Visibility: 20m

Water Temp: ??c

Bottom Time: 50minutes

Max Depth: 27m

Details: For my birthday this year, we decided to fly into Townsville and head down to Alva Beach to dive the wreck on the SS Yongala with Yongala Dive. The SS Yongala was a passenger vessel that hit a cyclone on route to Cairns in 1911. All 122 crew and passengers on board died, and many of the bones of the dead are still contained within the vessel, especially in the bow. For this reason, plus the historical and tourism values of the wreck, penetration is not allowed, and even diving under the bow and stern are prohibited to conserve the wreck for as long as possible. Being over 100m long though, there is plenty to see and explore, and it forms an isolated artificial reef in the mainly sandy barrens where the wreck lies. This attracts marine life in abundance to be cleaned, to be fed and to shelter. It also attracts divers from all over the world, with a status of one of the best wreck dives in the world. This fact put it on my bucket list as a must-do dive, so with out much planning (weather-wise) we booked in for 6 Dives and struck it lucky with 3 fabulous days diving.

The first dive we just took it easy and got oriented to the wreck, but our guide returned excited as a school boy swearing that he spotted an Oceanic White-Tipped Shark out in the blue. Without photographic evidence, it went unconfirmed, and suspicion from the other staff members were high. We did see a large cod that had a big chunk out of its head that we thought looked like a shark bite, so we keen to get back in the water and see what shark species were around. On the surface interval, reports came back that the first Mantas for the season had just been seen. So we quickly geared up for Dive Two and had a magnificent encounter with a massive manta that swam straight over the top of us. Chills and goosebumps all around. No Sharks though.

Day Two and another day of low swell and low wind. On Dive Three, we potted around on the sand in about 27m, and i was photographing two big Cod getting a bit frisky, when all of a sudden, i felt a tug on my fin from Sophie. Her hand went straight to the head to indicate a ‘real’ shark and furious pointing into the blue. We swam over to a big section of mast that lay over the sand, and i indicated to Sophie that we should get down low on the sand to encourage the shark to pass by closely. On cue, back it came and swam just over the other side of the mast where we we lay in wait. I snapped off a couple of photos of a Silver tip Shark!!! It circled again on a more distant pass, and then disappeared back off into the blue. After the dive, there were some excited divers who saw the shark, adding credibility to the first sighting. This was a very rare sighting on the Yongala, in fact none of the staff had ever seen or heard of a Silver Tip being sighted on the wreck before. So i was very happy to get some photos. Dive Four saw some great Green Turtle action, with one passing close by. And a big Marbled Ray swimming over the top of the deck.

Dives Five and Six were a little more quiet, so we focused on appreciating the structure of the wreck. I had some good sightings of the Horned Sea Snake, plus of course the Olive Sea Snakes which are everywhere.

All in all an amazing 3 Days of diving on a well run operation with Yongala Dive. The best thing about the Yongala is you never know what will show up, and this will keep me coming back in the future.

Here’s some of my early-edit photos. I’ll put up individual dive postings soon, so keep an eye out.

Camera Details: Tokina 10-17mm 2 X Inon z240 Strobes