I will be going to dive at Layang-Layang soon. Many have already asked me as to where it is though many actually have heard about it.
Layang-Layang, known as “Swallows Reef” is an atoll situated in the South China Sea 300km north-west of Kota Kinabalu. Layang-Layang is an isolated atoll-like ring of 13 connected reefs in a 14 sq km area. The whole island is only 7.5 km long and 2 km wide.Lying 300-km northwest of Kota Kinabalu, Layang-Layang has become one of the preferred destinations for the avid diver who constantly seeks for new thrills and challenges. The eastern end of the atoll is a favored nesting side for many species of migratory birds like Sooty Terns (Sterna fuscata), Black-naped Terns (Sterna sumatrana), Great Crested Terns (Sterna bergii), Brown Boobies (Sula leucogaster) and Brown Noddies (Anous stolidus). Hence Layang-Layang is not only a diver’s paradise but also a bird watchers’ haven.
Layang Layang Island is one of the many islands which form part of the disputed archipelago known as the Spratlys. With its oil rich natural reserves, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia have all tried to lay claim to this island.
Malaysia staked her decisive claim here by building a naval base on the island in the 1980s, ensuring that any other countries hoping to govern it will have an uphill struggle before they can do so.
In 1985, the Malaysian Federal Government began reclamation works and created a 50-acre island on one part of the reef. Layang-layang resort development follow suit and in 1986, the resort was open to guests. On the island there is only one resort and a Malaysian navy base. Please take note that the navy base is restricted area.
The fact that the coral atoll is situated by deep waters gives rise to some outstanding wall diving and encounters with pelagic species such as hammerhead sharks, which gather here to perform their mating rituals. Diving in Layang Layang is challenging and varied – visitors often enthuse about both the above-water and underwater beauty of the area.
Layang Layang’s pristine reefs, which drop down as sheer walls into the abyss, are covered with splendid examples of healthy hard corals with staghorn, tables and acropora being the most numerous. The reefs are home to a great variety of sea life where turtles, triggerfish, manta rays and more are quite common, but overshadowed by the mighty presence of the scalloped hammerhead sharks. You may also encounter a whale shark or two.
You can dive Layang Layang from March to August, with March and May being the best time for seeing schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks performing mating rituals. The resort closes between September and February.
Great for: Large animals, wall dives, reef life and health and visibility
Not so great for: Beginner divers, snorkelling and non-diving activities
Depth: 5 – >40m
Visibility: 20 – 40m
Surface Conditions: Calm
Water Temperature: 25 – 30°C
Experience Level: Intermediate – advanced
Number of dive sites: ~20
Access: Diving resort
Recommended length of stay: 5 – 8 days