Published: July 20th 2007July 20th 2007
Have you ever been on a 30m boat in the eye of a huge storm 300km off shore? Neither have we. Rather, we had calm, clear waters as our live aboard diving boat headed out to the South China Sea in search of the Spratly islands, primarly Layang Layang.
Layang Layang is an atoll rising 2000m from the ocean floor creating coral reefs and walls that are teeming with underwater life. Everyday the visibility was excellent, 25+ meters, allowing you to spot reef sharks lurking in the deep yet see the surface and the sun rays streaming through the blue.
While there wasn’t as many turtles and sharks as we saw at Sipadan, there was outstanding big fish such as tuna, trevally, bump-head parrotfish, schools of barracuda, and the odd neopolan wrass. The reefs were teeming with fish: butterfly, angel, wrasse, squirrel, unicorn fish and surgeonfish to name a few. Where Layang Layang surpassed my expectations was with the beauty and richness of the coral. Not once did we come across a section of dead, broken coral. The coral beds stretched as far as the eye could see and then farther; a collage of hard and soft corals
untouched and unharmed by fishing, bleaching or human destruction aka the plastic bag.
One morning we set off to visit Dallas Reef, 35 nautical miles away from Layang Layang. An hour and a half later our boat stopped in the middle of nowhere. No land was in sight, no floating buoy. Only a change in the water colour from navy blue to clear aqua green marked the dive site. A strip nearly 10 kilometers long of aqua green water with the odd little wave breaking the surface marked where atolls had surged up and coral grew just below the blue. Dallas Reef was my favorite diving - ever. There’s something to be said for being out on the open ocean finding spectacular underwater life and being the only ones around for miles and miles.
After three days of diving at Layang Layang we headed south towards Borneo and Labuan. Just outside of Labuan we did two wreck dives: one a Philippine fishing vessel and another cargo ship carrying cement for the Sultan of Brunei’s palace. The wrecks were a stark contrast to the natural reef diving, but equally amazing were the growth and life that hid in the
crevices and cracks.
In total we did 14 dives over 6 days and ate over 30 meals and 5 bars of Toblerone chocolate (bought at a bargain price at the duty free shop just before departure). We’ve gained back the weight lost over 11.5 months of travel and are now on a strict diet of plain rice and chilies. I have a feeling the diet won’t last long…. Next Stop: Kuching, the Cat capital of Borneo! Traveler’s Tips:
We’d recommend the live aboard dive company we went with to Layang Layang - DiveMaster. They are a Thai company doing trips in the Similans and Layang Layang depending on the season. Currently, DiveMaster is the only live aboard to go to Layang Layang. The only other way is to fly on a charter plane owned by Layang Layang resort. They were professional, safety conscious, good dive leaders, clean rooms and a nice boat. And the food was superb.
There are more photos below