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Diving Lankayan Island, Borneo | Malaysia
Lankayan wreck

This little known scuba diving island resort lies an hour and a half out from the city of Sandakan in the Sulu Sea. Lankayan is a tiny spit of land ringed by a white sand beach and covered in a labyrinth of tropical green forest. Hidden under the pandan trees and palms is a simple resort whose charm lies in it's healthy respect for the natural environment.

Surrounding the island is a reef system of flat plateaus that gradually drop off into a shallow series of coral reefs. There are no great walls and the slopes are covered primarily in hard corals, which are a haven for the many species who take refuge in the cracks and crevices. There are baby nurse sharks, leaffish, giant jawfish, all sorts of crustaceans and even the rare and elusive weedy scorpionfish.

A special feature for divers are three small shipwrecks, including one that is just below the jetty. This is a fantastic dive that meanders across the sandy seabed past a few manmade items that were deposited to attract critters and ends at the small wreck. The other two small shipwrecks are a little way from the island but both are older and covered in more growth.

Lankayan island dive photo gallery Scuba diving features

Marine Life weedy scorpionfish
blacktip and nurse sharks
Top dive site Froggie Fort
Seasons All year
Visibility 5 – 25 metres
Water temperature 25 – 29º C
Deco chambers Labuan, Singapore
Flights to Kota Kinabalu then to Sandakan followed by a short road transfer and one hour by speed boat

Lankayan Island Resort


This island resort is a nature lover's retreat: there is a tiny turtle hatchery to protect the creatures that sometimes nest here and the warm beach waters are a nursery to baby blacktip sharks. You can stand ankle deep with dozens of 12 inch long sharks swimming around you. However, dive conditions are variable depending on the season. The resort is comfortable but quite rustic.


The underwater topography between Lankyan and the Borneo coast is very flat and, during the rainy season, there can be a lot of run off from the Kinabatangan River delta at Sandakan. Visibility becomes reminiscent of a quarry dive on a bad day although you can still dive as the critters are always there. Whalesharks are sometimes seen around May.


Elements of Lankayan Island were delightful and we are glad to have dived there, but we were very unlucky with the visibility. Serious divers would probably feel like we did, that the variety and calibre of dive sites are more extensive on Kapalai and conditions more reliable. If you have time, combining both areas would be ideal. Another consideration is that nearby Sandakan is the location of the stunning Sepilok orang-utan sanctuary. The same resort group also have a resort there, which is charming and the sanctuary is a must-see.
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Leaffish in hard coral

Complete reports on this area are in
Diving Southeast Asia.

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