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 laid 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.
Sardine Run along the unspoilt Wild Coast
Unspoilt Wild Coast near Coffee Bay
African Dive Adventures is offering Sardine Run Packages along the Wild Coast. We set up our base at Coffee Bay where we accommodate our divers in the lovely Ocean View Hotel. We offer standard packages of 5 nights and 4 activity days at sea.
For groups we can offer tailor-made, longer packages or combinations of Sardine Run and Protea Banks.
Due to huge logistics involved in moving the base to this remote village, we have to sell packages up front. If all goes well and nature does not throw a curve ball, a Sardine Run Experience is something one never forgets for the rest of one's life.
The Ocean View Hotel
Our guests are accommodated in the lovely Ocean View Hotel. We believe that after a hard day's work our guests need to come home to the best place in town.
Not only does the staff at the Ocean View make us feel at home, but also the food is delicious.Bar and Deck are the perfect places to talk about the day's events.
Pool for those who can't get enough, and the scenic beach is right behind the wooden fence, barely 50m from reception. The rooms are magnificent, comfortable and cosy.
But the best on the whole trip is the heated equipment room !!!
Typical Barsnacks consist of Crayfish, Oysters, Mussels ...
In the olden days it was said that as soon as the Aloes bloom on the South Coast, the Sardines will start running.
Nobody gave the Sardine Run much notice then because it was thought to be too dangerous.
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 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.
The Activity Day
After Breakfast at 7am we get transferred by Landrover and Landcruiser 4 x 4 to Mapusi, the most spectacular, idyllic river mouth from where we launch our boat. This drive alone is worth a few photo-stops. The cliffs are high and drop off almost vertical into the deep blue ocean.
On the banks of this river divers get ready for the launch. The 4 x 4 drives the boat down into the river. Divers and the crew have to push the boat further until there is enough water under the keel and all rocks are cleared. Once it is safe, the skipper gets on the boat and starts the motors. When he has enough water under the keel, he calls all guests on. With speed the boat drives over the sandbank and into the waiting basin. Once all waves have passed, the skipper chooses the safest moment to launch out to sea. Mapusi offers one of the very few safe launches along the Wild Coast.
And the adventure begins....
In the meantime our plane has taken off and done a good fly over the whole ocean in search of animal activity. The skipper and the pilot are in constant radio contact whereby the boat gets directed to the best action on hand.
Sardine Run Action consists not only of silver fish but more so of activities such as whales, dolphins, sharks and gannets. Wherever there is something happening the boat will go.
The highly experienced and skillful crew will approach anything interesting with great care and only when it is safe will the divers be allowed to enter the water.
More often than not this will be done on mask and snorkel. There is a constant off-the-boat and on-the-boat which requires stamina and a certain fitness.
Obviously it is always the client's choice if he wants to remain on the boat or jump into the water.
To make a long day out at sea as pleasant as possible we offer sandwiches, fresh fruit, chocolates, cookies, fruitjuice and water on the boat. The excitement often makes us forget about the food....
The Ultimate Experience is the Bait Ball
The perfect Bait Ball
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. They are often joined by gannets which dive from a dizzy height and use their wings to actually swim further down in pursuit of a sardine. Unbelievable !!!!
Then comes a Brydes Whale from the depth and like a Front End Loader scoops thousands of sardines into its gullet.
As divers, we first approach the situation carefully and watch from the boat what is going on.
Then we slide into the water and watch the incredible scene from a depth of approximately 5-7m. Such a Bait Ball can last from a few minutes to half an hour or even longer.
When it is over 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.
We return to base no later than 15h00. Driving back into this idyllic river mouth just finishes a great adventure. The guests are picked up by the 4x4s and taken straight home to a hot shower. Our staff is preparing the boat and equipment for the next day, washing off all diving equipment and hanging the wet suits into our heated equipment room at the Ocean View Hotel.
We meet for a drink in the bar where the incredible management often serves us crayfish and oysters for bar snacks.
A scrumptious buffet awaits us from 18h00 at leisure
Skipper very worried...
Gogo very worried...
All eight meters of boat plus ten souls...
And what a lot of fun they all had !!!!!
The Financial Risk
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 forsee the exact time of the run, the risk has to be with the diving public. They have to book their package with the understanding that there cannot be a refund in case the sardines should not show up. Same if the weather should turn nasty and preventing boats from launching.
However, there is always activity on the ocean. On a quiet day we see, follow and swim with whales and dolphins. This is why we have a plane. Our pilot WILL find us something exciting. And if push comes to shove, we always have our bait bucket with us with which we will do a Baited Shark Dive.
In case the wind should ever prevent us from launching we can go on a 4x4 outing, hike the picturesque coastline or have a pick nick in paradise. Photo enthusiasts will never run out of motives.
In three years we haven't lost a single day to bad weather.
After all, the sardines know why to pick the best time of the year for their outing...
The Safety Risk
Launching along the Wild Coast can at times be dangerous. Especially when the wind has blown all day the sea will get whipped up. As everybody is under a certain pressure to deliver client's expectations, one sometimes launches a boat when one should rather have cancelled the day's activities.
Furthermore, if divers come accross a Bait Ball and get too close, they could get in the way of hyped-up sharks.
Due to the remoteness of the Wild Coast, medical facilities are rather limited.
For all possibilities African Dive Adventures is especially well equipped with medical supplies as well as communication devices. Besides, ADA has commissioned a microlight plane to spot activity and also call for help in an emergency.
See You in 2014
Come with us in 2014 - Don't let life fly past...
Our microlight plane takes passengers - This can be YOU !!!