My greatest diving experience. After diving several times on the Great Barrier Reef, I discover this stunning wreck. Here the beautiful soft corals have amazing colors. The Yongala Wreck has the most amazing and prolific marine wildlife of any place I've ever been. A real Underwater Eden's garden where I could swim with eagle ray, sea snake (but I refuse its Apple), sea turtles and even whales!!!
The S.S. Yongala sank during a cyclone in 1911 with the loss of more than 120 souls. It was not until 1958 that the wreck was discovered and due to its remote location it has remained mostly untouched. The wreck begins 14m below the surface and extends to 28m. As it is the only structure in the region, the marine life gathers at the wreck providing for an unforgettable diving experience. But be aware that underwater currents could be quite strong, so dive safe.
With 100m long it is the largest and most intact historic shipwreck in Australian waters. It has now become known as one of the worlds top wreck dives.
A short poem of my S.S. Yongala dive experience:
A sunrise descent into Poseidon’s lair,
With explosive excitement I could hardly bear.
A Green Sea Turtle has my attention,
And approaches me without apprehension.
In utter awe and disbelief,
I kneel down at a hundred feet.
With more colours than words can rectify,
Such confounding tranquillity when the wreck meets the eye.
As voiceless arrays radiate relentlessly,
A condescending Bull Ray gazes pretentiously.
Drifting along to a Giant Trevally,
I imagine its taste with a hint of wasabi,
Amidst the fish that resemble the butterfly,
Euphoric bliss assembles from stimuli.
In a frozen state of pleasurable tension,
Comfortable paralysis with poisonous suspension.
An Olive Sea Snake swims my direction,
Slithering by with graceful perfection.
Swimming vertically, so leisurely, yet fast,
An Eagle Ray soars from the forward mast.
Captivated with wonder from all its magnificence,
I study the creature in helpless diligence.
A Queensland Grouper ahead in the distance,
Fighting the current swimming to-and-fret,
The current is too strong, denying admittance,
Only a small glimpse of its large silhouette.
The inexplicable thrill ends in an ultimate crescendo,
With a memorable knock on Yongala’s window.
The reposing ride up the ascent line,
Brings a farewell glare that’s impeccably sublime.
Giant Barracuda gape in motionless reaction,
As I exit their realm with ineffable satisfaction.
The only Reef cruise operator to offer fishing as well as snorkeling and diving trips from Townsville is Reef & Island Tours which operates luxury catamarans to a pontoon on Kelso Reef, where you will find hundreds of types of hard and soft corals and 1,500 fish species.
An interpretive reef talk is given en route. The cruise costs A$136 (US$88) for adults, A$123 (US$80) for students and seniors, A$70 (US$46) for children ages 4 to 15, or A$330 (US$215) for a family of 5. Price includes glass-bottom boat trips, fishing, unlimited snorkeling, underwater observatory, lunch and morning and afternoon tea.
Introductory dives are an extra A$70 (US$46), and qualified divers can make two dives for A$60 (US$39) including all gear. If you'd rather catch fish than look at them, you can head off to deeper water to cast a line for sweetlip, coral trout, and other reef beauties. The staff will clean and wrap your catch, and your hotel chef should be happy to cook it for you.
Cruises depart from Reef HQ every day except Monday and Thursday at 8.45am and from Picnic Bay Jetty on Magnetic Island at 9:05am. The boat takes up to 200 passengers, is air-conditioned, and has six VCR wired TV monitors and a licensed bar. The trip takes 2 1/2 hours each way, giving you 3 1/2 to 4 hours on the Reef. Several other operators including The Dive Bell (tel. 07/4721 1155) and Barrier Reef Dive, Cruise & Travel (tel. 07/4772 5800) have trips to the Yongala Wreck, the Coral Sea, and the Reef, and also offer dive courses.