Swallow Reef

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For the area of Mount Kinabalu, see Layang-Layang (Mount Kinabalu).
Swallow Reef
Disputed island
Other names: Danwan Jiao 弹丸礁;
Layang-Layang Island;
Đá Hoa Lau
Swallow Reef, Spratly Islands.png
Satellite image of Swallow Reef by NASA.
Swallow Reef is located in South China Sea
Swallow Reef
Swallow Reef (South China Sea)
Location South China Sea
Coordinates 7°22′20″N 113°50′30″E / 7.37222°N 113.84167°E / 7.37222; 113.84167Coordinates: 7°22′20″N 113°50′30″E / 7.37222°N 113.84167°E / 7.37222; 113.84167
Archipelago Spratly Islands
Area 6.2 hectares (15 acres)
Administered by
Claimed by
 People's Republic of China
City Sansha, Hainan
 Republic of China (Taiwan)
Municipality Cijin, Kaohsiung
District Truong Sa, Khanh Hoa

Swallow Reef, known as Layang-Layang Island (Malay and Dusun for Place of Swallows) in Malaysia, Danwan Jiao (Chinese: 弹丸礁) in China, Celerio in the Philippines and Đá Hoa Lau in Vietnam, is an oceanic atoll of the Spratly Islands situated approximately 300 km northwest of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Swallow Reef had an original land area of approximately 6.2 hectares (15 acres), but with reclaimed land now covers a much larger area.[citation needed]

The reef is most commonly known for being the location of the Royal Malaysian Navy's Station Lima, but as with all of the Spratly Islands, the ownership is disputed, and it is also claimed by the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Vietnam. The Philippines does not lay claim to Swallow Reef; it is outside of the Kalayaan Island Group which was defined by Presidential Decree No. 1596 signed by Ferdinand Marcos.[1]


The Royal Malaysian Navy has maintained a naval station called "Station Lima" since 1983, it has now expanded to a comfortably habitable naval station and also a popular diving spot in the region, in contrast with its harsh original conditions in 1983. On 21 June 1980 a claim plaque was erected on the island and three years later eighteen PASKAL men went ashore on May 1983 to build the first encampment while braving the elements. At the time, the only infrastructure available was a helipad for personnel transfer and the soldiers had to camp under the open skies on the bare reef. When the naval station proper was constructed six years later with the construction of a small living-cum-operations quarters, it was also decided that the enlarged island the atoll had become would also be developed as a tourist attraction so that the tourism potential of the island could be exploited. Thus by 1995, more buildings were added, including two air-conditioned accommodation blocks, an aircraft landing strip, two hangars, a radar station, an air traffic control tower, watchtowers and a jetty. The aviation facilities on the island allows the operation of C130 Hercules transport planes and CN-235 maritime patrol aircraft operated by the Royal Malaysian Air Force. These facilities made the island a proper island station code-named Station Lima. Patrols by navy soldiers in CB90 attack vessels and larger patrol boats such as the Kedah-class offshore patrol vessel are carried out around the island.The Royal Malaysian Air Force also operate frequently on the airstrip. Several anti-ship and anti-aircraft guns are placed on several areas on the island and the RMAF personnel operate a Starburst air defence system to prevent low-level air attacks there.There is also a marine research facility on the island.[2]For further description

Swallow Reef lies in 2,000 m of ocean and, due partly to the depth, this atoll has become famous for sightings of large pelagic species and for wall diving. The naval base has also had an important indirect contribution to the quality of scuba diving in the area, in that it has protected the island from destructive fishing practices that occurred elsewhere in the region.

South China Sea dispute[edit]

The facilities on the island were developed and built in the 1980s when there was much less controversy over the control of the South China Sea therefore no other claimants had issued protests against the development of the island and subsequently the Royal Malaysian Navy built a total of five naval stations.


Located within the equatorial belt, Swallow Reef has an equatorial climate. It is closed to tourists from November to January each year because of heavy monsoon rains, however Malaysian Armed Forces personnel operate on the island year-long. Temperatures range from 24 to 32°C. Although an equatorial climate comes with fairly high humidity, there are cooling sea breezes.


The Navy uses Nuri helicopters for fast access and also CB90 boats. The Air Force uses CN235 and C130 Hercules aircraft for access. Civilians travel to the island by air from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah's capital. There is only one resort on the island and travelling there requires a return ticket back to mainland Malaysia. The one way trip takes one hour.



  1. ^ "Philippine Presidential Decree No. 1596". Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  2. ^ Joshua Ho; Sam Bateman (15 February 2013). Maritime Challenges and Priorities in Asia: Implications for Regional Security. Routledge. pp. 74–. ISBN 978-1-136-29820-2. 

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