Australia is home to more marine World Heritage Sites than any other country. The country hosts five of them, with The Great Barrier Reef being the most popular.
The Great Barrier Reef makes up the largest coral reef system in the world with more than 2,000 individual reefs. It covers an area of 133,000 square miles (344,400 square kilometers) spread over 900 islands. In 1981 this beautiful location made it on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
It is here you will find the S.S Yongala, one of the most impressive wreck dives in the world. Although The Great Barrier Reef has a long list of amazing dive sites, the Yongala wreck dive is near the top of that list.
History of the SS Yongala Wreck
The S.S Yongala sank near the Queensland coast and was a passenger ship sailing from Melbourne to Cairns in March 1911. Although it is suspected that it met a cyclone at sea, some experts are still uncertain.
After having been lost for several decades, the nearly intact historic shipwreck was found near Townsville. Today, the wreck site attracts thousands of divers every year and is classed as one of the best dives in Australia.
Actually pronounced Yonggluh, the steam ship Yongala was named after a small South Australian town. It is said that this name means broad water, a fitting name for sea-worthy steamship.
Her maiden voyage began on 29th April, she arrived in Southampton on 9th October. And later in Sydney on 6th December 1903. On her last voyage, the S.S Yongala had 124 passengers on board but sadly none survived after the Yongala sank. You can find more information at the Maritime Museum of Townsville.
Thanks to the historic shipwreck act, the S.S Yongala wreck is a protected dive site, taken care of by the Museum of Tropical Queensland in Townsville.
Just keep in mind that its remote location and depth make this a more advanced dive. Only experienced divers are allowed to visit the dive spot and even then no penetration diving is allowed. You can find a licensed operator organizing day trips from Townsville.
Diving The SS Yongala Shipwreck
Depth: 20 – 35 meters
Visibility: 10 meters
Temperature: 22°C – 28°C
Dive Level: Advanced
Best For: Wreck diving, sea snakes, sharks
The Yongala wreck dive attracts all different kinds of dive enthusiasts from around the world. The steel passenger and cargo ship is now home to an abundance of marine life and the best wreck dive in the region.
The shipwreck itself was only found in 1958.
The ship is located 90 kilometers southeast of Townsville and 10 kilometers from Cape Bowling Green. The Yongala is 109 meters long, the ship lists to starboard, and the bow points north.
With Townsville being the main gateway to The Yongala, it takes about 3 hours to reach the shipwreck by fast boat. However, for a shorter boat ride journey, it is also possible to dive The Yongala from Ayr. Which is only a 1-hour drive south of Townsville and then a 30-minute boat trip from there.
Although considered one of the best dive sites in the Great Barrier Reef, it isn’t accessible for all divers. The respected scuba dive operators will only accept more advanced divers. This is due to the fact that the wreck is located far out into the Australian waters.
In addition to the depth, strong winds, heavy tides, and uncooperative weather can all ruin your access to the dive site. Coupled with the poor weather, strong currents can make it quite a dangerous dive trip.
However, this does not mean that you have to wait until your next dive trip to witness the wonderful seafloor of Western Australia. Any dive shop can recommend alternative diving spots on the Great Barrier Reef that are less impacted by currents and tides.
The SS Yongala sits at a depth of approximately 33 meters, it is quite a distance down. Coupled with that is limited underwater visibility, making the SS Yongala dive unsafe for beginners.
Please note that divers are forbidden from entering the shipwreck and some have been arrested or fined by the Queensland government for doing this very thing. Be a respectful scuba diver when visiting the SS Yongala.
What Marine Life Can You See Diving The Yongala?
Most divers come to visit the Yongala for wreck diving, but this beautiful location really does have so much more to offer! The marine life that surrounds The Yongala is out of this world.
Giant groupers the size of small cars are often spotted along with soaring eagle and manta rays. Tornado formations of barracuda, clouds of fish, sea turtles, giant trevallies, and sea snakes are not shy either.
The dive site also offers various species of shark including the tiger shark, the rare bull shark and sometimes even the gentle giant whale shark.
You will be able to enjoy the vast array of soft corals as well as see the gorgonian sea fans that dance in the current. Minke whales and humpback whales can be found during the right seasons from June to November.
This dive destination is really an excellent location for underwater photography. So make sure you bring your camera!
Best Time to Dive the SS Yongala Ship Wreck
Divers are able to visit The Yongala shipwreck all year long. However, the Australian seasons do impact the scuba diving conditions.
Probably the best time to visit The Great Barrier Reef is between the months of August and December. When temperatures in the water range from 22 degrees in June and rising up to around 28 degrees in March. The warmest months are also the wettest, these run from January to March.
If you plan to visit during the months of March and April you might be lucky enough to watch the soft coral spawn. This attracts the larger pelagics such as the amazing whale sharks. All in all, The Yongala is arguably the best scuba diving wreck site in the world.
Australia Travel Information
Note – Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including, but not limited to the following: security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters, and climate.
Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.
Language – English
Currency – Australian dollar
Major Airport – Sydney Airport
Closest Airport – Cairns Airport
Top Attractions – Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Great Barrier Reef
Information link – http://www.australia.com/en-gb
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Australia is blessed with some of the best dive sites in the world thanks to the Great Barrier Reef and the SS Yongala dive is just one example. If you are interested in scuba diving the Yongala wreck, here are a few more interesting facts.
When was the SS Yongala built?
The SS Yongala, a steel steamship carrying both passengers and cargo, was built in the early 1900s and had its maiden voyage on 29 April 1903. Ordered by the Adelaide Steamship Company, it was assembled in Newcastle Upon Tyne (UK) by Armstrong Whitworth & co Ltd.
What is the deepest ship wreck?
The USS Johnston is widely accepted as the deepest shipwreck in the world. It sank to a depth of 6,500 meters (21,180 feet) in the Philippine Sea after the battle of Samar on October 25, 1944, between the US and Japanese naval forces.
What is the most famous ship wreck?
The Titanic is perhaps the most famous shipwreck, if only for the Hollywood blockbuster movie that goes by the same name. The ship split into two, both parts having sunk to the seafloor several thousand miles off the coast of New York.
The SS Yongala is a very impressive wreck dive and a treasure trove of marine life including sharks, sea snacks, and large schools of fish. However, its remote location, strong currents, and depth make it a dive trip that is best reserved for more advanced scuba divers.