My visit to Kapalai was arranged by the resort management. Prior to my visit, I have visited Semporna several occasions, but this visit totally change my perception towards it.
After 45 minutes travelling from it's own jetty in city, I was greeted with it's breathtaking surroundings . The quality of its facilities, food and services is top notch.
The package of offered by the resort, makes travelling to kapalai an enjoyable one. Pickup from the airport directly to the island. Also the staffs make us feel safe throughout the journey. Not to mentioned all meals are being take care of. Drinking water, water heater and 24 hours electricity available throughout the stay.
Definitely will visit Kapalai in times to come. Kudos to the management team
If you are a diver, this has to be on your short list of places to go. Sipadan is one of the best spots in the world to dive and Mabul has unbelievable macro. The dive guides are the best and you can do a sunset or night dive on your own at the house reef. It's easy to navigate and is full of marine life (Mandarin fish come out during the sunset dive). At the time we visited, there was almost no one at the resort due to the virus situation. We had a private guide for all but two days and those two days only one other couple joined our boat. Usually the resort is full and most guests are Chinese. The room was spacious and comfortable. You have a lot of privacy from other bungalows. Great view from the balcony and we saw turtles and stingrays just beneath us. There is no TV but we didn't mind at all. If you need entertainment, make sure you bring a laptop with some movies. Staff was friendly and accommodating, everyone was friendly. Food was served mostly buffet style and was good but nothing spectacular. Dinner is cooked Malay style so beware of bones and food is often not much warmer than room temperature. Even so, we enjoyed the meals and always had more than enough food. We spent six nights at the resort and it was just about right. We dived Sipadan twice which was great but were equally impressed with the macro in Mabul. Definitely worth the price, especially if you get the entire resort to yourself like we did. If you come in the next few weeks, you are likely to have the same good fortune :)
I stayed at this resort for 4 days, 3 nights with my boyfriend.
First, the pros:
1. The resort is beautiful and the location is uniquely special.
2. The staff are fantastic and very lovely and friendly.
3. The diving was excellent. Conditions vary day to day, and luck is a big component, but sipadan truly is a fantastic dive site.
What they don't tell you:
1. The resort is catered towards Mainland Chinese tourists. All the staff speak Mandarin for this reason. The lack of diversity in guests felt strange.
2. We did a 4D/3N package which guarantees 1 dive at Sipadan and another day's dive at Mabul or Kapalai. When we arrived, we were told we could ask for additional dive permits at Sipadan for our 2nd dive day. The pricing for this was opaque, and there was a miscommunication with the price. Sipadan dive permits cost 140 ringgit + tax, so 148.50 ringgit total. However the resort charges 636 ringgit per diver for the permit. This felt particularly predatory. Check with your tour operator exactly how many Sipadan dives are included and what the price is for additional dives at Sipadan. This was not made clear to us when we booked.
3. Food is buffet style for all meals... the food was hit or miss. At the set mealtimes, guests go early and the best food goes first.
4. The rooms are nice but can get quite hot. There is an underpowered AC unit and the shower water is solar heated, tepid at best. This was managable, but not great, especially considering the overall cost.
5. We felt the value and price of the resort were not great. We paid 7468 ringgit for the 4D/3N package for 2 divers, plus the additional Sipadan dive. In the end we paid about USD $650 per night for the room + dives. Based on this amount, the accommodation and food was not worth the price.
I will apologize in advance if the review is long but I wanted to let everyone know what they really need prior to going.
This resort is gorgeous. Breath taking views, water life, and diving.
What to pack:
1) a UK spec extension cord. (Outlets in the bungalow have poor placement.
2) ANY & ALL sunscreen (the kind that is ok for wildlife please) pain medicine, diarrhea, & sea sickness medication. The resort has none.
3) sturdy walking flip flops or shoes. The plank walkways are VERY hot.
4) a refillable water bottle, unless you want to pay 6 MYR every time you want a drink. You do get 3 water bottles a day per family
5) eco friendly hygiene products (shampoo, conditioner, body soap) they dont provide any & there isnt any here to buy
6) a tie for your phone. The entire resort is on planks with gaps in them. One wrong trip and ur phone is going overboard. Bye bye fancy new iphone.
7) theres nothing to do at night. Bring a deck of cards. Seemed like we were only ones who didnt think ahead and bring one.
8) DEET! Dont forget mosquito/ insect repellant. The mosquitos are super tiny, we were covered in bites. Our fault for not bringing anything. (Again you cant buy it once youre already here)
1) diving is great. Make sure you check the board each night
2) apparently everyone gets an orientation, unless you speak english then you dont get one. The chinese speakers knew how things worked, we had no idea.
3) do not go to Mabul island. They take you to the local village where the children beg for money. I realize its poverty and they may want help but it was humiliating to these people.
What to be aware of:
1) meals are at predetermined times. For some reason at dinner people feel the need to run to the buffet line, like animals. Lets all calm down people.
2) the buggies stop at 5pm so be prepared to walk prior to 8 am and after 5pm
3) this resort is a death trap for small children. Thousands of places for a child to fall off the side into the water. I would say children younger than 13 should not come.
4) the bungalows have NO air conditioning. If you cant sleep when its really hot (i am from the North so I could hardly sleep)
5) if you get at all seasick/ motion sick - THIS IS NOT THE FOR YOU. I have an amazing constitution and never get motion sick, until I did.
5a) to get here you leave the Tawau airport by bus for 1 hour to jetty point. This bus has no shocks, roads are not maintained, it is nauseating. Then you must take a 1 hour speed boat ride from shore to resort (which is in the middle of the ocean) the boat gets tossed around and depending on the water, the boat becomes the HMS Vomit Comet. Additionally, the entire resort sways slightly with the ocean, like a giant cruise liner. There is no place to get away from the motion or motion sickness.
6) if you have food allergies THIS COULD BE A PROBLEM- all meals are buffet style. Make sure to communicate BEFORE your arrival if you have a food allergy so they can be prepared. All food is carried in.
7) Want snacks? Better carry it with you. They sell snacks but the markup is horrendous.
8) The beds are hard as rocks. That is all.
Im glad I did it. Would I do it again, no. The resort is amazing but disorganized, tons of young staff who dont know whats going on. Little direction if you arent sure what the procedure is for things like sign ups, gear collection, island transport. At one point a worker whistled at me and snapped his fingers in my face bc apparently I was in an area I wasnt allowed to walk in. Maybe they dont realize women dont appreciate that, especially western women. We are not dogs, do not whistle at me thank you.
First and foremost, this location is unparalleled. You are literally in the middle of the ocean (the only "land" is a sandbar at one end of the resort that is only visible at low tide). It's a diver's paradise - stay extra nights just for the opportunity to dive Sipadan more than one day.
A few things to note - there is a very bizarre "Instagram" element here. People literally come over for a day or two for full on social media photo shoots. It's weird.
Also, the food is good, but not great. As long as you don't expect fine dining, you'll be just fine. The restaurant never actually closes, so we would grab a bottle of wine and watch the sunset every day (and corner our favorite outdoor table in the process). There is a CRAZY vulture-like component to the dinner buffet.
The dive team is awesome. We ended up doing our Advanced Open Water course here and had a blast. We stayed 7 nights, which gave us 3 days at Sipadan (worth every penny). Sipadan has a strict cap on divers / snorkelers - 120/day, and only in the mornings (you get three dives in, and the resort has breakfast for you between dives). The wildlife and coral is insane. Green sea turtles, bumphead parrotfish, MASSIVE schools of jack fish, reef sharks, lobsters...it's incredible.