Diving in Pulau Layang Layang – Facts Sheet
Destination : Pulau Layang Layang
Country : Malaysia
Temperature : 25 – 30°C
Season : March to August
How to go : Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu (2.5 hours), then flight from Kota Kinabalu to Pulau Layang Layang (30 minutes)
A diver’s heaven, Pulau Layang Layang is a small island completely surrounded by a coral reef, and lies just of the coast of Sabah. The name Layang Layang is actually a new name for the island, which for a long time was known in English as the “Swallow Reefs”.
Pulau Layang Layang is amongst the famed Spratley Islands, a collection of more than 600 islands, atolls and reefs that lie in the South China Sea. Many people rate Pulau Layang Layang as one of the most exclusive dive locations in the world, and it has been given the appropriate nicknames “Wall Diving Mecca” and “Big Fish”.
The coral reef here is located in very deep waters, meaning that some incredible wall diving is on offer, not to mention the opportunity to see amazing creatures of the deep like hammerhead sharks up close and personal. The hammerhead sharks come here in order perform rituals so that they can find a mate.
The diving available at Pulau Layang Layang is often difficult and extremely varied, with visitors to here often raving about the natural beauty here both above and below the waterline.
The reefs of Pulau Layang Layang are in a pristine condition and drop down far, almost as if they are sheer walls, falling into the abyss below. The walls are plastered with marine life, with hard corals especially being very numerous. The number of sea creatures that have made their home here is astounding.
Turtles, manta rays and trigger fish are all very commonly seen, whale sharks are occasional visitors here, but even their presence is overshadowed by the impressive hammerhead sharks which are the islands true highlight.
The best site for seeing the hammerheads is at the Gorgonian Forest, where the wall drops down from a depth of 15m to 40m almost instantaneously. This site has great visibility because of the horizontally occurring currents. The best time to see the hammerheads is during the months of April and May, when huge schools of them come to visit during their mating season.
Another great place to witness sharks is at the Shark’s Cave, a hidden underwater alcove where many sharks will come to rest. The wall here comes to rest at a ledge about 30m in depth, and here you are most likely to see a great many leopard sharks at rest, but don’t move too quickly.
So long as you approach them slowly and with great caution, you’ll be able to get very close to them and take some great photos. Further along the wall you will find the cave itself, which has a big 3m wide entrance.
Divers can penetrate the cave to about 6m inside and if they’re lucky they’ll get to see leopard sharks and nurse sharks resting at the bottom here.
Just be careful not to disturb the sleeping sharks as the result of panicking sharks, bubbles, stirred up sediments and shocked divers can be a rather unpleasant experience for everyone involved.