Kapalai Island (Pulau Kapalai), Sabah: Travel Guide (2024)

Kapalai Island (Pulau Kapalai), Sabah

Kapalai Island is a small island located off the coast of Sabah, Malaysia. It is part of the Celebes Sea and is approximately 20 km from Kota Kinabalu. The island is mostly uninhabited, although a few small resorts and restaurants exist.

This island is best known for its dive sites, which attract scuba divers worldwide. The clear waters and abundant marine life make it a popular destination for both beginners and experienced divers.

What to Expect in Kapalai Island (Pulau Kapalai)

What to Do on Kapalai Island (Pulau Kapalai)

1. Diving and snorkelling

As mentioned earlier, Kapalai Island is a mecca for divers, with crystal clear waters and abundant marine life. The Kapalai House Reef is one of the most popular dive sites on the island, and it’s easy to see why. The reef is teeming with fish, from giant groupers to tiny ghost pipefish.

There are also plenty of artificial structures to explore, like wrecks, houses, towers, and bridges. The reef is also a photographer’s paradise, with endless opportunities to capture stunning underwater shots. If you’re not into diving, you can opt to snorkel here.

Next, this island is also home to the stunning Black Ray Channel. This natural wonder has two reefs, one at around 16 m and the other below 40m. You can see pelagic fish such as tuna and giant trevallies and more enormous stingrays such as marbled and cowtail stingrays in the deeper sandy parts of the reef.

It is also said that sometimes white tip reef sharks make an appearance too. So, whether you’re a seasoned diver or a complete beginner, Kapalai Island is sure to take your breath away.

2. Kayaking

Kapalai Island is a beautiful place to go kayaking. The waters are clear, and the scenery is breathtaking. In fact, Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort has its fleet of kayaks, so you can rent the gear for kayaking and go kayaking in the resort.

The resort has a variety of kayaks to choose from, and you can even take a lesson from the resort’s experts before you go out on your own. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even paddle over to the nearby reef and go snorkelling.

When to Visit Kapalai Island (Pulau Kapalai)

Lucky for you, this island is not affected by the monsoon season. It is best to visit Kapalai Island between April and September due to the amazing weather during these months. It is always sunny and suitable for water activities. Do note that you need to book accommodation three months in advance because this is the peak season on this island. During this season, the island is only accessible to the resort’s residents.

On the other hand, for those who prefer a quiet environment, consider visiting between December to February. But watch out for the rainy season during these months.

How to Get to Kapalai Island (Pulau Kapalai)

Kapalai Island is a beautiful spot located just 45 minutes from Semporna by speedboat. It’s important to know that there is no direct flight to Semporna. The closest airport to Semporna is in Tawau, about an hour away by minibus.

While this may seem inconvenient, it’s easy to get from Tawau to Semporna. Plenty of minibuses make the trip daily, and the journey is relatively short and straightforward.