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Dive Review of Sipadan Kalapai Dive Resort in
Malaysia/Sipadan

Sipadan Kalapai Dive Resort: "Great Trip to Sipadan", Dec, 2017,

by Mr Franklin Mah, CA, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 7 reports with 2 Helpful votes). Report 10077 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling 2 stars
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments The hard part about getting to Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort is the travel time. From the USA, you need to get to Kota Kinabalu [BKI]. I went through Singapore on Singapore Airlines because I wanted a stopover there on the flight back home. It is possible to also fly into Taipei [TPE] and Seoul [ICN] but I did not want to do a stopover in either place in the wintertime.

From Kota Kinabalu, there are flights to Tawau [TWU] on either Malaysian Airlines or Air Asia. If you are bringing your own equipment and it is over 20KG, then you will have excess baggage fees to pay. It was about $25-$30 in my case.

Malaysia's MAS Wings flies propellor planes with seating a little cramp if you are big and/or tall and the overhead storage space is very small. A normal carryon will not fit feet first, it would have to go in sideways. I had a ThinkTank StreetWalker HardDrive at 10KG that fit perfectly sideways. I don't believe that they were that strict on enforcing the number of carryon or weight.

Air Asia flies modern Airbus jet engine planes that holds hundreds of passengers but they strictly enforce the 1 piece of carryon per person less than 7KG. They let me pass as I was only carrying that one piece. But even though I paid an extra 40KG sports package for my scuba gear, they still charged me additional fees because my non-dive gear was over 20KG. Apparently the 40KG is only for the sports gear and not combined with the non-sports luggage. If I had known that I would have said that the luggage also has scuba gear. In any case, it is a hassle for them to do paperwork for the excess weight though in reality it is really not that much.

Sipadan Kapalai has a network of people handling the transfer of people from the airport to the jetty at Semporna then on the boats to the resort. It is about 1 hour by van to Semporna then another 40 minutes by boat....roughly 2 hours. They leave the resort at 6:30am, 9:30am and 13:30pm so there is a corresponding time that they will take people to the resort as well. Arrive too late and you will probably stay at the airport area or in Semporna.

About 90+% of the people going to the resort are Chinese from China. They typically stay about 2-3 days and mostly snorkel at the resort. Most don't dive. They only interaction you will have with them is normally at meal time....when yes...they will be lined up first and take almost all the food in a short order. But it is a buffet and there is more food if you wait or come back after the first round. You might also hear them talking and behaving as they do when they travel everywhere nowadays. Otherwise they are just snorkeling.

Unlike other resorts where the rooms/cabins are built over the water and the dining and other facilities on land, everything at Kapalai is over the water. More than 50 cabins and they are building more. It is very nice. Impressive. Looks well maintained. The only thing you would pay for might be canned drinks and ice cream. Pretty much everything is included except the new tourist room tax of RM10 [about $2.50] a day that is everywhere in Malaysia for non-Malaysians.

Cabins with numbers below 20 are close to the dive shop and the dining area as well. The dining area is also the only place with wifi access.

Dive operations are well organized. Check out dive on arrival. Found a problem with my SS1 leaking air so they just swapped it out on "loan" for the duration of my diving. Basically, the diving is either Sipadan or Mabul. By the evening, a whiteboard lists the Boat, Boat Crew, Dive Guide and the divers on that boat. The crew takes care of the tanks and BCD and puts them on and takes them off the boat. Everyone dives on Air as no Nitrox. Generally the boats for Mabul will leave about 8am and do 2 dives in the morning...coming back after each dive. Then lunch is about 12 or 12:30pm, with a third dive at 2:30pm.

The boat rides to Mabul Island are about 15 minutes each way. I was not expecting much but Dhon the Dive Guide was very good about finding a lot of critters...many that are very small that definitely needs a macro lens. Many I have not seen before...including a nudibranch that looks exactly like Pikachu. You will not be disappointed if you had to dive Mabul and not Sipadan.

The Sipadan dives will generally depart at 5:30am. Everyone first gets off the boat at Sipadan to sign in then do the first dive. After each dive, everyone gets off at Sipadan for a break or lunch. There are restrooms on Sipadan as the military is onsite. Normally there will be 3 dives in the morning, then lunch, and after the 4th dive back to the resort.

I found that the first dive was nice to see but hard to photograph. It is still relatively dark. But the resort wants to get that dive in because most of the other resorts don't go out that early and by the 3rd dive the dive boats from the mainland has arrived. Lots of fish balls and sharks. Some current but very minor.

On my second trip to Sidapan, I was the only person at the resort going to Sipadan. I did not want to go out at 5:30am and I did not want to do 4 dives either. We left at a more reasonable 8:30am instead and did 2 morning dives and then back to the resort for lunch. I enjoy it much better as it was like I had a personal dive guide. And I was told later that this could have been arranged anyway.

I know that there are other options to the Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort. But until I went on a boat excursion to Mabul Island, I did not know about how the others compared. We did a walk through the village there and were able to see at least 3-4 other options that were on Mabul. But seeing the living conditions of the people there and the proximity to the dive resorts, I was glad that I was staying at Kapalai where the only complaints were generally about the Chinese tourists. I don't think that I would have enjoyed being at the other places at all.

Overall a very good experience.
Websites Sipadan Kalapai Dive Resort   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Belize, Hawaii, Cozumel, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Yap
Closest Airport Tawau Getting There USA to Singapore to Kota Kinabalu to Tawau

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy, dry Seas calm, no currents
Water Temp 80-90°F / 27-32°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 60-100 Ft/ 18-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Dive in small groups of 5-7 people with everyone coming up at the same time. Generally about 45-50 minutes with limits on depth.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 2 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 5 stars
Large Pelagics 5 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 3 stars
UW Photo Comments There was really nothing specially made to accommodate photographers. There is a tub to soak the camera equipment back at the dive shop but nothing on the boats unless you bring a tub of water. There might be a faculty for maintaining photo great but I just brought everything to my cabin and took care of it there. No problem because it was close to the dive shop.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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