The Great South African Sardine Run
Dolpins. Whales. And sharks! Oh my! The great South African Sardine Run is a spectacular sight to see. Along with millions of individual sardines, the sardine run allows divers to see thousands of oceanic predators in chase of the wild sardine.
A fantastic annual event that every diver must witness firsthand, the sardine run of South Africa is a fabulous opportunity to witness the grandeur of the cycle of life in the ocean at work. Occurring during the months of May to July, this global phenomenon is special to the cool waters located off the Agulhas Bank and then further along South Africa’s southern coast moving northward. The South African pilchard Sardinops sagax, otherwise known as the sardine, chooses this time of year for reasons not exactly known, but thought to do with the migration of this specific species of sardine localized to this area of Africa. It is believed that the sardines are migrating for reproductive reasons and enjoy the temperature of water that occurs from the eastern Agulhas Bank to the coast of KwaZulu-Natal.
It all comes down to current flow of perfectly warmed water. You see, sardines love how the strong offshore warm current from the Agulhas is in opposition to the cooler coastal water that is coming from south and moving north. This cooler water current carries the sardines north, creating the run. What makes this run incredibly exciting is not necessarily the millions upon millions of sardines that move together, but, more so, the impressive amount of predators that move with the sardines.
From dolphins to sharks, from whales to birds, the sardines are the cause for commotion. The animal that really instigates it all is the migratory dolphin. Resembling the herding capabilities of a border collie, the dolphin brings the sardines in together in what is known as bait balls. The dolphins round up the sardines in “balls” that are said to be around 15 meters thick in diameter and to a depth of ten meters. The intensity can last up to ten to fifteen minutes in which the predatory creatures like sharks, whales, and fish birds take advantage of the dolphin’s work. This is quite the show for a scuba diver to witness.
It is not always easy to nail being at the right place at the right time. That is where Scuba Dive Asia comes in. We have years of experience under our belt working with reputable companies that know how to find where the action is at. With the use of spotter planes and in depth local knowledge, our partnering guides take you to where the sardines are at their thickest. We also work with guide companies that can bring you to the migrating humpback whales that happen to be moving through the area at the same time.
Rely on more than luck when seeing the sardine run of South Africa. Contact us now to learn how we can help you see one of the most spectacular animal happenings on the planet.