Layang Layang Atoll (Swallow Reef)

Dive Map Layang Layang Swallow Reef Sabah

Description :
Off the coast of Borneo approximately 300km northwest of Kota Kinabalu lies a little gem fondly known as “The Jewel of Borneo Banks”. Layang Layang, also known as Swallow Reef, is a ring of 13 coral atolls in the middle of the South China Sea and is truly a unique world-class dive destination.

The diving here is characterized by walls that descend as deep as 2000m, flourishing with a multitude of pristine corals and featuring some of the best wall diving in the world. Here, you have the best chances of spotting scalloped hammerhead sharks schooling in large numbers. The atoll has generated some excitement in recent years with numerous appearances of short-finned pilot whales, measuring seven meters in length with a bulbous forehead.

Recommended stays here at between 6 to 14 days at the one and only award-winning Layang Layang Island Resort. If you are looking at escaping the crowds, this will be the perfect spot for you. This idyllic resort even has a freshwater swimming pool, SPA facilities, and offers full board packages (5 meals!) with 3 daily guided dives.

The untouched beauty and rich biodiversity of Layang Layang atoll offer an encounter with an almost perfectly healthy ecosystem. The clear nutrient-rich waters permit dense coral growth to a depth of more than 50 meters. Watch the action unfold as you descend into the crystal blue waters and experience the kaleidoscope of nature’s most lavish seascape and inhabitants.

Where is it :
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Number of dive sites :
Type of Diving :
Guided – boat, deep, drift, night
Skill Level :
Intermediate to advanced
Main Diving Attraction :
World-class wall diving, schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks, pristine corals, and the occasional thresher sharks, leopard sharks, silvertip sharks, manta rays, and eagle rays. There have also been rare sightings of whale sharks and melon-headed whales.

* Insider Info: Hammerhead mating season typically runs from April to May. Chances of seeing the hammerheads are higher during these months.

Average Water Temperature :
27°C (80.6°F) to 30°C (86.0°F)
Seasonality :
March to August
Typical Visibility :
20m (65ft) to 40m (131ft)
General Current Conditions :
Family / Non-Diver Friendly :
Availability of Other Leisure Activities :
Snorkelling, birdwatching, kayak.
Availability of ATM / Foreign Exchange Bureau :
Yes (located on mainland)
Availability of Medical Facility :
None. But the Malaysian Naval Base is located on the atoll.

* Note: It is highly recommended that you book 1 month in advance (or at least 2 weeks) before your arrival date for obtaining permits from the Malaysian Navy for your visit to Layang Layang.

Here are some of our favorite dive sites 🙂
Dogtooth Lair :
• Maximum depth: 40m
• Currents: Moderate
Named after large shoals of dogtooth tunas swimming around, you first descend along a sandy slope with beautiful coral formations, before coming to a steep wall that goes down 2000m deep. This site has almost all that you could wish for. Turtles gliding by, along with schools of fusiliers and surgeonfish, swirling horse-eye jacks, white tip reef sharks, stingrays and more! At the drop off and although rare, sun-fish have been sighted here. And also keep a lookout into the blue for hammerhead sharks as this is part of their cruising area.
Wrasse Strip :
• Maximum depth: 40m
• Currents: Moderate to strong
This may just be one of the most eye-opening coral dives you may encounter. Dive into a seascape of hard and soft corals in full technicolor and unique formation so intricate that they resemble an English horticulture show. The reef is home to batfish, sweetlips, soldierfish, trevallies, barracudas and schools of jacks. Triggerfish commonly lurk in this area, so keep an eye out for the titan. Looking out into the blue yonder, and you may spot pelagics such as whitetip reef sharks, turtles, eagle rays, manta rays and the famed hammerheads.
Shark Cave :
• Maximum depth: 40m
• Currents: Mild
Start your dive on the edge of a drop off at around 3m, and drift down a sand ledge where leopard sharks rest. At 25m down, you make your way to a small cave where you can observe the many species of sharks here. Move slowly and gently, and be mindful not to entrap the sharks, they will stay there posing for photographs. Once out of the cave, you are likely to be greeted by the usual pelagics cruising by in the blue like the wonderful giant trevally, gliding manta ray, shimmering sliver of schooling jacks, and the hammerheads! This site is surely one that you will be pushing your “no deco” limit, so plan properly, and keep an eye on your dive computer.
The Valley :
• Maximum depth: 40m
• Currents: Mild to moderate
Dive along a gentle slope around with large formations of hard corals where it plays home to turtles, groupers, sweetlips, surgeonfish, fusiliers, and triggerfish. Within the many overhangs and crevices, you may find nudibranchs, flatworms and a variety of crustaceans. Don’t overlook the sandy patches for you may find garden eel and ribbon eels. As with the beauty of Layang Layang, look into the blue to potentially catch sight of pelagics such as manta rays, and hundreds of hammerheads when the season is right.
Gorgonian Forest :
• Maximum depth: 40m
• Currents: Moderate to strong
Considered by most as Layang Layang’s signature dive, you first drop onto a gentle slope teeming with marine life making your way down to 12m where you’ll join the main wall that is packed with dense-like formation of gorgonian sea fans that lines the wall. Schooling fishes both large and small are abundant here, and it’s just too many to name here. When the current is running, vast quantities of marine life pull in here and the visibility here can go up to 50m! Don’t get too focused on the seascape or you may miss the presence of the scalloped hammerhead sharks which congregates in the hundreds during its mating season, which is truly a breathtaking sight which may well be a once in a lifetime experience!
Nearest Jetty :
N/A – The only way to get to Layang Layang Atoll is via private plane charter from Kota Kinabalu Airport (IATA: BKI) to Layang Layang Airport (IATA: LAC)
Nearest Airport :
Kota Kinabalu International Airport (IATA: BKI)
* Estimated travel time to Layang Layang is about an hour
Note :
Flight costs are typically bundled in with the dive packages for convenience.

Price reference based on 6D5N packages

  • Swallow Reef, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

    Layang Layang Island Resort

    Packages from RM8,100

    Explore the “Jewel of Borneo Banks” in total privacy while getting pampered with the resort’s outstanding service quality. As the only resort in the area, Layang Layang offers a truly unprecedented “One Island One Resort” exclusive experience.

  • If you are looking to travel to Layang Layang Atoll, you are inevitably looking for a weather forecast. So here’s a forecast for the next 7 days. Although weather forecasts are not always accurate with ever-changing weather patterns, it does provide a good guess on what’s to come. Every little bit helps! 😀



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