Layang Layang Island Travel Guide

Overview Of Layang Layang Island

Lesser known than Sipadan Island, Layang Layang Island, also known as “Swallows Reef” is an oceanic atoll of 13 linked coral reefs. It is part of the many islands and reefs of the disputed Spratly Islands. The atoll is not of a significant size with an area of approximately 14 square kilometres and a central lagoon. The part above the sea with reclaimed lands now measures 1.5 km long and 200 metres wide. A calm shallow lagoon is on one side of the island and the other is a deep drop into the open ocean.

With the nearest city over 300 km away, Layang Layang remains untouched and undisturbed by any fishing activities or man-made pollution. Located in waters 2,000 metres deep, Layang Layang has been rated the top 10 dive sites in the world with its mesmerising coral gardens, pristine reefs and excellent visibility.

Layang Layang is considered a man-made island, constructed for the Malaysian Navy in the past. Upon arrival, you may not be greeted with the lush tropics that one might imagine of a tropical island but it is magnificent in its own unique sense.

What To Do

Scuba Diving

Diving in Layang Layang is a must-go diving destination for diving enthusiasts. Located in waters 2,000 metres deep, the wall is classified as deep dive and the 20 metre deep lagoon is great for macro diving. The waters are unspoiled and unpolluted, the corals are in pristine condition and there is a rich biodiverse marine life to encounter. There are high chances to come across hammerhead sharks, grey reef sharks, leopard sharks, the occasional thresher shark and silver tip sharks, pygmy seahorses, jack fish, barracudas, turtles and big pelagic. Sting rays including manta rays, marbled rays and eagled rays are also a common sighting. And if lady luck is on your side, there are rare sightings of whale sharks, orcas and melon headed whales.


For those who do not dive, snorkelling is an option to appreciate the wonders of the diverse coral and marine life. The calm central lagoon is a wonderful place to explore.

Water Sports

There are also options to enjoy the island above waters, windsurfing and kayaking is available for those who prefer to appreciate the clear blue sea and sky from a different angle.

Pampering Session

After a day of diving, you may treat and pamper yourself to a relaxing and luxurious day in the resort’s spa. Experience the variety of massages offered in the spa, refreshing you for another day of underwater exploration.

Where To Dive

There are many diverse dive sites to explore in this small atoll and we list just a few here to get you started. All dives sites can be reached within 5 to 25 minutes at the most.

Shark Cave

This is the most famous dive with an abundance of a variety of sharks to encounter along with large pelagic fishes.

Crack Reef

An exhilarating dive site, with depth for deep divers and diverse grounds for shallow divers.

D’ Wall

It is a genuinely vertical wall and very steep for the majority of the dive. Great for deep dives.

Snapper’s Ledge

This is an easier site for beginners where you can drift along and still be up-close to an excellent variety of corals as well as reef fishes like parrotfish and pufferfish.

Dogtooth Lair

Large dog-tooth tuna often come by this stretch along the drop-off and are wonderful to come across, so keep an eye out for them.

The Runway

Aptly named like a runaway for all models of underwater life, you will find fishes swimming along the vertical walls like jacks, surgeonfish and fusiliers. There are occasional sighthings of hammerhead sharks and manta rays at this site.

The Tunnel

A good macro diving spot during the day and a great site for night dives for nocturnal marine life.

Where To Stay

The island is opened to the public and has only one resort, The Layang Layang Resort was constructed and completed in 1991. Being the only resort, it is exclusive and tends to get booked up fast so it will be good to book your stay before the season opens up. It has 76 beautiful rooms, modern facilities and a swimming pool overlooking the blue ocean as well as a spa.

When Is The Best Time To Go

The dive resort is closed from November to February during monsoon season and only opens from March to October. March to May is considered the peak sighting period of hammerheads and big pelagics.

How To Get To Layang Layang Island

Kota Kinabalu is the nearest city and there are flights from there to Layang Layang. The flight is approximately an hour. Take note to be in Kota Kinabalu Airport Terminal at least one and a half hours before flight departure time. You can get to Kota Kinabalu from Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Singapore, Brunei, Brisbane, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tokyo, Seoul and Manila.

What You Should Know

There is Wifi in the resort. There is a 20kg weight limit for baggage on flights, pack wisely as the dive centre has equipment for scuba divers. There are no beaches on this island so consider checking with your non-diving partner if they would rather skip the trip as you would be diving all day everyday. The resort requires all divers to agree with its Reef Conservation Policy set up under its Environmental Conservation Program.