Malaysia – Sandakan Sports Complex, Sandakan

Location: Sandakan Sports Complex, Jalan Sibuga, 90000 Sandakan, Sabah
Google maps: Click here
Opening hours: Monday: Closed
Tues – Sunday: Open 8am to 11am and 3pm to 8pm.
Price: 3.2 ringgits for a day pass

Like the look of this gym? If you want to stay nearby then you can check out the links to hotels within walking distance at the end of this article.


Review: Having flown from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan, we rented a car at the airport and headed out to see the Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary in Sepilok. This proved to be a truly unique and amazing experience and on the way home we decided to check out the Sandakan Sports Complex.
The complex is a huge public sports centre, based just outside the city of Sandakan, in the northern part of Malaysian Borneo. This area is famous for its Proboscis monkey, Orangutan and sun bear sanctuaries which draw in tourists from all over the world. There is no doubt that Sandakan Sports Complex was built to serve the local community. When I was there, the complex was used by school groups for their PE lessons and in the hour or so that I wandered around the grounds I didn’t see another tourist.
Set over sprawling grounds, the complex includes a running track built around a lake and badminton, tennis, basketball and even netball courts. It also has a huge swimming pool, padded areas for karate lessons, a huge outdoor rock climbing wall, complete with overhang, and even a decent sized gym. If you are looking to play team sports or go rock climbing in Sandakan, then this is your place.
The gym is, however, a long way from being a modern gym. The equipment is pretty basic and weathered. The gym is also kind of grimy and I don’t think anyone here has ever heard the word Zumba. But, to be honest, I love gyms like this. If what you care about most is being able to lift heavy weights and push yourself harder than you did last week, then you will be able to train here without an issue. If you prefer the more modern health club environment with LCD TVs, filtered air and the latest dynamic tension machines, then this isn’t the place for you. Try All Fit Express instead.
Equipment wise, this place is pretty well stocked and has:
  • Dumbbells up to 50kg
  • Adjustable benches
  • Olympic bars
  • Flat barbell bench
  • Incline barbell bench
  • Decline barbell bench
  • Shoulder press bench
  • Cables
  • Squat rack
  • Pull up bars
  • T bar row machine
  • Lat pulldown
  • Leg press machine
  • Leg extension machine
  • Leg curl machine
  • Calf raise machine
  • Hack squat machine
  • Leg raise / dips platform
  • Treadmill
  • Static bikes
  • Cross trainers
  • Lockers
The sports complex even has a small cafe / restaurant and a small sports store in the grounds, which are in the main body of the building. Also, its worth nothing that despite the signs to the contrary, access to the gym is from the outside, by passing through the main lobby. The gym is at the back on the left, just as the building opens out onto the lake. Pay your entrance fee here on your way in.
Finally, there is no air conditioning or wifi in this gym, so bring a sweat towel and some of your own music with you. I can’t remember if they had  water there, but you should be able to grab a bottle of water at the cafe. In Malaysia they also sell an isotonic drink called 100, which I often like to drink when working out to help keep me hydrated. Its a little bit carbonated, so be careful how much you glug when it gets hot.
Who is this gym for? Despite this being a sports complex for the local population, I was in no way made to feel uncomfortable. As I have observed previously, the Malaysians that I have met have been incredibly kind, warm and almost shy people. If anything, because tourism is still growing in Borneo, people are kind of excited to get to interact with a foreigner.
The gyms itself contains both weights and cardio equipment. The atmosphere here seemed pretty male dominated, but not in such a way that I think it would be uncomfortable to female travellers. Malaysia remains a fairly modest country, so I would encourage everyone to consider choosing modest loose fitting gym attire when training in this country. Also, I really don’t think they get many tourists training here so I would expect people to stare or watch you train. This often happens in south east Asia and it is hardly ever meant in an intimidating or leering way. You are just new and interesting to the locals. I always just smile at people and have ended up making some great friends this way!
Also the complex itself is a little far from the town centre, so if you are going to take a taxi there you may wish to pre-book your return journey to avoid getting stuck.
Tips: The gym does operate some pretty weird working hours, so make sure you check the time before heading down there.

Nearby Hotels:

$ – Guesthouse @ Villa Permai: From £32

$$ – Double L Property: From £41

$$$ – Sandakan Apartment IJM Condo: From £50

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