It might have been great. It is good.
The food is decent. Average, but decent. Nothing to get excited about. Some of the desserts were great!
The staff are lovely and attentive. The captains are great, the guides skilled, the wait staff VERY attentive on removing empty plates.
They claim to be a 3-star resort, and I won't disagree with that.
The internet is known to be poor, and that's just how it is. I'm not going to 'mark them down' for it, but it is something to be aware of. To the guests: please turn off updating and everything on your laptops and phones.
The diving was good, in so far as it had nothing to do with the resort. Vis was great, corals were healthy, lots of life on the reef... Got very unlucky with hammerheads (no schools), but that's how the dice roll.
NOTE: I've spoken with the resort before writing this review.
The diving could be better. What's wrong?
1) Group size. 11 divers per guide? Some who can barely swim? No. My friend and I basically did every single dive alone because the guide had to watch over the Chinese. Who still go into deco every dive. I'm not paying this much money for unguided dives. Please read other reviews, other guests have been commenting on this from 2015. The resort is looking into this; I would enquire before you book.
2) To follow on from that, having multiple blue water dives to try and see hammerheads is okay. I didn't see the schools, and while that is disappointing, it's not the resort's fault. For the third dive of the day, we would do a reef dive. The reef here is gorgeous! Spectacular! But because we're in a giant group, the guide can't look for anything, let alone keep us in a single group. My friend and I got left behind on most every dive. After the dive, "Did you see the frogfish?" "No - we couldn't even see you, you were so far ahead." They need more guides. The resort management have really dropped the ball here.
3) Guests. It's not exactly the resort's fault, and it is a problem with most of Sabah now. Chinese guests. 40 guests, of which only 3 (including my friend and I) were westerners. The rest were Chinese. Many couldn't swim. They ignored rules about not walking around bird island (and crushed eggs clumsily!!!). Again, not directly the resort's fault. What I do blame the resort for is lack of control and education. They need more guides. They need to demand a higher level of skill from their guests. People willfully putting themselves at risk, puts everyone at risk. If we have to save or extricate them from something, that's not fair on me. The resort is far, far too lenient on those who dive outside of recreational limits, outside of their certification and training. The resort says they require Advanced divers with minimum of 50 dives, but there were Adventure divers there as well. There were divers who were Advanced, but had no idea how to kick (bicycling or stairwalking only). I understand it is a hard thing for a resort to police, but it's something to be aware of.
4) Speaking of which, the resort wisely requires (I think) dive insurance, but because everyone is diving outside of their certification, their insurance is immediately invalidated. The resort should be requiring deep specialisation training, or similar. They have lots of instructors here - it seems most of the guides are actually instructors, who don't get to teach much. Requiring deep spec would be good for the resort (more money), good for the staff (training guests), and good for insurance. Instead, we have heightened risk everywhere. Advanced training only certifies divers to 30m depth, while dives will often dip down to 40m.
5) On safety, there were a few things missing in the safety briefings - like emergency recall procedures.
6) Also, there was no oxygen on the boats - we need to go back to the resort. That's not unusual, but when you have no way to get people back to the boat, the boat needs to wait for everyone before leaving, and a victim needs oxygen then and there. The resort is looking at fixing this; if this is a concern to future divers, please ask and check before you book.
7) While there are plenty of wait staff, and I've said they definitely need more guides, they also need jetty staff. This is a real safety issue that I've never seen anywhere else. The captains have no help in docking the boats, so they have to drive up, ram the dock, and jump out, leaving the boat unmanned while they grab a rope and pull the boat in. It's crazy. Why isn't there someone on the jetty to do this for them, so the captains can stay behind the wheel at all times? Why are they so short staffed there? That said, they are fantastic at it - it looks like a complicated job, and they handle it well - but they shouldn't have to.
8) Tanks leak. A lot. I've seen lot of tanks improperly moved - carried by the valve knob instead of the valve stem. This breaks valves and makes them leak. And many of them do leak from the valve knobs, so the first dive of the day is usually low on pressure, (sometimes only 2/3 a tank). So, we have to check tanks and swap, and hope there's enough good spares on board. Once in a while, I can understand. There is a regularity to these leaks which is unacceptable for an expensive dive resort. I expect a higher level of care and equipment for a resort like this.
9) Gear care. I would have liked to wash, or known my gear was being washed, daily (even just rinsed! Hosed off on the boat!). Instead, I worry about it getting sun and salt damaged between days of diving.
10) Dive timing. I would have liked to start diving earlier (7am or even 6:30am, instead of 7:30am-8am), but because we were in big groups, there wasn't much flexibility. Some boats could/did.
11) Rubbish in the water: was minimal. Admittedly, I was surprised to see any at all, but I still managed to fill a pocket every second dive. What surprised me was what I found at the far end of the island, where there is a small beach facing the new channel. There were bags of rubbish which had been collected! This was great! There was still more rubbish around, so it definitely needs to be done more often but... why were the giant black rubbish bags, full of rubbish, just sitting there? Deteriorating in the sun over what looked like weeks or months? Why hadn't they been collected? One had already broken apart, spilling collected plastics around. It was a good start, but that garbage needs to be removed, not just left there. The resort is now aware of this, and will hopefully stay on top of it.
12) The music. Ugg. Now I feel I'm getting petty, but it really did detract from the peaceful setting of this lovely resort. They play music by the buffet, which in itself is, or could be nice. However, it's bad pop music played far too loud. I've had to ask them to turn it down several times, and started just turning it down myself. The volume can't help with the quality of the music though. It was basically the latest hits on the radio. Why can't we have some nice dinner music? Why does it have to be "rockabye baby" three times a day?
13) The rooms. The rooms are fine. Nice, comfortable. Yeah, the walls were thin (my neighbors "enjoyed" their room!). However... the toilet in my room had a horrific smell coming from the cistern. No idea what it was. Like something had died in there. The bowl was clean and housekeeping were prompt every morning to turn over the rest of the room... but the bathroom stank because of it. I reported it to reception, and a day or so later the smell lessened considerably. I should have reported it sooner (it was stinking out the room if we left the door open), but it's a shame that housekeeping didn't report it themselves when they were cleaning every day.
14) Lagoon diving. The lagoon might have been nowhere near as good as I was hoping, but still provided some wonderful surprises. An ornate ghost pipefish, a couple big day octopuses (and a little one), banded pipefish (one very pregnant!), and a baby yellow box fish... I would have liked more time to dive the lagoon, and had a boat take us out, drop us off further, and for us swim back (in an unguided dive). We often saw turtles in the lagoon from the boat, too. Due to past incidents (guests getting swept out to sea for swimming out to the channel during a tide change), staff were noticeably nervous about letting us get further out. I understand that, but it's a shame. I hope their "artificial reef" and wreck area grows. So, the lagoon is hit and miss. Poor vis, limited area, but is still okay. The issue with the resort comes to dive timing. They have some VERY long surface intervals - 3 hours between dives 2 and 3. This really limits the ability to do a 5 dives - we were only ever able to squeeze in 1 extra dive a day, though we made it last a long time. If dive #3 was earlier, we could have done an afternoon dive AND a night dive, instead of just a sunset dive. This links back to item 10 earlier, with dive timing. (For divers concerned about 5 dives a day with deep dives, please understand that the lagoon is 11m deep, and most of the profile is around 4m to 8m deep.)
I avoid Chinese-frequented resorts normally. I find the quality of the diving, and general care goes down, and it seems that's exactly what has happened to Layang Layang island.
If you're considering booking, and anything I've written concerns you, please write to the resort, and get in touch with them.
With all of the amazing places I could choose to dive in South East Asia, I would be hesitant about coming back to Layang Layang.
I want to finish on a high note for this review.
The staff at the resort are all Malay, with a few Mandarin speakers, but all with great English (that I encountered). The dive guides I met were all instructors - which surprised and impressed me. They were friendly, sociable and helpful. Some quite new, some quite experienced. The reefs were gorgeous and healthy, and worth spending a long time with. Lots of big life (reef mantas, sea turtles, napoleon wrasse, white tip reef sharks, pickhandle barracudas, chevron barracudas, giant trevally and jacks).
And try the bread pudding with custard.
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.