The Kapalai Dive Resort

A few minutes by boat from the islands of Sipadan and Mabul lies the exhilarating Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort, it sits on the sandbanks of the Ligitan Reef which is one of the popular dive sites of Mabul Island. In general, the entire resort is built of wood, miles of it which make up the entire resort structure and walkways. When you walk around, you will most likely see all kinds of beautiful coral fishes on your left, right and even under the walkways as if you are in an aquarium.


From one look, you may think that the resort resembles a Balinese style but in actual fact, the resort takes the design from a traditional Bajau architecture design combined with some modern contemporary style. Ironwood or Berlian is also used for the entire construction of the place.

This is one of the most beautiful island resorts in Malaysia. Even it’s not this is not an island but actually a sand bank with a resort built over, it and is one of the largest environmental friendly resorts in this part of Sabah.

 Over the years, it has been commonly known as Kapalai Island and this stunning luxury resort sits just off Mabul Island.

Dive spots are extremely close and can be reached in just a few minutes by speedboat and some of them, actually,  just by swimming from the dive center pier. For those who are ready to explore more than the tiny marvels of  Kapalai’s macro life, can, in just a few minutes, dive in Sipadan.  With a combination of sun and water in a unique and serene setting with friendly staff, Sipadan-Kapalai is an ideal destination for divers and even non-divers who like the sound of silence…..

A big western sundeck with sitting area allow guests to have an evening drink with a view of  Kapalai’s fabulous tropical sunset.

The chalets at Kapalai

The resort counts 59 over-water bungalows (chalets), built on stilts and accessed via wooden boardwalks. These chalets are all equipped with fan cooling, hot showers and a bathroom, There is also a small balcony with chairs. There is no air-conditioning available but the resort is well placed for cool breezes which go through the chalets.

Fan-cooling was more than adequate. In fact the wooden wall-paneling can be opened up allowing sea breezes to waft right through your chalet, so there is really no need for air-conditioning at all.

The chalets are cleverly designed for natural airflow which cools the units down. In other words, there is no air conditioning here, but the location of this resort is quite windy with no obstructions.

Each of the chalets are twin or triple sharing which come with private bathrooms attached with shower and bathtub, basic toiletries, coffee and tea making facilities.

All chalets offering twin and triple sharing accommodation are  attached with a cleverly thought-out balcony which offers the total sought out privacy by the lovers of sunbathing and sun tanning. The chalets are also equipped with a private bathroom with shower and bathtub, basic toiletries, coffee and tea making facilities and 220 volts electrical points.

From the windows and balconies of the elegant and spacious rooms, one can spend endless hours looking at the sea just a couple of meters below.


The beautiful entourage makes this place one of the most desirable resorts for a romantic vacation. Many newlyweds come here for their honeymoon as each of the units are individual, offering fantastic privacy.

A big advantage is that there are no freshwater pools on the resort, what means that the resort is free from mosquitoes & flies

The Restaurant
All meals are served at the central open-plan building, which boasts an amazingly beautiful open-air wooden terrace. It’s all well organized and there is a good variety.

The resort serves buffet-style food, both western and Asian cuisine 3 times a day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served in the main dining hall and there is also a lovely BBQ for dinner.
 Daily complimentary breakfast – coffee/tea, fruit juice, toast, fruit, cakes / pastries, eggs, sausages, rice, noodles. 

Tea time is between 3 and 5 pm with local cakes and desserts, available at the dive center.

There is always coffee, tea, fruit drinks and drinking water available throughout the day.
Kapalai has crowd control measures in place for mealtimes, where servers are stationed at the buffet table to ensure that guests do not abuse the buffet.
For a buffet, the quality of the food is really good.
(There’s no option to eat ‘a la carte’)


In the reception/admin office area there are 3 computers for the guests to use. Next to this you can find a gift shop, a TV and library room and also a game room equipped with a pool table and table tennis.
Wi-Fi is also available in the restaurant area; however don’t expect a ‘broadband’ connection. Especially at mealtimes when everyone is there trying to get online it is slow.

Kapalai’s chain of chalets, are all linked by miles of wooden walkways for those who like to take their morning walk or jog. What stand out here are the incredible sea views that allow you to see natural marine life from all over the resort.
Walking around (or even from your private balcony), the crystal clear water shows you all kind of fish, corals and even turtles that pass by.

Of course they also provide plenty of watersport activities; Snorkeling around the resort is amazing; you have access bridges throughout the entire resort. Sea kayaks are also available at the dive center so you can easily explore the resort and surrounding islands.

A man-made island sundeck at the end of the reef is also one of the main highlights which stretch out into the ocean from the main resort. Powdery white sand accompanies a couple of palm trees with sun deck chairs here with a staircase down to the sand bank.

Diving at Kapalai Island

For the serious scuba diver, Kapalai does day trips to the world class Sipadan Island and also to other popular dive spots around Mabul Island. Many head here as Kapalai is well known for their macro diving where you can find quite a number of unique macro critters like the weird and techno-colored flamboyant cuttlefish.

In total, there are about ten dive sites around Kapalai Island and all of them require a few minutes boat ride out while some are just meters away from the resort.

Diving around Kapalai is exceedingly easy and shallow but quite spectacular: the sandy bottom and the spare coral heads host an amazing array of small, often yet-to-be classified, shamelessly colorful subjects, making the diving here an unforgettable experience.

The Kapalai resort dive center organizes 3 guided boat dives per day to Sipadan, Mabul and Kapalai. They also offer a variety of scuba diving courses for all levels and abilities available. As well as supplying all diving gear.
Each diver is allowed to sign out one towel per day

You’ll be diving from (fast) fibre-glass boats. The boats all had very experienced boat crews who were always friendly and helpful.

The guides were great at their job too.

Outside the dive center there is a washing and drying area with racks for wet suits and booties. There are also buckets filled with fresh water to rinse your equipment. For cameras there is a separate tank. At the end of each day's diving, you can store your scuba gear in a personal box in the equipment shed. You can leave all your stuff overnight at the dive center.

The crew will rig up for you after every dive and rinse your BCD and regulator at the end of the day.
Three open showers, two enclosed showers and two toilets are available at the dive center.
When diving Sipadan, you don't have to worry about lunch. This is served on the island where you can also relax after each dive.
Our evaluation

Our ratings below are based on our personal experiences. They are also adapted to our needs as divers. Meaning that we’re less focused on additional features.
Therefore you should only pay attention to our ratings if you’re planning a diving holiday.

Where we base our score on:

Accommodation: Room size, beds, cleaning, bathroom, location, environmentally friendly, etc.
Facilities: Pool, sport activities, organized trips, TV, Internet, phone, area etc.
Dive center: Quality of equipment, boats, crew, dive guides, location, service, marine conservation, etc.

Scoring matrix


This is a world class 5 star scuba diving paradise.
Divers and snorkelers do not need anything else!
This resort is unbelievably beautiful, the location and entourage is really like a fairytale.

From the very beginning to the very end of our stay, all the staff at the Kapalai Dive Resort was amazing. The resort itself is extremely well run and clean.

This is by far the most beautiful island resorts I’ve ever seen.
It’s highly recommended for anyone who loves privacy and / or scuba diving.

However, if you’re not a diver, and you don’t like the ‘sound of silence’ it might become boring after a couple of days…

Our verdict
Dive Center:
Total score:
Besides diving and snorkeling there’s not much other entertainment.
If you like sightseeing, you’ll be disappointed, this is a standalone resort is in the middle of the sea, there is no nearby village to ‘walk to’, or any kind of ‘nightlife’ or what so ever…

With regards to the dive center we can be positive as well. The dive operation is very well organized. But to be honest Borneo Divers on Mabul is better….

This dive center is based on ‘business’ so there is not much of a ‘personal touch’.
Again, it’s all very strictly and well organized, but maybe a little bit TO much…

Also note that this resort (and diving) is quite expensive! Especially compared to other (dive) resorts in this area. However if you don’t mind to spend the money you shouldn’t doubt for a second. No other resort in the area offer such a beautiful and unique location.

Therefore we can highly recommend the Kapalai Dive Resort!