Layang Layang April 2011
Posted 21 April 2011 - 01:52 AM
A taxi to Terminal 4 for the four of us kicked off the spring trip to Layang Layang, an atoll off the coast of Malaysian Borneo. Suitably fed and watered at the Prunier seafood bar we boarded the Malaysia Airlines 747 and settled down for a comfortable night flight to Kuala Lumpur followed by an immediate onward flight to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah province Borneo.
Following an overnight stay at the superb Shangri-La Tanjung Aru hotel it was back to the airport and a twin otter flight of one and a half hours over the South China Sea to land late morning on the tarmac landing strip of Layang Layang.
The atoll only boasts this one small inhabited island shared by the Malaysian Navy and the Layang Layang Island Resort. The resort utilises buildings originally built for the navy officers and all rooms including the central restaurant are built from dark hardwood. Bedrooms are in two blocks and due to the wood construction are somewhat dark. However we are there to dive, not lounge about in the room so down to the dive centre to meet our female Chinese Malaysian guide for the 9 days-the lovely and apply named Luvy.
Lunch over and our gear unpacked and suitably kitted out it was off to the high speed skiff we would have for the duration and meet up with Jon, the boat master. Once onboard our kit remained for the whole trip with cylinder changes done by Jon. Straight off to Wreck Point for our first dive and straight down to a group of eight Mobula rays at 28m. I never take the video rig on the first dive of a trip so just had to hope we would run into them again later in the trip.
Rather than go through all 26 dives we did in 9 days I list the sites visited (some several times) with the highlights of each.
There were three dives a day, two in the morning and one in the afternoon. The first would be at 08.30 in the water with a swim at 30-35m out into the blue to spot hammerheads with a maximum depth of 40m, back to the reef and a slow multilevel dive over the reef. Typical dive time was 55minutes on single 12 litre aluminium cylinders with water temperatures varying either side of the many thermo clines between 23c and 28c.
Second dive was 11.30 with a suggested maximum depth of 35m and the third afternoon dive at 15.30 in the water was usually run no deeper than 25m.There are no mixed gas facilities on Layang Layang so all dives are on air. With the restricted bottom time, especially by the third afternoon dive it could be very easy to run into deco, not the best idea on single 12’s! However the top of the reefs averaged 8-10m and gave plenty of time to dump the nitrogen.
Wreck Point. 2 dives.
Mobula rays, many Morays and Nudi’s. This reef is badly infested with Crown of Thorns and considerable damage has been wrought on the hard corals by these fine looking but destructive pests.
Dogtooth Lair. 3 dives.
Large Dogtooth Tuna, multiple White Tip reef sharks, large school of Chevron Barracuda, massive spinning shoal of Silver Jacks, Bumphead Parrotfish, large Groupers. In all a great reef to dive and film.
Wrasse Reef. 3 dives.
Manta Ray, Bluespot Ray, White Tips, Barracuda, large congregations of reef fish. In all a very good reef dive.
Shark Caves 1 & 2. 6 dives.
From the giant white Frogfish 35m down in a cave overhang ceiling to giant Trevallies, Dogtooth Tuna and Bluefin Jacks hunting the reef fish this is another great pair of adjoining sites. The highlight must be the White Tip cleaning station an the drop off. Anything up to a dozen large sharks resting and being cleaned in a shallow sandy bowl amongst the corals. With care one can get to within a few feet for excellent close up filming.
Cracked Reef. 2 dives.
Hammerhead sharks at distance at 40m in the blue. Good wall with many soft corals however the top of the reef is badly Crown of Thorns damaged.
The Point. 3 dives.
Probably the best known site at Layang Layang it did not disapoint.
Hammerheads in the blue down at 35/40m each time. More wary than our experience of them in the Galapagos they always kept their distance. Return of the Mobulas, Turtles, Trevallies, Barracuda, and Groupers made this site a pelagic delight.
Coral Café. 1 dive.
One of only 2 dives not exceeding 25m this proved a pleasant and photogenic reef with an abundance of the more usual reef fish.
Valley. 1 dive.
Many unusual and very obliging Anemone Fish together with their multicoloured hosts.
Very prolific hard and soft corals.
Middle Reef. 2 dives.
Very nice reef. Magnificent “fly by” of a massive school of Mackerels. Largest single group of Bluefin Jacks hunting I have ever seen (several hundred fish).
Hammerheads in the blue and eagle ray on the drop off.
Gorgonian Forest. 2 dives.
Another great site where the sheer scale of fish life makes for difficult filming decisions.
From the spinning shoals of both Silver Jacks and Chevron Barracuda to the relentless passing of large Tuna, Giant Trevallie and on to the more gentle school of large Batfish. Sleeping White Tips on the sandy patches and the occasional Grey Reef out on the drop off.
“D” Wall. 1 dive.
A long deep wall well covered in both hard and soft corals together with sponges. Plenty of fish life including a concentrated feeding frenzy by a group of Bluefin Jacks.
Overall Layang Layang fulfilled its promise and gave us the pelagic action we were looking for. Maybe not as concentrated as Palau and certainly not as up close as the Galapagos but for the price and relative ease of getting there it certainly comes third, beating the Maldives by a whisker.
Accomodation is acceptable, the food was less imaginative than expected (visions of hot Malay curries, Nasi Goreng, and peanut satey remained a fantasy) and alcoholic drink prices much the same as U.K.
The diver mix was particularly diverse with individuals and groups from Australia, China, Korea, France, Italy, Germany, Netherlands and U.K. A significant number of Malaysian divers were present. It must be great to have such a site only 2 hours away!
Weather was sunny and hot (30C plus) except for arrival and departure days when it rained all day.
Back to Kota Kinabalu and the Tanjung Aru for a days rest before flying back to the U.K. next morning.
If you love your food and a touch of sheer luxury then this hotel will not disappoint!
Now it is just the matter of editing my 2 hours of video down to an acceptable 20 minutes, hours and hours of fun until Pinnacle throws the usual “wobbly“.
Posted 21 April 2011 - 12:30 PM
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