Diving in Kapalai

Life on a Sandbank

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...Good for: Small animals and beginner divers...
...Not so good for: Wrecks and non-diving activities...

Kapalai is a shallow reef upon which sits a stilted resort located around 20 minutes from the Malaysian scuba mecca of Sipadan. Kapalai diving is about more than just going to Sipadan every day; it also offers a lot of its own sites, some of which can be accessed by striding off the resort's own diving platform.

The beautiful wooden resort looks more like people's idea of honeymooner's favourite the Maldives, than like Borneo and there is something undeniably romantic about falling asleep with the sea breeze wafting in through your cabin as the shallow water gently laps below. Show more

Dive Site Descriptions

Cleaning Station - Like the majority of sites here, you will find Cleaning Station a nice and easy dive. The entry point is about 100m away from the dive station and you initially descend to the top of the reef at about 5m depth before gently making your way down the slope. You can then cruise along in the typically mild current at about 16m checking out various colorful nudibranchs, as well as the resident turtles hanging around an old wooden boat wreck. Show more

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How to Dive Kapalai

You don't have to stay on Kapalai to experience these dive sites. However, if you do stay in Kapalai Resort you can dive here every day (and night) if you wish. Special local rates apply for Malaysians, Singaporeans and expatriates living in those countries with work permits.

The resorts of Mabul Island and the MV Celebes Explorer, the only liveaboard in the area, also run trips here.

For more information on your diving options, and all the other travel information you might need to visit Kapalai and the state of Sabah on Borneo Island, view our:



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Diving Season

The year round settled conditions mean that the sites here can be visited all year round. The best time is probably from March to October; outside this time (during the rainy season) the visibility varies although you don't need clear water to wonder at the small creatures that live around here.

Kapalai's dive sites typically have sandy bottoms so visibility will be reduced unless conditions are very calm. However, the visibility is often a lot better than the "as standard" low visibility experienced at some other classic muck-diving destinations. Water temperatures are reasonably constant between 26 and 30°C, with November to February being the months with cooler water.

The main creatures of Kapalai such as mandarinfish, frogfish, ribbon eels and other smaller creatures are resident and therefore present all year round. There is no seasonal variation when it comes to underwater encounters.

Kapalai is a popular resort and there is a risk, during certain times of the year, of the resort being fully booked. These periods where advanced booking is necessary include March to August, Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year. If you wish to travel at these times please let us know as soon as possible.

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Where is Kapalai and How Do I Get There?

Review our map below of Sabah, showing the location of Kapalai. Here, you will find information on how to get to Kapalai.

Map of the Sipadan-Mabul-Kapalai region (click to enlarge in a new window) Map of Sabah (click to enlarge in a new window)

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Reef Summary

Depth: 5 - 20m
Visibility: 5 - 15m
Currents: Gentle
Surface conditions: Can be a little choppy
Water temperature: 26 - 30°C
Experience level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: 18
Distance: 10 km (18 minutes) north east of Sipadan and 5 km east of Mabul
Recommended length of stay: 5 - 14 days, including the Sipadan, Kapalai and Mabul sites

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Useful References


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