Sandakan Spirit – Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
How knowledgeable are your Australian Guides?
Our Australian Guides are first class professionals with a passion and understanding of the history of the Track, the POWs, the philosophy and tactics used during the Sandakan incarceration and death march. Being a historical guide is what they do, this is no part time job for them, and they live and breathe the story of the track.
Our Head Guide and Managing Director Wayne Wetherall has spent years researching the history of the Track and has GPS the entire length of the track, to create and up to date profile of the track.
Our guides may not be ex Military, but are all keen students of Military history and tactics. They are also expert track guides and fluent in the culture of the people along 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do I need a Visa for Sabah Borneo?
If you hold an Australian Passport No Visa is required.
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 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.
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.
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. 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.
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 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.
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 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.
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 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.
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%
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do I need a medical kit?
Yes, absolutely. It is essential that you have an appropriate 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 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 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 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 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.
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.
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 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.
How do I book?
Contact the Sandakan Spirit office by email email@example.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 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.
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!