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Diving the S.S. Yongala

Listed under Coral Reefs in Queensland, Australia.

  • Photo of Diving the S.S. Yongala
  • Photo of Diving the S.S. Yongala
  • Photo of Diving the S.S. Yongala
  • Photo of Diving the S.S. Yongala
Photo of Diving the S.S. Yongala
Photo by flickr user Leonard Low
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Again, this has been called ‘the best dive in the world’ and ‘the best wreck in the world’ but it’s hard to compare dive or wreck sites. This is a steamer trading ship which was caught in a cyclone off Cape Bowling Green, just off Townsville on Australia’s east coast, in 1911 - which is why some guides will tell you it's Australia’s Titanic.

It sunk onto sand which is probably why it’s so well preserved and against the Great Barrier Reef which is probably why it’s now a garden of colourful coral. It also sunk in an upright position which makes it easy to get around, but you’re not allowed to go inside, it’s a finable offence and people have been fined. There’s plenty to see on the outside, as well as the coral gardens, full of anemones and sponges, there are batfish in schools which move like magic carpets across the wrecks surface, beautiful, flying manta rays and eagle rays, jacks, wrasse, barracuda, giant groupers, trevally, as well as turtles, octopuses, bull sharks, tiger sharks and sea snakes. This is part of the Great Barrier Reef so this amount of life and colour is to be expected, but it’s still astonishing to see how nature reclaims wrecks. It’s like Geoffrey Rush’s character’s face from the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ films, corals growing on to other corals or on to living, moving creatures and parts of the wreck.

In water about 15ms deep at its shallowest point the wreck is about 100ms long. Currents can be unpredictable and so can visibility, but people who have done a lot of wreck diving rave about this wreck despite that.

Written by  Nick Shaw.

Other expert and press reviews

“S.S. Yongala”

My first and most spectacular wreck dive was on S.S Yongala., a historic steel passenger and freight steamer that sunk in 1958 but now homes to so many invertebrates, corals and fishes. I saw so many sharks here and not to mention my first school of ham… Read more...

Written by  Johnny Singh.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Wonderful time at the Paradise-Heron Island

This island gives you the feel of paradise. The island is rich in its flora and fauna, with beautiful crystal clear water and white sandy beaches. I actually felt my heart when I saw the island. Here you can experience the world class fun and activities which will give you utmost pleasure and happiness. It's worth the money you spend coming here. The accommodations here provides good services though they charge you more compared to others. We saw the turtles laying the eggs in the beaches and we also watched the eggs hatching under the moonlight. It was a unique experience in its own way. A must visit for for all the nature lovers sitting there.

1 Reply

Where did you stay? Did you do any diving?

Its been 10 yrs since I dived in Yongala and fond memories of this most wonderful site still flood my mind. Having dived in diverse areas like sulawesi, maldives, malaysia, thailand among others, this site must rate as the top 5 sites in the world despite being so small in area. The 5 giant groupers each measuring 2-3 meters long are a highlight for me and I wish they are still well and safe there in yongala. Living in asia, I know that these fishes will not have a chance in the area where I live where people will pay top money to fish and eat them.... Please keep them safe in yongala! :-)

Diving the S.S. Yongala

The S.S. Yongala is an amazing wreck, home to an incredible variety of aquatic life. Surface conditions can be rough and the current is often strong, but the marine life is teeming, with over 1,500 species of fish alone living off these waters. In the 96 years that have passed since this ship sank during a cyclone, the wreck has evolved into an artificial reef which is exploding with life. Turtles, sea snakes, barracudas, wrasses, rays and oddities such as the Guitar Fish (or Shovelnose Shark), halfway between a ray and a shark, are rife here, as well as a plethora of molluscs and sponges. Bull sharks and Tiger sharks are also known to frequently cruise the sands around the wreck

The S.S Yongala is not only the largest and best preserved wreck (not purposefully sunk during warfare) in Australia, but also reputed as one of the top dive sites in the world. There are limited dive trips available to this protected and monitored area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, so plan ahead. The Yongala is roughly a three hour boat trip from Townsville, where you can find the wreck's museum.

Due to its protected status it is illegal to penetrate the wreck, and those who decide to ignore this will risk a prison sentence- bubbles produced by divers contribute to the erosion of the wreck. The protection also means crowd control, a benefit for the marine life as well as other divers.

Keep an eye out for VW, the huge Queensland groper who lives on the wreck; she's three meters long and literally the size of a VW beetle!

Wreck of the S.S. Yongala

The Yongala is thought of as one of the world’s ten best wreck dives because of the array of animal life that now lives in or near the wreck. Divers can see turtles, rays, giant groupers, barracudas, schools of giant trevally and cobia among others.

This steamer ship sank in 1911 but lay undiscovered for 50 years. It is the largest and most intact wreck in Australian waters.

Nearby Heron Island is also home to a turtle sanctuary and the famous Heron Island Bommie dive.

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