Monday, October 12, 2009

The Sardine Run

The annual great Sardine Run is a natural phenomenon which usually occurs during the months of June and July, when massive schools of sardines migrate from the colder waters around the Cape to the warmer waters of Kwa-zulu Natal to give birth to their offspring. Once they've layed their eggs, they return to the Cape, closely followed by thousands of dolphins, birds, fish of prey, whales and sharks. The ocean awakes and the thrill is simply indescribable.

Common DolphinsIn the olden days it was said that as soon as the Aloes bloom on the South Coast, the Sardines will start running. Funny enough, nobody gave the Sardine Run much notice. The ocean is buzzing with life, yet only the locals used to get drawn into this unbelievable spectacle of Mother Nature. There are hundreds, sometimes thousands of Common Dolphins along the coast hunting the sardines and there are whales everywhere. Cape Gannets (Toelpel auf deutsch) cruise in flocks of several hundreds above the sardines and dive from 20m into the water to catch as many of the silver fish as they can. At the end of a good day, the Gannets are so full that they just sit on the water unable to take off.

Sardine BaitballFrom underneath the sharks and dolphins round up a large number of sardines and form what is known as a bait ball. Once the bait ball is formed, the sharks and dolphins swim through and through and through that ball until not one sardine is left. As divers, we first approach the situation carefully and watch from the boat what is going on. Then we slide into the water just on ABC and when a bait ball is formed or a large shoal of sardines approaches, we don equipment and watch the incredible scene from a depth of approximately 5-7m. Then it's back on the boat and off to the next group of sardines. This can go on for hours or even the whole day with a short lunch break in between.

When the Sardine Run starts, it starts just north of Port Elizabeth and moves up the coast pretty quickly. Many operators book up all accommodation along the Wild Coast and sell packages to experience the Sardine Run. As nobody can foresee the exact time of the run, the risk lies with the diving public. They have to book their package which is very expensive due to the remoteness of the area. If there are no sardine activities during the booked time, there is no refund. If and when the Sardine Run happens, it will definitely come past Margate and Shelly Beach and usually go as far as Hibberdene with a few pockets reaching Durban. We've decided that we don't want to join the crowd but stay right where we know the area best.

Our customers do not have to take any risk at all. Our prices stay the same all year round and if there are no sardines, we keep on diving Protea Banks as usual. If however, the sardines run, we do exactly the same as everybody else and are in the midst of the activity. Only then do our Sardine Run rates apply and our customers still have the choice on a day to day basis if they want to participate in the Sardine Run or rather dive the Sandtigers on the Caves of Protea North.

Story supplied by : African Dive Adventures

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