The Sardine Run in South Africa is one of the world’s most incredible marine events. Annually, from May to July, vast shoals of sardines move from their temperate-water home off South Africa’s southern coast and travel north-east into the sub-tropical waters of South Africa’s Wild Coast. Following the shoals is a unparalleled concentration of marine predators, including sharks, dolphins, whales, gannets and game fish.
When predators meet prey a feeding event of unmatched proportions begins. Thousands of common dolphins charge after the shoals, separating them into densely packed bait balls and driving them to the surface. Watched by the omnipresent Cape gannets, an aerial assault on the sardines then begins when tens of thousands of gannets begin their spectacular plunge diving displays. Below the bait balls are easy pickings not only for dolphins, but also for shivers of bronze-whaler, dusky and blacktip sharks. The final player, is the behemoth Bryde’s whale whose huge mouth can decimate an entire bait ball in a single lunge
DATES: 7-days in June annually
GUIDE & TUTOR: Fiona Ayerst
LOCATION: East London, South Africa
COST: $2500 sharing, $2800 single
MAX GUESTS: Eight
INCLUDES: 5 x Sardine run expeditions, 1 x game drive, dive guide, photographic tutor/guide, accommodation, meals, local travel, SCUBA equipment.
EXCLUDES: Photographic equipment, flights, travel insurance
What you can see on the Sardine Run
The sardine run comprises massive shoals of South Africa’s bait fish, including the sardine, anchovy, massbanker, redeye amongst others. But it is the predators that are drawn to these shoals that really impress. Fellow adventurers will see common dolphins, dusky sharks, blacktip sharks, bryde’s whales, Cape gannets, Cape fur seals and much much more.
Sardine Run Guides
Fiona Ayerst & Ryan Johnson will be guiding the expedition, and our skipper and support crew will be supplied by the ‘Blue Wilderness’ team, the company that pioneered the sardine run adventure here in South Africa.
We will be staying in the wonderful eco lodge of Santa Paloma on the outskirts of East London. The lodge is situated in a small game reserve and we will wake up to grazing zebra, wilderbeest, blesbuck each morning. The lodge runs on permaculture ideology and as such- is in my opinion, perfect for those of us interested in conservation and the environment, and reducing our ‘footprint’ as much as we can.
As you will be traveling in the winter, local food will consist of plenty of hot healthy organic food supplied by Santa Paloma. On the boat, we will have light lunches and lots of snacks to get us through the long hours at sea.
This tour is for people who have experience on the ocean, or have a good level of fitness. On most days we will spend between 6 and 8 hours on the sea. This can be draining and demanding on your body. Whilst SCUBA diving qualifications are not essential, a giant stable bait ball is best viewed from SCUBA.
Although you do not have to be a photographer to join me….photographers of all levels love doing this trip with me as they receive one-to-one instruction on an informal basis and find that helpful. If you aren’t into underwater images then here is plenty of incredible topside action to capture. For photographers who aren’t experienced in underwater photography, I suggest sticking to filming with a GoPro or similar as the sardine run is not an ideal place to start learning about dSLR photography.