Kapalai Island

East Malaysia’s Kapalai Island is an idyllic, sun-steeped paradise perched in the middle of the Celebes Sea, with no land in sight.

The surreal water chalets of the Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort are built entirely on stilts atop shallow waters near the edge of the Ligitan Reefs.
At a glance
What: Picturesque, white sandbank
Where: Next to Mabul & Sipadan
Why: Snorkelling, muck diving, Bajau Sea Gypsies community
When: All year long
How: By speedboat from Semporna or Mabul

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To dispel a common misconception, Kapalai Island is not, in the true sense of the word, an island.

It is in fact a picturesque, white sandbank at sea level formed as a result of hundreds of years of erosion.

There is only one establishment here on Kapalai Island, the Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort.

The stunning surroundings and ‘one island, one resort’ concept are what make Kapalai Island widely touted as Malaysia’s very own version of the Maldives.

Kapalai Island’s location in Malaysian Borneo, Southeast Asia.

Accommodation & day tours

The over-the-water Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort is especially popular among couples or newlyweds on their honeymoon.

4D3N packages for divers/non-divers

You’ll often be all on your lonesome as you sit or stroll between the palm trees and the crystalline blue sea that laps the sandy coastline.

Things to do in Kapalai Island

Snorkelling & scuba diving – Kapalai Island’s location in the Coral Triangle makes it an outstanding venue for muck diving and underwater macro photography.

Visitors share the immaculate reef with strange critters like the harlequin ghost pipefish, bobtail squid, mimic octopus, blue-ringed octopus and flamboyant cuttlefish.

Popular dive sites here include the Jetty and Mandarin Valley where divers come to spot the brilliantly eye-catching mandarinfish at night.

Together with Mabul, Kapalai Island is one of the few gateways to world-famous Sipadan, just ±20 minutes away.

Ocean kayakingOcean kayaking is available at the Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort.

Island hopping – If you’d like to venture further out, trips to nearby Sipadan, Mabul, Si Amil and Danawan may easily be organized.

Other things to do include sun tanning, heading to the spa or relaxing by the large sandbank or your own private balcony. Whether you’re on the beach relaxing or gazing into the turquoise waters stretching into the horizon, an afternoon in this remote part of the world conjures the purest images of natural serenity.

The eastern and most isolated corner of Kapalai Island, a dream destination for those who seriously wish to get away from it all.

Location & getting here

Kapalai Island sits some 36km southeast of Semporna in the state of Sabah, Malaysia — just 45 minutes away by speedboat.

Nearby are Pulau Mabul and Pulau Sipadan, both 15-20 minutes away by speedboat.

 Destination (by speedboat from Kapalai)
Nearest townSemporna (±50 minutes)
Nearest airportTawau (±1.5 hours)
Nearby islandsMabulSipadan (15-20 minutes)
Bum Bum (±45 minutes)
MatakingPom Pom (±80 minutes)
Tun Sakaran Marine Park (±90 minutes)

See on map

Although commonly referred to as an island, Kapalai is in fact a large sandbar sitting slightly under the ocean surface. Unlike busy Mabul, there’s a sense of escape here, with a long, thin powdery sandbar you can sunbathe on and snorkel from between dives. Kapalai is a sandbar, heavily eroded and set on top of the Ligitan Reefs between Sipadan and Mabul

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