Diving in Kapalai
Life on a Sandbank
Kapalai is a shallow reef upon which sits a stilted resort located around 20 minutes from Malaysian dive mecca, Sipadan. Kapalai diving is more than just going to Sipadan every day; it also offers a lot of its own dive 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. To think that there is so much life and activity going on right below you is something unique to diving at Kapalai.
There are several great sites within easy reach of the resort whether they be small walls, shallow reefs or sandy flats with little rocky outcrops where life seems to be concentrated. Just like nearby Mabul Island, some people come to dive only Sipadan and find themselves choosing to dive frequently at Kapalai to enjoy the fascination that macro diving here creates.
Mandarin Valley - Living right on top of a coral reef is Kapalai's chief feature and that you can dive some excellent critter sites by simply striding off the resort is worth a special mention. Crocodilefish, frogfish, mantis shrimps and cuttlefish all live near your room and can be easily seen at this diving site. However if you drop in at sunset you can witness the sexual union of several pairs of beautiful mandarinfish!
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.
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The resorts of Mabul Island and the MV Celebes Explorer, the only liveaboard in the area, also run trips to dive here.
Got a question?
Have a look through our Frequently asked questions
The year round settled conditions and constant water temperature mean that the dive sites here can be dived all year round. The best time is probably between March and October outside which time the visibility may vary, although you don't need much visibility to wonder at the small creatures that live around here. 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.
Good for: Small animals and beginner divers
Not so good for: Non-diving activities
Depth: 5 - 20m
Visibility: 5 - 15m
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
Access: Dive resorts
Recommended length of stay: 5 - 14 days, including the Sipadan, Kapalai and Mabul sites
Dive Site Descriptions
For more information on the detailed Kapalai dive sites:
• Kapalai travel information
View a map of:
• Sabah - Borneo - Malay Peninsula
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