Swallow Reef

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the area of Mount Kinabalu, see Layang-Layang (Mount Kinabalu).
Swallow Reef
Disputed island
Other names:
Danwan Jiao 弹丸礁; (Chinese)
Pulau Layang-Layang (Malay)
Celerio; (Filipino)
Đá Hoa Lau (Vietnamese)
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 Pulau Layang-Layang (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.[1]

The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) has maintained a presence on the reef since 1983, 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.[2]

Recent history[edit]

On 21 June 1980, a claim plaque was erected on the reef by Malaysia's PASKAL special forces.[3]

The RMN has maintained a presence on the reef since 1983. In May 1983, eighteen PASKAL members built their first encampment. At the time, the only infrastructure available was a helipad for personnel transfer, and the special forces had to camp under the open skies on the bare reef. Naval Station "Lima" was constructed in April 1986, consisting of a small living-cum-operations centre. At this time it was decided that the enlarged reef would also be developed as a tourist attraction. A resort was initially constructed in 1991, and has developed into a comfortable and popular diving spot.[3][4]

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 allow the operation of C130 Hercules transport planes and CN-235 maritime patrol aircraft by the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF). RMN sailors in CB90 attack vessels, and in larger patrol boats such as the Kedah-class offshore patrol vessel, carry out patrols around the reef. Several anti-ship and anti-aircraft guns are placed around the reef, and RMAF personnel operate a Starburst air defence system.[3]

A marine research facility, MARSAL (Marine Research Station Pulau Layang-Layang), was opened in July 2004.[4]

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 station 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 have occurred elsewhere in the region.


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.


Swallow Reef is a one hour flight north of Sabah's capital Kota Kinabalu. There is only one resort on the island and a stay there requires a return ticket from Kota Kinabalu.

The RMN uses Nuri helicopters for fast access, and stations CB90 boats on the island for patrols in the area. The RMAF uses CN235 and C130 Hercules aircraft for access.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ One blog states the current area above water is 35 hectares.[citation needed]
    (Note: A blog is NOT a WP:RS - hence the "citation needed" tag - but until a RS is identified, it's better than nothing.)
  2. ^ 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 - "Philippine Presidential Decree No. 1596". Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c This blog contains a useful summary of the history of the Malaysian settlements in the Spratly Islands. It expands on the basic facts provided in the Mohd Nizam Basiron chapter (Ref 4), filling in some of the gaps.[citation needed]
    (Note: A blog is NOT a WP:RS - hence the "citation needed" tag - but until a RS is identified, it's better than nothing.)
  4. ^ a b Mohd Nizam Basiron (15 February 2013). "5". In Joshua Ho; Sam Bateman. The search for sustainability and security : Malaysia's maritime challenges and opportunities. Maritime Challenges and Priorities in Asia: Implications for Regional Security (Routledge). pp. 73–75. ISBN 978-1-136-29820-2. 

External links[edit]