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Diving in Layang Layang

Hammerhead Sharks at the Coral Atoll

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...Good for: Large animals, wall diving, reef life and health and visibility...
...Not so good for: Beginner divers, snorkelling and non-diving activities...

Located in waters 2,000 metres deep, Layang Layang is an atoll of 13 linked coral reefs. The resort island is part of the 600 islands, reefs and shoals in the South China Sea known as The Spratly's. The name means 'Place of Swallows' in Malay and the island is sometimes known as Swallow Reef.

The atoll isn't that large - it only covers an area of 14 square kilometres. Situated about 300 km off the Borneo coast, Layang Layang is surrounded by waters teeming with a rich biodiversity of marine life and some of the most heart-stopping diving opportunities around. Show more

Dive Site Descriptions

Crack Reef - A dive which can give everyone a buzz, both depth junkies and shallow reefers. This site sees another extraordinary shallow coral garden flourishing under the sun's rays, and a gradual descent which becomes a slide into the void of the South China Sea. Show more

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How to Dive Layang Layang Island

Layang Layang is a small island in the South China Sea, not far from the shores of the Malaysian state of Sabah. It is part of an atoll with a calm shallow lagoon on one side and a deep drop-off into the open ocean on the other. The tiny island consists of little more than a landing strip, a navy base and a dive resort. Special local rates apply at the resort for Malaysians, Singaporeans and expatriates living in those countries with work permits.


No liveaboards regularly make it this way out into the South China Sea so there is only "one show in town" for diving Layang Layang.

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Diving Season

Located within the equatorial belt, Layang Layang has an equatorial climate. Temperatures range from 28°C to 32°C. Although an equatorial climate comes with fairly high humidity, the cool sea breezes make staying on the island very comfortable.

The dive resort opens only from March to October, ensuring diving only in the best weather, and the hammerheads and other big pelagics are present at Layang Layang more or less throughout this time, with a greater frequency of sightings around the March - May period. The resort usually closes between November and February because of the heavy monsoon rains that fall here, and you cannot dive here at that time.

In the absence of the marquee creature, the scalloped hammerhead, there is still a lot of good scuba diving to be enjoyed here with healthy walls covered in hard and soft corals and boasting an impressive array of reef fish. Being a tiny speck in the South China Sea, nutrient-rich currents continually wash over the reefs here bringing in the marine life. Other residents during the season include barracudas and big-eye trevally. Occasional visitors to the island that require more luck than exact timing can include manta rays, thresher sharks, whale sharks, melon-headed whales and even orcas.

Normally the visibility is very good, exceeding 30 metres although it can drop. Water temperatures remain quite constant during the short season here, usually hovering around the higher end of the 25 to 30°C range. You should expect visibility in the range of 10 to 40m. The seas can pick up at any time in the waters around Layang Layang outside of the calm lagoon where the resort sits. It is not unusual to surface from a dive in bigger waves than were present upon entry.

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Where is Layang Layang and How Do I Get There?

Review our map below of Sabah, showing the location of Layang Layang Island. Here, you will find information on how to get to Layang Layang.

Map of Sabah (click to enlarge in a new window)

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Reef Summary

Depth: 5 - >40m
Visibility: 20 - 40m
Currents: Gentle
Surface conditions: Calm
Water temperature: 25 - 30°C
Experience level: Intermediate - advanced
Number of dive sites: ~20
Recommended length of stay: 5 - 8 days

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Useful References


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