Updated: Aug 9
Diving the SS Yongala was in no way a disappointment. It may actually be the best dive site I have dived in Australia to date. The wreck just has so much to offer, the possibilities of something big turning up is very high and two dives was simply not enough... I left itching to visit again! If you're looking for an epic dive, seriously just do it!
The wreck itself has a very tragic history. The SS Yongala sank with the onslaught of a cyclone on 23rd of March 1911 with all 122 souls onboard. No survivors were found and after a 7 days search the actual site where the wreck lay was not found. Not until almost 50yrs later was its final resting place discovered and identified. To this day the whole story remains a mystery but it is suspected to have happened very suddenly as no life rafts were found in the 7 day search.
The site of its sinking however could have not been more perfect in terms of becoming an incredible dive site. It sank 12nm from Alva Beach near Townsville. The wreck lays on its starboard side, the top of the wreck is 14m depth and the sand below is at 28m. Being situated between The Great Barrier Reef and the mainland it has become a stop over point for many large pelagic species. During the year it is visited by whales, manta rays and even whalesharks. Various other rays and shark species frequent the area too so you're pretty much guaranteed to see something big swim by. The wreck is encrusted in colourful soft corals, whip corals, spongesl and fans. It is teaming with life. From huge schools of small bait fish, giant barracuda, trevally, oceanic black tip sharks, marbled rays and much much more. Olive sea snakes and turtles are also residents there and there was even a decent amount of macro to see too. I really didn't know where to point my camera, everywhere you looked there was something to see.
Because the wreck is situated away from any kind of protection it is subject to large swell, current and difficult conditions. I certainly recommend you have as a minimum your advanced open water certificate on account for the depth and conditions. I chose to dive with Nitrox also which is a huge benefit to extend your bottom times. Check the weather before you book, as bad weather days mean the dive trips may be cancelled. I chose to dive with Yongala Dive out of Alva beach and I can highly recommend them. They are closer to the site departing from Alva beach rather than Townsville. The boat ride was only 45mins and we arrived before any other boats arrived from Townsville.
I could write more and more about this dive site, but you really should go and discover it for yourself. Having dived many amazing places around the world, I would even go as far as to put it up on top of my list with places like Raja Ampat. Given you get a day with good conditions, it really is top notch diving. Anything can show up there, and if you're lucky you might just see something special.