The Sardine Run is one of the greatest marine events in the world. If you choose to watch you will be able to see enormous shoals of silver sardines, but also the predators that follow the course of the shoal along the east coast of Africa, most notably the sharks.
What is the Sardine Run?
The sardine run travels along a huge distance of ocean and undergoes an array of changes during that time. The sardines start of at the Agulhas Banks on the Southern Cape coast of South Africa and take a south to north current - a cold one – between June and July.
The current carries the sardines north, as well as their food source, which is plankton. The sardine run is also known as the greatest shoal on earth, because it contains not only the sardines and the plankton, but also a variety of different predators. You are likely to encounter: Dolphin, Game fish, Whales, Sharks and Seals
Believe it or not, over 20,000 dolphins – bottlenose and common – bryde’s whales, orcas and others follow the shoal, as well as thousands upon thousands of sharks, who leave their home on the southern Cape and coast of Namibia. Following the sardine run really means you will be able to see marine life in all its glory.
The Sardine Run Expedition
It is actually possible to go scuba diving on the sardine run. It aims to give the highest level of excitement and adventure whilst you are there, whilst making sure that the natural environment is not disturbed by an influx of tourists.
This is why there are only a few licensed operators and these are controlled by strict guidelines. Also, some of the money you will spend on your trip will go directly to a local charity that works towards ocean conservation.
Generally, no more than 50 clients will scuba dive at one time, and the groups will be made up of around seven divers, including a skipper and a dive master. The dive master will brief the groups every morning during the trip on what will be done and what to expect. Although the boats operate individually, they do all use the same information provided to them by a microlight spotter.
Photo Credit: wanderlasss
Of course, sometimes boats will be unable to leave the harbour or stay in the water for as long as they expected to due to bad weather or perhaps because the group collectively decides that other activities are more interesting. Generally, if you go on a sardine run diving trip, other activities will also be organised. These tend to include at least the following:
- A trip in the microlight, flying you across the Wild Coast
- Horse riding
- Hiking tours, including some beautiful nature trails
- Visits to waterfalls that tumble into the sea, something that can be seen only in very few places on the world
- Cultural visits, such as little African villages or an audience with a local medicine man
Safety of the Expedition
Safety is of course of the utmost importance. Not just the safety of the divers and tour operators, but also the safety of the marine life. Since sardine run operations began in 2001, the safety record still stands at 100%. This is because all staff members are highly trained and regulated and they all know the local area like the back of their hand.
The expedition is incredibly flexible in its nature, meaning that people don’t operate towards a set and rigid time table. It has been found that this has increased the safety of those participating, as nobody needs to feel rushed or uncomfortable at any point during the expedition, both for the parts that are on land and the parts that are in the ocean.
Photo Credit: Our Planet. Close Up.
Of course, all of those that go on the sardine run expedition also have a responsibility for their own personal safety and that of the local wildlife, both on land and in the ocean. All divers accept responsibility for conservation and thereby ensure they do not cause any damage to the local environment, for example by destroying corals or dropping litter.
The tour operators expect this attitude to continue for the visits that are done on land, particularly when visiting local villages.
Would you like to be part of the Sardine run? Feel free to contact us. We have multiple partners that offer dive packages + accommodation and scuba lessons in South Africa too.
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Rutger Thole is an avid scuba diver and loves to travel, dive and write about scuba diving. Based in Amsterdam he runs bookyourdive.com and at least twice a year he plans a dive trip of the beaten track.