Divers and Non-Divers
Often referred to as The Greatest Shoal on Earth, South Africa’s Sardine Run is undoubtedly one of the world’s most incredible natural phenomenons. Our trips cater to divers and non-divers alike, giving everyone the opportunity to experience the wonder of the sardine run first-hand. For photographers in particular, the Sardine Run is an event not to be missed.
Winter Dry Season
The Sardine Run takes place every year between the months of May to August, as hordes of sardines spawn in the cool waters off the Agulhas Bank. These sardines, which are more specifically known as the South African pilchard Sardinops sagax, can only tolerate temperatures of 21°C or lower. At the same time as the spawning, a corridor of cold water opens up along South Africa’s east coast, allowing the sardines to migrate or ‘run’ far further north than their temperature tolerance would usually allow, bringing them within our reach, where we visit the bait balls.
The sardines cannot stray outside this cold water corridor, and as such provide easy pickings for pursuing predators. Both temperate and tropical marine species gather to take advantage of this sudden bounty, and it is these animals that make the Run so exciting. They include birds, fish and marine mammals, with the sardine run’s top indicator species being the Cape gannet and the common dolphin.
Action On The Surface
These two species are always the first to find the isolated sardine bait-balls, and are the ones that we follow when trying to pinpoint the action for our divers. Once a bait-ball is found, divers can enter the water either on snorkel or on scuba to watch as the sardines are attacked from above and below by gannets, dolphins, sharks, and whales. For non-divers, the chaotic feeding frenzy is equally impressive when viewed from the surface.
Sharks At The Bait Balls
Common shark species seen on the Run include the bronze whaler, the dusky and the oceanic blacktip. Enormous Bryde’s whales are often witnessed feeding on the bait-balls, and in previous years we have also seen bottlenose dolphins, orcas, Cape fur seals, and a plethora of game fish. Best of all, the Run coincides with the annual migration of the humpback whale, so visitors can expect to see their incredible acrobatic displays as well.