trek remains a crucial part of this commemoration, reminding the nation of the brutalities of war and the bravery of those who endured them.

Through the remembrance of such events, Australians continue to recognize the profound impact of war on individuals, families, and society, fostering a commitment to peace and unity for future generations.

ANZAC Day - Sandakan Memorial Trek - 8 Nights, 9 Days

Sandakan is one of the most tragic Australian stories of World War Two. But it’s also one of our most heroic.

After 79 years, you can walk the Sandakan Death March track in the footsteps of those heroes.With Sandakan Spirit as your trekking company, you’ll be participating in both a personal discovery experience and an historic Borneo adventure.

ANZAC Day - Sandakan Memorial Trek Plus Mt Kinabalu Climb - 10 Nights 11 Days - $4,795 PP

Sandakan is one of the most tragic Australian stories of World War Two. But it’s also one of our most heroic.

After 79 years, you can walk the Sandakan Death March track in the footsteps of those heroes.With Sandakan Spirit as your trekking company, you’ll be participating in both a personal discovery experience and an historic Borneo adventure.

Sandakan Day Trek Including Sandakan Death March & Mt Kinabalu Climb 11 Days - 10 Nights - $4295 pp

Sandakan is one of the most tragic Australian stories of World War Two. But it’s also one of our most heroic.

After 79 years, you can walk the Sandakan Death March track in the footsteps of those heroes.With Sandakan Spirit as your trekking company, you’ll be participating in both a personal discovery experience and an historic Borneo adventure.

Sandakan Day - 8 Nights - 9 Days - $3545 pp

Experience Sandakan Day

After 79 years, you can walk the Sandakan Death March track in the footsteps of those heroes.With Sandakan Spirit as your trekking company, you’ll be participating in both a personal discovery experience and an historic Borneo adventure.

Sandakan Memorial Trek - 8 Nights, 9 Days - $3,545 PP

Sandakan is one of the most tragic Australian stories of World War Two. But it’s also one of our most heroic.

After 79 years, you can walk the Sandakan Death March track in the footsteps of those heroes.With Sandakan Spirit as your trekking company, you’ll be participating in both a personal discovery experience and an historic Borneo adventure.

About

Wild 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 Wild Spirit Adventures has walked the Sandakan Death March Track on 10 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 Adventures 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 “wild 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. Wild Spirit Adventures encourages and assists our guests in learning about the country, its culture, religion and its customs, resulting in a much more informed experience.

March

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12/03/2024
20/03/2024
9 Days
Sandakan Memorial Trek
-
$3,545

Trek Booking

Pay Only Deposit: $500.00 Per Person

Minimum Persons
Total Deposit: $500
Category:
12/03/2024
22/03/2024
11 Days
Sandakan Memorial Trek Plus Mt Kinabalu Climb
AUSTRALIAN LED
-
$4,795

Trek Booking

Pay Only Deposit: $500.00 Per Person

Minimum Persons
Total Deposit: $500
Category:

April

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24/04/2024
02/05/2024
9 Days
ANZAC DAY Sandakan Memorial Trek
AUSTRALIAN LED
-
$3,545

Trek Booking

Pay Only Deposit: $500.00 Per Person

Minimum Persons
Total Deposit: $500
Category:
24/04/2024
04/05/2024
11 Days
ANZAC DAY Sandakan Memorial Trek Plus Mt Kinabalu Climb
AUSTRALIAN LED
-
$4,795

Trek Booking

Pay Only Deposit: $500.00 Per Person

Minimum Persons
Total Deposit: $500
Category:

August

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14/08/2024
22/08/2024
8 Days
Sandakan Day Trek
-
$3,545

Trek Booking

Pay Only Deposit: $500.00 Per Person

Minimum Persons
Total Deposit: $500
Category:
14/08/2024
24/08/2024
11 Days
Sandakan Memorial Trek & Mt Kinabalu Climb (Including Sandakan Day Service)
AUSTRALIAN LED
-
$4,795

Trek Booking

Pay Only Deposit: $500.00 Per Person

Minimum Persons
Total Deposit: $500
Category:

September

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11/09/2024
19/09/2024
9 Days
Sandakan Memorial Trek
AUSTRALIAN LED
-
$3,545

Trek Booking

Pay Only Deposit: $500.00 Per Person

Minimum Persons
Total Deposit: $500
Category:

Sandakan Death March Overview & History

Sandakan is regarded as one of our worst wartime tragedies. Beside the fact that of approx. 3000 Prisoners of War, only 6 would survive to tell the story, and that attempts to rescue the POWs were at best disorganized and at worst less that serious, the overwhelming feeling is that this tragedy exposed the very worst of a ruthless enemy and the very best of individual POWs. Their stories are worth knowing and sharing.

As Dame Mary Gilmore (Australian writer and Poet) has said. “They are not dead; not even broken.

Only their dust has gone back home in the earth; For they, the essential they, shall have rebirth Whenever a word of them is spoken.”

At the fall of Singapore in Feb 1942, over 100 000 allied troops from a number of countries were held prisoner by the Japanese Imperial Army in the Changi Region of Singapore. In the early days, life wasn’t too bad for the POWs, as they could wander the area without strict supervision or treatment, but as the war moved on to other Pacific area, the Japanese identified a need to use the POWs as slave labour to build airstrips and rail links. This meant that some POWs would be moved to other sites, like Thai- Burma Railway and to Borneo.

On July 8, 1942, approximately 1500 POWs were invited to travel to a “land of milk and honey”, where food was plentiful, and life would be less crowded and easier. The reality would be far different to this. At later dates, more POWs would be sent to Sandakan. The first POWs were housed on Berhala Island in Sandakan Harbour. Eventually all would be sent to Sandakan mainland to the POW camp that we will visit on our trek.

For the next 3 years, the POWs would be subjected to cruel treatment that included starvation, withholding medical supplies and treatment and savage beatings for any minor discretions. Each day they would march the 4 kms to the site of the airstrip and work with crude tools to build and maintain this for Japanese planes. Keith Botterill, one of the only 6 to survive, describes in his own words what life was like in the Camp.

“I was confined in the cage at Sandakan for 40 days and 40 nights, during which time I was bashed every day. I was not allowed to have a wash or a shave all the time I was imprisoned and was seven days without food. On another occasion I was locked up in the cage for twelve days for breaking away from the aerodrome to get tapioca roots; I was caught coming back by the Koreans. On the occasion of my first imprisonment, I had broken into the Q. M. store for food for the sick. After the 40 days were up, I had scabies all over my hand. I had no clothes at all except a lap-lap. Each morning those in the cage were taken and given what the Japanese called “P.T.” This consisted of a severe bashing. Men had to be carried back into the cage crying; some collapsed but a bucket of water was thrown over them to bring them too again. At the time I was in the cage, there were 17 others confined. The cage was about nine feet by 18 feet, and we could not all lay down together; when we lay on our sides close together, four still had to sit up.”

As the war started to turn badly against the Japanese, a decision was made to move the POWs inland to Ranau, some 260 km away. The Japanese explanation for this was to protect the POWs from the increasingly frequent allied bombing. Reality would tell us that to march sick and undernourished men through thick jungle over mountains would amount to a death sentence for all but a few.

The local Dusan people who were instructed to create the track to Ranau, were of the belief that it was only for retreating Japanese troops and so they made the track as difficult as possible, moving away from water and including mountainous climbs through thick jungle. This would result in impossible conditions for weak, starved and sick POWs.

The First March began on Jan 29, 1945. Some 455 of the fittest POWs set off walking, carrying their own meagre belongings as well as supplies for their masters. The journey took 9 to14 days. Many would die on the way. Some would fall down from exhaustion and starvation and were subsequently murdered. By June 26 only 5 Australians and 1 British soldier were still alive. Keith Botterill once again describes in his own words what that March was like.

“In February 1945 we were given three days’ notice to leave Sandakan at the rate of 50 a day, for Ranau. Altogether there were 850 Australians and 120 English, and I was in the third party. When I left two parties had already gone. The Japanese who were with us on the march were a lieutenant, a sergeant-major, a corporal, a lance-corporal and about 15 privates; we were made to carry their ammunition and rice as well as our own clothes, blanket, groundsheet and provisions. For three days 40 of us had only six cucumbers between us but generally we had a little bit of rice which was just sufficient to keep us alive. Men dropped out from the march as they became too weak to carry on and they were immediately shot.

I saw four men shot when they fell out and this was done by the Japanese sergeant major. On one occasion an Australian sergeant could not carry on and fell out. He seemed to go off his head and was grabbing Sgt-Maj. Warrington and begging him to shoot him. A number of mates were bayoneted, by the Japanese, 20 miles from Ranau. They were too weak to carry on and fell out. I saw the bayoneting myself; the men were on the ground at the time. The corporal and myself used to go into the gardens for tapioca which we would cook up and make a decent meal of, so I was one of the fittest men in the camp. On this occasion, of the bayoneting and shooting, Shear was on the ground calling out “Don’t shoot me” and putting his hands up, but nevertheless he was shot and left lying on the ground.”

The Second March began on May 29 with 536 POWs. Only 183 got to Ranau.

The Third March began on June 9 with only 75 POWs capable of starting from approx. 250 POWs left at Sandakan. None of these 75 would last beyond the 50 km mark. The rest of the POWs were taken out of their huts and their huts were burnt. Those who did not die of “natural causes” were shot. None would remain alive in Sandakan.

Their story would never have seen the light of day, if not for the 6 Australians who escaped.

Private Keith Botterill, Warrant Officer Bill Sticpewick, Private William Moxham, Bombardier Richard Braithwaite, Gunner Owen Campbell and Private Nelson Short were the only survivors.

Was this a Preventable Tragedy?

There have been many statements put forward over the years for both sides of the argument. Indeed, there is evidence that with better intelligence and with a stronger will to succeed, there was an opportunity to at least attempt a rescue. Successful rescues of American POWs in Manila, like Los Banos, where 2146 civilian internees were rescued by a surprise attack of the American 11th Airborne Division. Also 3500 civilian internees were rescued at Santo Tomas, near Manila when a deal was made between American and Japanese Troops. Some 810 POWs and 500 civilians are rescued when the Japanese pulled out of Bilibid Prision as American Troops approached.

In Sandakan, info of POW numbers and their condition was gathered from 2nd and 3rd hand sources. Although Captain Ray Steele, who escaped in May 1943, gave information to authorities, which seems to have been ignored or discounted.

Operation Kingfisher was a planned rescue operation of the POWs in Sandakan Camp that was abandoned in early 1945. The Agas Team on the ground in Borneo incorrectly reported that by April there were no POWs left in Sandakan. This was clearly wrong.

The closeness of an actual attempt can be seen by the fact that Australian paratroopers and Royal Marines were placed on standby for such an operation. The order to GO! was never received. General Thomas Blamey (Commander-in-Chief of Australian Armed Forces) directed blame at General Douglas MacArthur (Supreme Commander – South Pacific Area) for not providing adequate air support. The real truth will never be known.

Their story of suffering and survival will be revealed on the trek. They bear witness to the immense COURAGE, amazing ENDURANCE, undying MATESHIP and total SACRIFICE.

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.

Wild Spirit Adventures 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.

Tour Operator Reveals Deadly Past

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

Local Heroes On The March

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

Borneo Track Discovery Claim

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

FAQ - Sandakan Death March

Sandakan Death March

Do you have an office in Sabah Borneo and Australia?

Wild 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. Our Head Office is on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.

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

Wild 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.

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.

Are treks available with Australian Guides?

Our treks are generally led by our experienced Local Guides, however, we can negotiate an Australian Guide for some treks.

Managing Director Wayne Wetherall has spent years researching the history of the Track and has GPS’ed the entire length of the track, to create an up to date profile of the track.

What happens when we arrive in Sabah Borneo?

After you pass through Malaysian Immigration and collect your luggage, you will go through Customs.

If you are arriving the day before your trek or the day of trek, you will be met at the airport by a representative from our local partners office. 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.

Where do we stay in Sabah Borneo?

Our preferred Hotel in Sandakan is the 4 star, Four Points Hotel by Sheraton. In Kota Kinabalu, the 5 star Le Meridian. If no availability we will source a similar quality Hotel.

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.

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

On the Death March you need to take local currency (Malaysian Ringgit). We recommend a daily allowance of 20 – 30 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.

What are the size of the groups?

Our Sandakan Death March treks we have a maximum group size of 16, with an average size of 12.
Group sizes will vary for Anzac groups, Sandakan Day groups as well as private/special occasion groups.

Is a Personal Porter necessary?

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

Do we tip the local guides?

Malaysia is a non-tipping society, so tipping your guides, cooks and driver is not necessary but is appreciated and considered a ‘free will’ gesture. 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.

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.

What gear do I need to bring?

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

What size back pack do I need?

You will need a 30/40 litre pack for your day pack.

Water/Electrolytes

You will need to carry a minimum of 3 litres of water on you. You will be given bottles of water each morning which you can pour into your water bladder if you prefer, otherwise you can just use the bottles.

It is essential that you take electrolytes with you. Yes, electrolytes are essential. We have our own specifically blended electrolytes for trekking Kokoda which can be purchased from Kokoda Spirit at http://www.kokodaspirit.com.au/booknow/trek-fuel/

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.

Water purifying tablets should be taken along as a precaution.

With the different environments, conditions, food and water, upset stomachs, vomiting and diarrhoea can occur. Please ensure you bring adequate medication.

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

Wild 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 can generally provide 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 be either, Malaysian, Indian or Chinese.

  • Breakfasts: cereals, eggs, toast/rice cakes with spread, fruits depending on seasons, tea, coffee, biscuits, sometimes pancakes.
  • 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.

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 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.
What are the walking times and distances each day?
  • Wake up time is usually around 5.30am – 6.00 am
  • Breakfast is usually served from 6.30 am
  • We usually start walking around 7.00 am
  • There are 5-10 minute breaks every 30 mins or so along the track and a stop for morning tea and lunch.
  • The walking pace is best described as 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 time back at accommodation is around 3.30 pm to 4.30 pm.
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 can be 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%

Do we trek at night?

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

What happens in case of an emergency?

Wild Spirit has 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.

Villages

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.

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

Please refer to our sustainable Ecotourism strategy policy on the website. This will give you an insight into our philosophy and policy.

What is the accommodation like on the Sandakan Track?

Our accommodation along the track is clean, safe and basic and in forestry lodges, motel style rooms and longhouses.

Is a walking pole necessary?

Walking poles are essential and 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.

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.

You will need coverage for medical evacuation; medical, theft, loss etc. 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.

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

Yes. Approximately 3 months prior to your trek Wild Spirit will email a letter that you need to take to your doctor.

We ask that this original Drs Letter be scanned and emailed to our Wild Spirit office no later than 4 weeks before departure.

It is Wild Spirit’s requirements that every trekker must obtain medical clearance from their doctor. If we do not receive the original Wild Spirit Drs letter, unfortunately your trek will be cancelled.

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 you abide by a Code of Conduct?

We were 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.

What happens to the rubbish on Sandakan?

It is very important that we all take good care of the Track. Whilst trekking, please put your own rubbish in your backpack until you can dispose of at end of the day. If you see rubbish on the Track, pick it up and put it in our rubbish bags.

What 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 gear to suit your requirements.

Do I need a medical kit?

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

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 than 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 we have exclusive use of the guesthouses?

No, we do not have exclusive use of the lodges along the Sandakan Death March Track. It is quite possible that some lodges will be shared by other trekkers.

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.

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 Wild Spirit. Wild Spirit has a comprehensive risk management plan and safety procedures.

Our guides are first aid trained for wilderness situations.

It is important that you get yourself a full medical check before training. Wild 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.

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 can be steep in parts. 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. Once again we recommend you consult your medical practitioner before undertaking any new training program.

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.

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

A Wild 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.

How do I book?

Contact the Wild Spirit office by email info@wildspiritadventures.com or phone us on 07 5445 2758 we will advise you regarding the different options available.

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 8 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 above mentioned 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.

Relax and Enjoy

Every effort is made to make your trip as memorable as possible. Please remember, you are going to country where you may see and experience things you 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.

Patience and a relaxed attitude are essential for an enjoyable trek. This a fantastic trekking adventure, it is an empowering and life changing experience. Enjoy!

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.

The Pow’s Speak About Their Experiences On The Sandakan Death March Track

“All the way along the Sandakan Death March track, we smelt and saw bodies. They were Australian soldier’s bodies from the prisoner’s marches. We could recognise them- some we new personally…

In all my dealings with the Japanese. I have never seen anyone of our chaps after they have been left with the Japs. Once you stopped, you stopped for good.”

“I’d deliberately get out of bed of a morning, off my bunk and I’d go out to aggravate them in some way or other. I never ever let the Japanese beat me, in my mind. Because they beat me bodily, but they never broke my nerve or my heart.”

Governor General Speech

Address By Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC Governor-General Of The Commonwealth Of Australia
On The Occasion Of The Sandakan Day Memorial service Sandakan 15 August 2010

Today, we gather as nations that share a history, and as friends who share a human story.

The dedication of Sandakan Day ensures that the records and memorials of that history are observed and attended to,

year in, year out, for lifetimes hence.

About Sandakan 1942 – 1945

After the fall of Singapore in February 1942, numbers of Australian and British POWs were brought progressively to Sandakan.

The first large group of Australians about 1500 men to arrive from Singapore was ‘B’ Force. They steamed along the east coast of Borneo on the Ubi Maru and arrived at Sandakan on 17 July 1942.

Lieutenant Rod wells thought the scenery beautiful.
From the sea it’s lovely. With red chalk hills on the side of Berhala Island it really was very impressive. I suppose for a split moment we thought, with a sigh of relief, that here’s some beautiful, peaceful land where there may not be any Japanese.

Sandakan Death March

Jack Sue Did Not Fabricate His Wartime Heroics, Says His Son…..
Theo Fakos Source: Perth Now

CLAIMS that one of Australia’s greatest war heroes, Jack Wong Sue, fabricated key parts of his personal memoir Blood on Borneo have been refuted by a new inquiry.

But Lynette Silver, the historian who made the claims, has refused to back down and yesterday insisted: “There is not a single thing in this report that refutes anything.”

The inquiry, commissioned by the WA World War II hero’s oldest son Barry Sue, found “there appears to be absolutely no justification for calling Jack Wong Sue a liar”.

Parts Of Sandakan Uncovered

New Find On The Borneo Trail….
AN Australian trekker says he has uncovered two new sections of track on the infamous Sandakan death march in Borneo, which would correct the preservation of one of the country’s most tragic and heroic wartime histories.

More than 2400 Australian and British prisoners of war died during World War II working on the track, where they were beaten, tortured and executed. Only six Australians escaped and survived.

Victoria Cross Graves

Robyn Riley – Herald Sun – Sunday July 31, 2011
Help Save Our Victoria Cross Heroes’ Memories…..

The graves of some Victoria Cross war heroes have been left to crumble because of decades of bureaucratic indifference.
And the final resting places of many of Victoria’s bravest soldiers are in danger of disappearing entirely thanks to bureaucratic buck-passing.

Courage Sacrifice

The Most Tragic Australian Stories

SANDAKAN IS ONE OF THE MOST TRAGIC AUSTRALIAN STORIES OF WORLD WAR TWO.
BUT IT’S ALSO ONE OF OUR MOST HEROIC.
After nearly 70 years, you can walk the Sandakan Death March track in the footsteps of those heroes.

With Sandakan Spirit as your trekking company, you’ll be participating in both a personal discovery experience and an historic Borneo adventure.