Making Friends In Borneo

Andrew Leeson


Retire to Malaysia

Borneo is the third largest island in the World, and the largest in Asia. This rugged and stunningly beautiful land mass is located in the Malay Archipelago, and is shared by the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, Indonesian Kalimantan and the tiny nation of Brunei. Known for its glorious beaches and ancient, biodiverse rainforest, it is home to wildlife including Orang-Utans, Clouded Leopards and Proboscis Monkeys. In Sabah you’ll find the 4,095m-tall Mount Kinabalu, the island’s highest peak, and offshore the famed dive site Sipadan Island. This is nature at its very best and most breathtaking.


South East Asia has so many treasures. It offers the retiree, long term resident and even the two week tourist a vast array of experiences that touch every one of our senses. And when it comes to experiencing nature at its most raw and enchanting, Borneo really does have it all. Rainforests, mountains, coral reefs, and an abundance of wildlife that can still be enjoyed in its natural habitat.

The island covers some 743,330 square kilometres, and is home to around 20 million residents, the majority of which live in the large coastal cities of Samarinda and Banjamasin (Indonesia), Kuching and Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia) and Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei). Split between these 3 countries, we’ll primarily be concentrating on Malaysian Borneo in this particular blog.


Mount Kinabalu


Borneo is only one of two places in the World where you can still see Orang-Utans in the wild (the other is Sumatra). Two of the best places to view them are at the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre in East Sabah, and Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Park, just outside of Kuching (in Sarawak).

As a wildlife paradise, Malaysian Borneo offers those who enjoy trekking a great range of options, from climbing Mount Kinabalu (the highest in Malaysia and third highest in South East Asia), to exploring the 140 million year old rainforests, such as those in Bako National Park

Borneo Malaysia
Proboscus Monkey

In Sabah you’ll find another World renowned attraction, the stunning Kinabatangan River National Park. Here you can expect to find elephants, Orang-Utans, Crocodiles, Pythons and the highly endangered Proboscis Monkeys.

Aside from land based activities, as you move offshore from the islands magnificent beaches, you can expect to find some of the best scuba diving sites on the planet. For example, such is the popularity of Borneo’s Sipadan Reef, only 120 diving permits are issued daily in order to preserve its fragile marine environment. 


The wet season in Borneo occurs from November through to March, when the Northeast Monsoon is blowing. From April onwards the weather on the island becomes dryer and more consistent. Temperatures and humidity are generally high the whole year round, with an average temp of 25 degrees celsius.

Getting there

There are no direct flights between Australia and Malaysian Borneo. Generally most visitors will go via Malaysia’s capital of Kuala Lumpur, which has the most connections to both Kota Kinabalu (the capital of Sabah) and Kuching (the capital of Sarawak). However, there are also flights from other Malaysian locations, such as Penang and Langkawi, in addition to a number of international cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Taipei.

Another potential route for those living in Melbourne, is to fly direct to Brunei, then connect for a short flight to either Kuching or Kota Kinabalu. Unfortunately, Royal Brunei Airlines do not currently fly from any other Australian city. 

Retire to Malaysia


A Natural Wonder (for holidays)

Borneo is one of Malaysia’s fastest growing tourist markets, and accommodation of all kinds is developing rapidly to meet this demand. But whilst it has good healthcare, entertainment and cuisine available, generally most expats see the island more as holiday destination than a permanent home. Its natural beauty is certainly second to none, but for many the comfort of KL, Penang, Johor, Ipoh or Malacca make them more favoured Malaysian retiree locations.

For retirees, and long stay residents Malaysia has without doubt the most attractive retirement visa (MM2H) available in the region, and this together with World Class healthcare, superb cuisine, large English speaking population and excellent cost of living make it an ideal home away from home. Please see more about MM2H in the Malaysian Retirement Visa section of our website.

If you’d like more information or have any questions, please feel free to call 1800-961-377 or email in**@re**********.au and let the team at Retire to Asia help make your dream lifestyle a reality.

Andrew Leeson

Andrew Leeson

Over 20 years of experience helping people live a better life in SE Asia. Having worked in financial services in Asia I understand the challenges when moving to and living in a new country. I have travelled extensively throughout the region and experienced what SE Asia has to offer to retirees.

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