Swallow Reef, known as Pulau Layang-Layang in Malaysia, 燕子島 in China, Celerio in the Philippines and Đá Hoa Lau in Vietnam, is an oceanic atoll of the Spratly Islands administered by Malaysia, which is situated approximately 300 kilometres (190 mi) northwest of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. The atoll is about 7km long and 2km wide with a central lagoon. The part of the atoll above sea level is a reef on the south-east rim which had an original land area of approximately 6.2 hectares (15 acres), but with reclaimed land now covers 35 hectares (86 acres), measuring over 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) long and 200 m (656 ft) wide.
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.
The island has gained recognition as a destination for scuba divers.. Layang Layang is especially known for the hammerhead sharks during the May mating season. . Its air transport needs are served by the Layang-Layang Airport.
In May 1983, eighteen PASKAL members built their first encampment, signifying the start of the Royal Malaysian Navy's presence. 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.
In 1989, the government decided to develop the island into a tourist spot.
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.
On 20 July 2003, the Layang-Layang Airport expansion which increased the length of the runway from 1,064 metres (3,490 ft) to 1,367 metres (4,480 ft) was completed. As a result, the length of the island increased from 1.2 kilometres to over 1.5 kilometres.
In July 2004, a marine research facility, MARSAL (Marine Research Station Pulau Layang-Layang) was opened.
The airport consists of a paved aircraft runway, two aircraft hangars, a radar station, an air traffic control tower and watchtowers. The runway, made of concrete, is 1367m long and 28m wide. The runway has a Pavement Classification Number of 032RBXU, indicating that the runway is a medium strength rigid pavement, with a high maximum tire pressure.
The aviation facilities on the island allow the operation of C130 Hercules transport planes and CN-235 maritime patrol aircraft of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF). Layang Layang Aerospace offers flights for civilians to and from the airport.
Layang-Layang is a 3 star resort located on the island open from 28th February – 1st September. It has 86 rooms and shares the look of a Borneo Longhouse, the traditional community homes of Borneo's tribal people. The resort's restaurant serves Asian and Western Cuisine. There are also fresh water swimming pools and a body massage and foot reflexology centre called Raba Raba House.
The Royal Malaysian Navy has maintained an "offshore naval station" on the island since 1983, and CB90 assault craft based in the station patrol the surrounding waters. Several anti-ship and anti-aircraft guns are placed around the reef, and the personnel operate a Starburst air defence system to prevent low level attacks on the island.
The jetty is located inside the lagoon of the submerged atoll, and has access to the sea through a man-made path cleared of corals.
The Malaysian Fisheries department operates a marine research facility, MARSAL (Marine Research Station Pulau Layang-Layang) on the island.
The main power source of the island comes from diesel generators. On the naval station, there is a large windmill maintained by state-owned power company Tenaga Nasional which harnesses power from wind speeds of up to 50 knots to provide additional electricity supply to the base.
The island's clean water supply of 57 tons per day is obtained from a distilled water processing plant.
Internet services are currently been improved and mobile connectivities will be improved from 2G to 3G by Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.
Swallow Reef is located within the equatorial belt and has an equatorial climate. It is closed to tourists from November to January each year due to 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 only civilian flight route to Swallow Reef is a one-hour flight from Sabah's capital Kota Kinabalu. Layang Layang Aerospace is the only airline that services this route, using its fleet of Nomad N22C planes. A return ticket must be purchased before departure from Kota Kinabalu International Airport.
The Royal Malaysian Navy uses CB90 boats for access to the area and also stations the boats on the island for patrols in the area. The Royal Malaysian Air Force uses CN235 and C130 Hercules aircraft as well as Nuri helicopters for access to the island.