Sunday, May 26, 2024

Island Resorts

Malaysia: Photographers Flock to the Layang Layang Island Underwater Shoot-Out

In late July, skilled photographers from across the globe will try their hand at a Malaysian private island’s famed underwater photo contest. Winners will receive more than USD $30,000 in prizes, but what’s truly sought-after is the prestige.

(Image Courtesy of Avillon Layang Layang Resort)

Even the island’s name – Layang Layang – sounds tropical and soothing; a melodic, relaxing song carried on an ocean breeze. Found in the unspoiled paradise of Sabah, in warm waters of the South China Sea, the little isle is part of a chain known as the “Jewels of the Borneo Banks.” Home to the luxurious Avillion Layang Layang resort, the island is renowned for its spectacular diving, as it is uniquely surrounded by 13 coral reefs filled to the brim with an incredible diversity of colourful marine life. And from July 20th-26th, photographers from every corner of the globe will journey here for a highly competitive photo contest.

(Image Courtesy of Avillon Layang Layang Resort)

There simply couldn’t be a more perfect setting for talented photographers to test their mettle; the island is vibrant and green, with stretches of powdery beach and surrounded by the most vividly blue seas imaginable. Part of a much larger atoll that barely kisses the water’s surface, a visit to Layang Layang is like a private invitation back in time, when a lush natural paradise covered the globe, rather than being found here and there in seldom-seen pockets. If the islands here at the tip of wild Borneo are known as the “jewels”, Layang Layang stands as one of the brightest gems among them.

(Image Courtesy of Avillon Layang Layang Resort)

Designed in a traditional “longhouse” style, the resort has an unpretentious elegance that suits its wild surroundings. The buildings are rustic yet charming, constructed with local materials and decorated in a classic, simple manner. The island can host a surprising number of guests; space is available for conferences or weddings of up to 200 people, with 86 rooms each with its own private veranda. In the common area, a large infinity pool seems to merge with the horizon, and a restaurant offers a constantly-changing array of Malay and European fare. Throughout the day, guests are treated to views of gorgeous flocks of birds that nest on a nearby island sanctuary; although nothing above the sea can truly be said to rival the beauty of what lies beneath.

(Image Courtesy of Avillon Layang Layang Resort)

Looking through the previous year’s winners – the island had held the contest in 2006, 2007 and 2008, returning for this year – the only word to describe the scenes that were captured is “otherworldly.” Brilliantly-hued fish burst out of the coral reef, sylph-like manta rays glide effortlessly through dark waters, and everywhere, one finds surprises. Some of the most intriguing images are that of the local fish; in extreme close-up, what appear to be expressions of surprise, happiness and curiosity are revealed on the creature’s tiny faces.  Or the striking beauty of the intricate, yellow-coloured sponge that clings to the reef and waves in the current like a graceful fan.

To participate in the contest, which itself is free of charge, hopefuls just have to pay for a discounted island package – US $1000 covers a 6-night stay, including meals and local air transport to Layang Layang. Photographers will also have 12 boat dives in which to capture that perfect underwater scene. Winning submissions will be published in major international diving magazines, and the roster of prizes this year includes exotic trips to resorts in the Maldives, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, where more great photo opportunities will no doubt await!

Visit the resort’s official website:

Download the PDF to view the contest details:

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