One of the top-notch diving destinations in Malaysia, Lankayan Island offers a fantastic variety of marine life.
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Located north west of Sandakan in the Sulu Sea is Lankayan Island, a tiny island with white sandy beaches and swaying casuarina trees. It takes approximately an hour and a half via speedboat from the town of Sandakan to reach Lankayan Island. This island was declared a part of the Suguds Island Marine Conservation Area (SIMCA) on 13 October 2003. Lankayan Island is a great spot for whale shark sightings as well as green and hawksbill turtles as they come ashore to nest every year. Vast empty beaches and fascinating coral life fringe the island with warm open waters inviting divers to come and explore the mysterious world of marine life.
In the recent years the island's popularity has increased immensely as an ideal spot for macro diving. Macro diving presents a rare opportunity for the divers to catch some of the more bizarre and unusual marine life around in this area. As it is one of the marine conservation body, all resource harvesting, like commercial fishing, have been prohibited from this area. This subsequently allowed marine life and the coral ecosystem around the island to recover, making it the perfect place for macro divers to observe its inhabitants in their own world. Lankayan Island offers an amazing variety of macro marine life, rivalling even the likes of Mabul and Kapalai Island.
Another highlight at Lankayan Island are the wreck diving sites found scattered around the coastline. Lankayan Island has a total of 14 dive sites up for exploration, including the famous Lankayan Wreck, originally a sunken ocean-going fish-poaching vessel. In a twist of fate, what was previously a threat is now home to many different species of fishes from small glassfish, harlequin ghost pipefish, painted frogfish to giant grouper and marbled stingrays. Other dive sites like the Mosquito Wreck, which was once a part of the Mosquito Fleet maintained by the Japanese during World War II, are worth visiting as parts of the vessel is still intact, and is home to an abundance of barracudas, tropical grouper series and the occasional manta ray.
Divers will be delighted to know that Lankayan Island is also known as a good spot for reef diving, offering an opportunity to see fantastic corals like Lettuce and staghorn corals, anemones and fish life – clown fishes, sea horses, shrimps and porcelain crabs to name a few. One of the dive sites, known as Jetty Wreck, is actually an artificial reef made from the wreck of a small fishing boat. Home to beautiful blue spotted stingrays, cuttlefish and scorpion fish, it is located right in front of the jetty and is a good spot for night diving. Jawfish Lair, one of the best loved dive sites in Lankayan, is where divers can see an amazing sight – a resident male yellow jawfish carrying a mouthful of eggs until they hatch.
The weather around the island is affected by the north east monsoon season between November and early March every year, bringing heavy rains, strong winds and rough seas. Diving activities are not encouraged during the monsoon season as visibility is very low. Frequent rain showers and generally wet conditions are to be expected during this season. Boat transfers may be affected by choppy seas due to the weather conditions.
The island is only accessible by boat. Speedboat transfer is available from Sandakan Yacht Club and the journey is approximately an hour and a half.
The only accommodation available on Lankayan Island is managed by a private company.