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The Spratleys and Indonesian Islands Between Sarawak and Singapore

By Sue Richards last modified Sep 12, 2008 09:24 AM

Published: 2008-09-12 09:24:06
Countries: Indonesia , Singapore

I am intending to sail from Kota Kinabalu Borneo to Layang Layang, diving as we go. I am in the process of obtaining a permit for Layang Layang from the Malaysian navy. After LL I intend to sail for Singapore and would like to dive other reefs and Islands west of LL in the Spratleys and then call at the Indonesian Islands of Palua Natuna, P Subi Besar,P Laut or others in that vicinity.

I know from reading the reports on Noonsite that the Anambas Islands West of the Islands I have mentioned have a bad reputation so will avoid them.

If anyone has any info. on any of the above that would be great.

Dick Beaumont
[email protected]
SY Moonshadow

Comments kindly provided by Allan Riches, of Brunei Bay Radio

Mengalum Island
Between Kota Kinabalu and Layang Layang - may also be worth a visit if you are interested in diving. I've asked before and they welcome yachts; no permits needed. There is an eco/dive resort on the island. They have some moorings close to their jetty but the depth is too shallow for most monohulls. Contact them at [email protected]. See website at

Laying Laying
The last time I checked (about 2 years ago), the dive resort there - which is interested to welcome visiting yachts - closed each year at the end of October. A combination of lack of business in the "wet season" and the impending arrival of the heavier seas and fresher winds of the NE Monsoon. However, I talked to someone just a couple of weeks ago at a regatta, who told me they now close for August (maintenance period) and re-open again in September. Best to make direct contact - [email protected] - to check the latest information. See their website at

Natuna, Subi Besar, Laut Islands etc.
I'm aware in recent times of a yacht stopping at one of these islands because of equipment problems on route from Singapore to Kuching. Apart from that I'm not aware of cruising yachts stopping there. Since they are Indonesian territory, I'd be very careful to obtain a Cruising Permit beforehand. This requirement is no doubt a significant factor which prevents yachts stopping; the effort and expense of obtaining a CAIT for one short stop. Also, be aware that the Indonesian boat import duty issue still raises it's head; even though I've been told it officially does not apply to cruising yachts passing through.

NE Monsoon
I'm sure you are aware the NE Monsoon normally kicks in on this side of the South China Sea sometime in November/December. This is usually later than the western side of the South China Sea, and there is less wind strength. (The HK to Vietnam race regularly has fast average boat speeds and a wild downhill ride in mid October.) Along the west coast of Borneo - east side of the South China Sea - the NE Monsoon is actually a NW breeze, which is why Ocean Passages of the World shows this coast as the traditional sailing route from Singapore to HK in the NE/NW Monsoon. Modern racing yachts can normally take one leg from Singapore that meets the west Borneo coast south of Miri during the NE/NW Monsoon.

The other factor to consider is that once the NE/NW Monsoon starts, the incidence of thunderstorms along the west coast of Borneo increases. I understand boats which stay further offshore experience less thunderstorms when making their southerly passage using the favourable NE/NW Monsoon; so your proposed route starting from Layang Layang, should help in this regard.

I'd be interested to learn how your planned passage proceeds. It's not the normal cruising route. If you would like to a make morning radio sked, make contact with me at Brunei Bay Radio and I'd be happy to do that. From my perspective, to gather more details for subsequent cruisers. See the Brunei Bay Radio Website for details of the daily time and channels/frequencies.


Allan Riches
Brunei Bay Radio