SS Yongala was a passenger ship that sank near Queensland, Australia in 1911. 37 years later, in 1958, the wreck of the sunken ship was discovered near Townsville by two divers. Surprisingly, the vessel’s external structure was intact and the divers had taken the steel safe and brought them back to land. Since then the place has become a major tourist destination. The scuba diving industry has flourished around Townsville and more than 10,000 divers visit the ship’s wreck every year.
Yongala’s length stands at around 110 meters and it is an excellent sight one can get at a depth of 30 meters. The wreck comes under the ‘Historic Shipwrecks Act’ and hence it is only possible to visit it after obtaining permission from the Museum of Tropical Queensland. Also, you will not be permitted to get inside the Yongala, but only swim along the wreck. There is a lot of marine life around the wreck since an artificial reef has been formed around the wreck.
Everything from the rudder, the masts, the toilets, the steam rooms and even the letters ‘Yongala’ are visible after almost a century. The Great Barrier Reef has diverse fauna and flora. It is home to large species of fish like barracuda, sharks and even snakes. One would definitely be able to see thousands of new creatures too during the dive. The ship is largely covered by coral, though one can see parts visible.
The visibility in the water can also be low at times, so deciding the time of diving during the day is also important. Generally you would go around with a group of divers and you might find it difficult to see all what you want to. It is important to only take a diving trip when the conditions are suitable. Most of the operators would help you out with the conditions and visibility, always avoid taking a dive when the sea is windy or rough. It can be far too dangerous to do otherwise.
The length of the dive trips vary from one to seven days. Most of the trips are either from Townsville, which is around 89kms from the exact wreckage, or from Alva Beach near Ayr, around 22km from the wreck site.You can choose a one day trip to the wreck site if you just want to enjoy the wreck. If you want to move around the reef and enjoy a bit of marine life, choose a two to four day trip.
One can reach Townsville from Sydney through air, flights are available frequently. However, plan well ahead on the scuba diving schedule. Though there are a lot of dive operators in Townsville and throughout the Great Barrier Reef, if you want to select the best ones, you have to book well in advance. Snorkelling trips are also available with many operators. For professionals or to be professionals interested in diving certification courses, there are a lot of diving institutes which offer PADI certifications from ‘Scuba Diver’ and ‘Open water Diver’ to ‘Master Scuba Diver’.
As it has been voted as one of the top 10 Scuba diving places in the world, a trip to the wreck site is worth it.