A short flight off the north of Borneo lies Layang Layang, a tiny gem of a dive resort island surrounded by clear water, pristine reefs and some of the most heart-stopping scuba opportunities around.
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 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 constructed a naval base here in the 1980s and the base, the dive resort and the runway are the only 3 meaningful structures on the island.
Since they experience almost no man-made pollution at all, these are undoubtedly the healthiest reefs in Malaysia and rank as high as any for fish species and coral diversity too. The visibility in these waters often exceeds 40m. In fact, the extraordinary visibility and exciting variety of marine life can sometimes be misleading so keep an eye on your gauges!
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.
Along the drop-off at Dogtooth Lair, schools of large dogtooth tuna are often present, along with barracuda and jacks. Of course impressive schools of fish like this can be overshadowed if the hammerheads come into view, such is the diving at Layang Layang. You can end your dive admiring the healthy coral gardens in the shallows and the vast schools of pennant butterflyflush that cascade over the reef edge at this excellent site.
Although Gorgonian Forest is another site where big schools of hammerheads can be seen, it is also notable for a wall densely covered in barrel sponges and orange and yellow gorgonian fans. Turtles, giant clams, and tuna are frequently sighted. There are a vast number of fish schooling in impressive numbers here including redtooth triggerfish, pyramid butterflyfish and unicornfish, proving that it isn't only big schools of hammerhead sharks that so often impress at Layang Layang.
D'Wall is typical of Layang Layang diving but in truth we could have chosen any of the sites as it promises healthy fields of coral with all manner of activity going on. Clear water and proximity to the awesome sites are great features of the scuba diving here but the reason most people visit here is the chance to spot the famed scalloped hammerheads that cruise around this tiny island.
Crack Reef – Gradually you will descend down over a light-dappled coral garden to where the wall drops vertically to a 30m ledge. Pygmy seahorses perch on gorgonian fans, schools of neon fusiliers charge around the reef, and resting leopard sharks lie quietly on the reef slope. The healthy coral growth here is worthy of note, with hard corals like elkhorn and porites being prevalent, alongside vibrant soft corals and sponges.
The Valley – What appears to be a rather uninspiring gentle slope, as you begin your dive here, soon reveals itself as a living reef decked in hard corals where snappers, sweetlips, groupers and turtles can all be spotted from afar. When you get up close you can look out for nudibranchs, ribbon eels and crustaceans galore. The larger creatures to be found off the edge of the reef include reef sharks, jacks and hammerhead sharks.
Dive The World Malaysia Recommendations: Gorgonian Forest, Dogtooth Lair and Shark's Cave.
More detailed information on the Layang Layang dive sites on our www.dive-the-world.com website.
Special rates apply here for Malaysians, Singaporeans and expatriates living in those countries with work permits.
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 November and February. Liveaboard trips, when there are any, visit during May to August.
The island lies 1 hour's flight north of Kota Kinabalu in the Malaysian state of Sabah. You will join a charter flight along with your fellow guests. We will handle the booking of this flight for you since the flights cannot be booked online.
Kota Kinabalu International Airport has direct flight routes to Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur, as well as with Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Taiwan, Kaoshiung, Singapore, Manila and Brunei.
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