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Sardine run

In late June or early July, a phenomenon that is locally called the sardine run attracts anglers, divers and sightseers alike, as they converge on the Wild Coast and the KZN South Coast to witness “the greatest shoal on earth”. The annual sardine run is a migration of pilchards (not actually sardines) from the Cape, following the cool water up the coast, as the Mozambique Current swings out to sea. Now a sardine migration sounds pretty – well – mundane, until you realise that these delicious little fish will be followed by an enormous concentration of dolphins, sharks and game fish, and enormous flocks of diving, guzzling seabirds. Pods of, literally, thousands of common dolphins herd the sardines towards the shore, and sharks, marlin, tuna, other dolphins, Brydes whales, Minke whales, Sei whales, and other game fish may join in the feeding frenzy. And, from above, hundreds of seabirds – mainly gannets, gulls and shearwaters – divebomb the shoals in what looks like the re-enactment of a World War II movie with shadows of Alfred Hitchcock. And then they sit on the sea to rest in great rafts – too full to take off. This phenomenon was well documented on the BBC’s “Blue Planet”.

From above or below the surface, it’s an incredible sight. Diving with the run is only for very experienced divers, but non-divers still get a pretty good idea of the activity from the boat or even from shore. An added bonus is that the sardine run often coincides (with no causal relationship) with the northward humpback whale migration, so the sea is literally bustling with life.

If you want to see the more interesting animals on the sardine run, you'll have to go out with a licenced whale watching boat. We don't have any listed as yet, but contact us and we'll put you in touch with the right people.

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