Diving Kapalai on Borneo's Litigan Reefs | Malaysia
A half hour boat ride from world-famous Sipadan island and even less distance from acclaimed Mabul, is a scuba diving resort that can only be described as something special. Kapalai Resort sits on the Litigan Reefs and is built as a water village. Her pretty bungalows hover over a clear lagoon full of fish and small corals.
Although charted on maps, there is only a sand bar remaining from what was once a small island. This flat topography extends underwater to low-lying reef mounds. Corals conform to the contours of the landscape and have become a haven for all sorts of weird and whacky critters: there are resident mandarinfish and flambouyant cuttlefish below the jetty; tiny pink sangian crabs in the folds of barrel sponges and a variety of ghost pipefish. Leaffish appear in groups, crocodilefish in pairs, frogfish and blue-ringed octopus on virtually every dive.
Being on Kapalai is quite an experience. Not only can you dive any time of day to see the incredible macro life, but you are right beside Sipadan and Mabul for day trips.
For underwater photographers or those interested in unusual creatures, this resort ranks as one of the best muck-diving destinations in Asia. It's one of those places where you have to actively look for something to criticise – and that would be the time it takes to getting there from outside Asia. Getting access to dive around Sipadan is now also limited, see this link.
Kapalai is principally a muck diving and critter destination. There can be some strong currents when the tides change but the divemasters schedule dives to avoid them where possible. Most dives are fairly shallow and visibility is never gin-clear due to the tides moving over the sandy seabed. However, the wealth of amazing marine animals more than makes up for the variable conditions.
It's hard to describe just how good somewhere like this can be. Romantic and peaceful evenings are balanced by exciting critter life on your doorstep and big blue pelagics half an hour away on Sipadan. For us, diving from Kapalai was about as good as you can get: the dive guides were incredible, the rooms comfortable and the food was simple but delicious.
We have visited Kapalai twice. Up-to-date reports say it's a little less romantic than it was now that all Sipadan resorts have been closed and the resort has expanded to take more guests. Rooms and buildings have been upgraded and the common areas expanded but by all accounts it's still a fabulous diving resort.