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……..
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 “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.
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.
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.
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.
29/01/14 – 07/02/14 Anniversary Trek First Death March
29/05/14 – 07/06/14 Anniversary Trek Second Death March
29/07/14 – 07/07/14 **Anniversary Trek Third Death March
Anzac Day trek *24/04/14 – 03/05/14
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!
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
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 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.
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.
Please refer to our Sustainable Ecotourism strategy policy on the web site. It will give you an insight into our philosophy and policy.
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.
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.
Our preferred Hotel in Kota Kinabalu is the 5 Stars Le Meridian. If no availability we will source a similar quality Hotel.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The hiring of a personal porter is not necessary; you will only need to carry a light day pack.
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.
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.
Sandakan Spirit has a comprehensive trekking gear list to help you with your essential items. Refer to our website for your gear list requirements.
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.
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.
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.
Yes you can. This has not been an issue before. You must declare your food and advise customs that it is for trekking.
The facilities on the Sandakan Death March track are very basic at best.
However our Hotel accommodation has showers toilets and basic washing facilities.
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%
Sandakan Spirit does not trek at night. Our itineraries are designed to ensure you are at your accommodation well before night fall.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes, absolutely. It is essential that you have an appropriate first aid kit for the conditions.
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.
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.
Yes we do walk the real Sandakan Track. You will walk in the footsteps of the POWs.
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.
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.
Our training program is on our website alternatively if you would like a copy we can email this to you upon request.
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.
Contact the Sandakan Spirit office by email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone us on 07 5445 2758 we will advise you regarding the different options available.
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!