The overview of Sandakan town and St Mary’s Cathedral when hikers reach the peak of Marian Hill in Sandakan. Pix by Awang Ali Omar

SANDAKAN: Little-known Marian Hill here is set to be a new attraction with its pristine natural surroundings, as well as religious and historical significance.

A church has teamed up with Sandakan Tourism Association to promote the hill based on these elements, as well as the view it has from the hilltop.

During a recent hike with the media, St Mary’s Parish Pastoral Council chairman Pilis Malim said it took less than an hour to reach to the peak where climbers could see the expanse of Sandakan town below.

“The 2.5km journey provides views of beautiful flora.

“It begins from Marian corridor, a name dedicated to Mother Mary, who is the guardian of the parish.  

“The first stop is a ‘Japanese Bunker’, which was used by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War 2,” he said, adding that there were about 10 bunkers in the area.

After a 300m climb, hikers will reach a 16m-wide by 8m-tall dam.

Pilis said the church committee members discovered the dam by chance when it was almost damaged by treasure hunters in 2013.

“The dam is believed to be built by a company in 1902 and was used by the Imperial Japanese Army as their main source of clean water.

“The committee renamed the structure as Mill Hill dam in honour of a visit by Mill Hill Missionaries at St Mary’s Cathedral here,” he said.

Hikers will continue their journey to Marian spring where Catholics believe that its water had miracle powers.

Pilis said the new attractions on Marian Hill would complement the other existing eco-tourism products in the district.

In 2015, the Sabah Forestry Department gave a licence for the church to conduct religious activities on the hill, which is located near the cathedral.

The Sandakan Diocese is working on providing infrastructure in fulfilling the hill’s status as a tourist destination that is on a par with other tourism products in the state.

Sandakan Tourism Association president Johnny Lim said he would soon invite the Sabah Tourism Board and tour agents to help promote Marian Hill.

Those interested to visit the hill can go individually but for a group of up to 15 people, they are required to book at least a week in advance.