Kapalai Island

Kapalai Island

Surrounded by shimmering blue-green waters, Kapalai Island is an image of serenity belying its hidden underwater adventures.

View on map


Many people expect to see swaying palm trees and white sandy beaches when they think of tropical islands. So, many who are unacquainted with Kapalai Island are surprised to find that what was a beautiful island two centuries ago, now only exists in name. Over the passage of time, the effects of erosion have taken its toll on the island, reducing it to the sand bar that people have come to know as Kapalai Island.

So, why do people still visit Kapalai Island? The answer is simple – it is one of the best diving sites in Malaysia, especially for muck diving. Though the island might have been uninhabited before it was swallowed by the sea, it is now a thriving habitat for a cornucopia of tiny marine creatures that dwell amidst its shallow sandy bottom.

This beautiful diving haven is roughly 45 minutes speedboat ride from Semporna. With its sandy bottom and spare coral heads playing host to an amazing variety of small and colorful inhabitants, it is no wonder that Kapalai Island is perfect for muck dives. Marine life such as the blue ring octopus, mimic octopus, wasp fish, stonefish and sea moths are commonly seen in these waters. Warm and gentle shallow waters makes it perfect for beginning divers.

A site known as The Jetty was selected as the fifth best dive site in the world last year. A total of five wrecks can be found here and this is a good place to catch a mix of both large and small aquatic creatures. The Mandarin Alley, with shallow sloping reefs, lies to the left of the jetty and is another famous dive site. Smaller rare fishes thrive here, swimming freely without any fear of becoming dinner to a reef predator. Dive deeper towards the ocean floor and be greeted by several cuttlefish which often linger near the wreck of a small fishing boat. This wreck is home to a mixture of other marine life such as the ghost pipefish in an assortment of colors, longnose hawkfish, crocodile fish and nudibranchs. Another dive site known as the Spotted Ray Channel is a good place to look out for ribbon eels, ghost pipefish and a beautiful lavender colored frogfish. Comfortable surroundings makes diving here a pleasant experience with the discovery of nature's wonders waiting at every turn.

Kapalai Island is only accessible by boat. The speedboat transfer from Semporna to Kapalai is approximately 45 minutes.

The only accommodation found on Kapalai Island is managed by a private entity. Most visitors stay at nearby Mabul Island or Semporna and travel to Kapalai Island by boat for diving sessions.