This turquoise-haloed coral atoll, 300km northwest of KK, is actually artificial, constructed for the Malaysian Navy and debated among scubaholics as one of the top-10 dive sites in the world. However, what lies beneath what is now an exclusive diving resort could only have been created by nature: think Technicolor reefs teeming with gorgonian fans, excellent visibility and impossibly steep walls down to 2000m. Beyond the macro fish found in its 20m-deep lagoon – seahorses, pipefish, cuttlefish and batfish – large pelagics to the outer walls include hammerhead, grey reef, leopard, thresher, silvertip and whale sharks, as well as orcas, dolphins, mantas and devil rays.

Keep in mind that there is no decompression chamber at Layang Layang, so don't press your luck while underwater. The resort only provides air – no nitrox.

The island's location offers absolute isolation; the only way to get here is by plane from Kota Kinabalu.