Layang-Layang Island

Layang-Layang Island, also known as Swallow Reef, is an elongated atoll that rises out of 6000 foot depths in the Spratly Islands west of Kota Kinabalu in the South China Sea. It is a place of beautiful walls and big fish. Later in the season the hammerhead sharks gather in large numbers, but they were still in very deep water when we were there, early in the diving season, and we were not able to photograph them.



The reef was filled to make a landing strip. Next to the strip are a military base and a resort. Further along the strip is an area where birds frequently nest.


Striped large-eye bream, Gnathodentex aureolineatus


Pennant bannerfish, Heniochus chrysostomus

bannerfish bannerfish

Schooling bannerfish, Heniochus diphreutes

butterfly fish

Pyramid butterflyfish, Hemitaurichthys polylepis

pyramid butterfly fish pyramid butterfly fish

Parrotfish, Scarus sp., and grouper, Epinephelus sp.

coral trout

Sabre squirrelfish, Sargocentron spniferum

red fishes

Clown triggerfish, Balistoides conspicillum

clown tang

Many-spotted sweetlips, Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides


Arc-eye hawkfish, Paracirrhites arcatus


Longnose butterflyfish, Forcipiger flavissimus

needlenose butterfly fish

Fire dartfish, Nemateleotris magnifica

flame gobies

Foxface rabbitfish, Siganus valpinus

rabbit fish

White-spotted puffer, Arothron hispidus

puffer fish face

The Layang Layang resort exists partly for a political reason. It helps to solidify Malaysia's claim to the island and to the waters around it. But the fish life is prolific and the diving is wonderful. There are many different species!

Tomato anemonefish, Amphiprion frenatus


Orange anemonefish, Amphiprion sandaracinos


Clark's anemonefish, Amphiprion clarkii


These are clown fish, which live in a symbiotic relationship with anemones. Just as there are different kinds of clown fish, there are different kinds of anemones.

Crabs, Shrimp, and Clams

crab squat lobster shrimp tridacna clam

There are several kinds of crabs and shrimp. The middle photo is a small squat lobster who is hiding on a crinoid. The third photo shows a tiny shrimp. The last photo shows the mantle of a giant clam. The color comes from algae.

Other reef creatures

fan and crinoids fans leather coral soft coral

There are sea fans and corals here too.


Hawksbill turltle, Eretmochelys imbricata

turtle turtle closeup

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Last modified 30 November 2017