Diving in Layang Layang
Hammerhead Sharks at the Coral Atoll
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.
Although concentrating on only one feature does not do justice to Layang Layang's varied reefs, the draw card for divers from all over the world is the chance to see vast schools of hammerheads cruising around. This is one of the very few places in the world where, at the right time of year, you have a good chance to drop down into an enormous school of hundreds of these marvellous creatures.
The extraordinary coral gardens of these virgin atoll reefs surrounding Layang Layang Island, have never been fished or experienced any kind of man-made pollution. They 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 40 metres. In fact, the extraordinary visibility and exciting variety of marine life can sometimes be misleading and dangerous to divers - watch your depth and no-decompression limit when diving at Layang Layang - you could well be deeper than you think!
D'Wall - in truth we could have chosen any of the sites as Layang Layang diving 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 diving here but the reason most people visit here is the chance to spot the famed scalloped hammerheads that cruise around this tiny island.
Dogtooth Lair - Along the drop-off at the site, 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.
Gorgonian Forest - Although this 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 can impress at Layang Layang.
Don't just imagine yourself hanging in crystal waters at 25 metres as hundreds of hammerheads cruise past only metres from you mask - do it!
How to Dive Layang Layang
The tiny island of Layang Layang 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.
Got a question?
Have a look through our Frequently asked questions
The resort is open between the months of March to August and you cannot dive here outside that time. 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.
Good for: Large animals, wall diving, reef life and health and visibility
Not so good 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: Layang Layang dive resort
Recommended length of stay: 5 - 8 days
Dive Site Descriptions
For more information on the detailed Layang Layang dive sites:
• Layang Layang travel information
View a map of:
• Sabah - Borneo - Malay Peninsula
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