Layang Layang is a man made island that sits on a long string of reefs in the middle of the South China Sea. Collectively called the Spratlys, these islands and atolls are much coveted by neighbouring countries.
The Malaysians put foot to "soil" and claimed Layang – or Swallow's Reef – by building a small naval outpost there. Nowadays, the Royal Malaysian Navy shares the island with divers who want to see what this isolated atoll has to offer.
Tales of pelagics are rife. At certain times of the year hammerheads are said to appear in massive numbers while at other times there are impressive quantities of other pelagic species. Constant currents across the reef attract big animals – small white tips, large grey sharks, dog tooth tuna and giant trevally along with clusters of striped barracuda and schools of jacks. There are turtles on the reef tops and families of juvenile sharks under bommies.
There are small critters too, like juvenile razor fish, arc-eyed hawkfish and ghost pipefish hiding in the corals. Inside the lagoon, the sandy bottom is the place to hunt out mantis shrimp, tiny gobies and the Picasso trigger fish.