Today is our first day with the German Group from Schoener Tauchen. We have 10 divers and the owner of the agency, Uwe.
After breakfast we make our way to our new launch site. It is an idyllic river mouth just ten minutes from the hotel. Absolutely perfect. It is a great adventure to navigate this boat through the river mouth past the boulders and across the sandbank which needs to be jumped by the boat. All this is nature pure.
Here we can launch even in less than perfect conditions and we can make our way into the open ocean safely. What a huge relief for me... Once out, we see whales everywhere. We go and play with them the whole day. Our divers cannot believe the proximity we get to these huge 30-40 ton creatures. Some of us can almost touch the giants...it is a scream !! Everyone gets to see his or her own humpback whale. Wow.
After 14:30 we come back through our river mouth and spend the rest of the day in our lovely hotel, each one of us thinking about todays incredible experiences and working on our photographs.
After yesterdays whale watching excitement the general mood was for more whales. So we launch through our river and find a pod of humpbacks right at the side of our boat. Tons of whales everywhere. We estimate the number to exceed 50. While we potter around with the whales we get an urgent call from our plane. Bait Ball !! Our pilot Louis has spotted a large bait ball being formed by common dolphins and bottle nose dolphins about 7km away from us. We immediately make our way towards the spot right next to the Hole in the Wall. And there it is - the Sardine Run at its best.
Hundreds of Gannets are diving, dolphins everywhere, sardines, sharks etc. Absolutely magic. The divers are in and out of the water. Gannets are often diving within less than a meter from a snorkeller. Dolphins can be touched, so close they are. All busy rounding up the poor old sardines.
The activity lasts for about three hours and suddenly stops. The birds sit in rafts on the water, the dolphins disappear, the sea becomes quiet. We eat our extensive food we bring with on the boat and chill for a while. Working out what we have just whitnessed. The famous spectacle of nature called the Sardine Run. Amazing !!!
On our way back to base we get one more huge excitement. A large whale is resting just outside our river mouth. We approach it slowly and let the divers in the water quietly. They get real close to the whale and see that it has a newborn calf suckling.Wow, wow, wow what a day....
The weather is less than perfect today. Heavy clouds are filling the horizon and large swells mark the ocean surface. We get out into the open ocean safely thanks to our fantastic launch site. As we get out, our pilot reports very little sardine activity as far as we can reach. We try to follow some whales but they remain elusive. Few dolphins around and one or two birds are diving sporadically. Nothing to write home about. We see a marlin passing the boat. We can identify its large sickle type fin.
After four hours the divers vote to go home early and enjoy our hotel rather. We all know that not every day can be perfect, we love nature and accept her the way she is...and man is she beautiful here on the Wild Coast.!!
The weather is still iffy. Overcast with sporadic rains. It looks cold and the guys need a bit of a push the get started. Our plane cannot fly in these conditions so we are on our own today. We make our way south again towards the Hole in the Wall. As we approach we can see the activities. About 200 gannets are diving, dolphins everywhere, sharks and of course a multitude of sardines. The divers spend almost three hours in the water. Screams of joy everywhere as they see what is going on down below them. Amazing stuff. After three hours the action comes to an end and we have lunch on the boat. Everybody is excited and stories are told with great enthusiasm. After lunch nobody is too keen to go back into the water. It,just looks cold because of the weather. We slowly make our way back to base and drive up the river. Later at the hotel it is time for me to say good bye to a really lovely group of people. We sure have shared some unforgettable times. I have to drive back to Shelly Beach tomorrow to take care of the business on Protea Banks. The group has still a few more days to go here. Lucky buggers....but I will be back next week.
I see the group off to the launch site and hit the road. Six hours of gruelling driving ahead of me. I hear from Beulah that the guys had similar sardine activities like on the good days before. They say it was probably the best day so far. What an absolute blessing to have Louis and the plane !!
I am busy diving Protea Banks. We have two boats out and have to fight a bad launch condition. Once in the water is is pure magic. 30m vis, very little current. We see 10 Raggies in the first cave, 2 Zams and 2 Black Tips in mid water.
Despite numerous calls to Beulah in Coffee Bay I can only make out that the day was great with super weather and baitballs of sardines.... All I can hear clearly is a lot of noise and a lot of hands clapping....what can I say ? Happy people.
It is the German group's last day and Uwe's birthday. These nice people came to our crazy Wild Coast to see something outrageous. And they succeeded.....
A new crowd of divers has arrived at the Ocean View Hotel and so our show will continue seamlessly.....
Beulah and JP report amazing sardine action from Coffee Bay. Bait balls with the full Monty such as gannets, dolphins, sharks and even a humpback feeding on sardines. Wow. Looks like I missed some good action. This years sardine run was definitely every bit what people dreamed about. Every single guest of ours has either left with a tear of happiness in his/ her eyes or is still the re right now for more .
Yours truely in the meantime had to man the fort on Protea Banks. Thanks to Kyle and Karen, Jerry and Jordan we managed very well and had unforgettable diving experiences. The vis was always between 25m and 30 m and the caves are both full of Raggies . Outside we have Zambezis lurking, even a tiger shark was spotted. And the best were two humpback whales passing us on our dive at the caves......what more can we ask for ?!!!
I am back in Coffee Bay and get first hand information. The Sardine Run is in full swing and Coffee Bay seems to be the best place by far. We have several Bait Balls to where our plane directs the boat successfully. The divers get in at 20m plus visibility and experience exactly what we all see on TV.
Wow. Sardine Run a la National Geographic !!!
I see video clips with 15-20 sharks shooting in and out of bait balls, dolphins keeping the sardines together and gannets dive bombing all over the place. This is it. Sardine Run at its very best. So many happy guests.........
Two days ago we had changeover day of groups and used the time to hand out clothing donated by supporters from Germany. Thanks to the generous donations of used clothing sent to Beulah by the Wilkens , Popp and Kaddi & Joe Family we could make a small number of very poor people, young and old extremely happy.
Then yesterday we had Sardine Run day again with Wild Earth. We were in amongst hundreds of diving birds and in the middle of a Superpod of dolphins. Unbelievable action. And today was whale day. Our guests were swimming with whales for over two hours. In fact, they were touching these giants.....really touching them !! Wow.
And I had the privilege to get a ride on our micro light plane. All our guests have the opportunity to fly with our plane whenever they like. This plane is a Happy Maker !!
It is indescribable the feeling you get when you see whales , dolphins, birds from above....not to mention the Wild Coast coast line with its river mouths, cliffs and undulating countryside. What a dream.....
Today we have another real Sardine Run Day with Bait Balls, whales, dolphins, gannets and everything. Our group was occupied with intense whale watching and our pilot could not get the message about the bait balls through to us. By the time we were alerted the bait balls were gone. This is how the Sardine Run works. But it doesn t matter because our guests had memorable encounters with humpback whales. We notice that the activities are slowing down and the wind is freshening up. We are ready to go back to base for the last time. As we manoeuvre our boat through our wonderful river mouth, jump the sandbank and pull the vessel along the gully towards its final loading place we are truly sad to complete our Sardine Run 2013. And what a Run it was !!! Tomorrow we go back home. I guess we all need some time to reflect on an unbelievable privilege we had to be right in the lap of Mother Nature.....
Hanne and Oliver
If there is a lull in the activities around midday we stop and have lunch. Double sandwiches for everyone, apples, chips, cookies, chocolate bars, fruit juice, water etc. We have so much food that we bring back more than half.
Then suddenly the radio starts to crackle. Louis, our super pilot has found action five kilometers from us. We quickly pack away everything and shoot up to the spot. Adrenalin is flowing.
As we near the reported spot we can see hundreds of Gannets dive bombing the water from 20m above. They literally rain into the water and most pop up with a sardine in their mouths. the divers lower themselves into the water softly and carefully swim towards the action. From the boat we observe dolphins working an area barely an arms length from the divers. Round and round they go, slapping the water and releasing streams of bubbles. A Bait Ball is being formed. Below there are countless sharks getting in on the action. Divers are screaming joyously...This is what we all came for. Yeah !!!
After two hours of mayhem it is all quiet again. The ocean is tranquil, peaceful. On our way back to base we search for whales. Louis once again directs us successfully. What would we do without Louis and his microlight plane ??? If we follow these giants long enough we will definitely get a chance to play with them. We worked it out and get up close and personal with a 40 toner. Yep !!! And Hurrays everywhere from our divers.
Around 14h00 we turn towards our home base, the lovely Mapusi river mouth. Depending on the tide we drive into the mouth at full speed and jump over the sandbank. Then we slowly drift up the river using one or the other engine. Always careful not to hit one of the countless lurking rocks which could damage our boat badly. If the tide is out and the water low we beach on the sandbank and Brad pulls the boat across into the deeper gully. There we push our faithful Avatar around the bend up to the loading bay. Brad loads the boat, drops her on the river bank and takes the guests home to a warm shower without further delay. We take care of all equipment loading it onto the 4 x 4. The boat is covered and handed over to the security guards. The equipment is taken back to the hotel where it gets washed and hung up in our heated drying room. How cool is that ? Warm dry wetsuits in the morning, hey !!!
The mid and late afternoon is used to work on photographs, take a short nap or sit together and reflect on the days events.
From 18h00 the dinner buffet opens. It is scrumptious every time . Thats for sure!!!
And after dinner we have a glass or two and enjoy the lovely atmosphere of our Ocean View Hotel.
We are at home and it is done. I was worried about the Sardine Run since last year. We received so many inquiries for this event but because we never know what nature is up to i was always a bit insecure when answering questions. The Sardine Run is expensive and the last thing i want are unhappy and disappointed guests.
But this time it worked out perfectly. We have found the winning package.
Today i can confidently say that the Sardine Run is an unforgettable event and always will be. it is however important to look at the total package. It is not only about Bait Balls but everything that comes with it. It is an adventure on the Wild Coast at the bottom end of Africa... This year we had four groups and 38 absolutely happy and elated guests. Every single one got more than he or she ever expected.
Sardine Run 2013 Summary :
It starts with our base in Coffee Bay. The Ocean View Hotel is magically cosy, comfortable and friendly. You feel at home the moment you set foot in the hotel. The breakfast- and dinner-buffets are delicious, amazing. It offers five courses eat as much as you like. Beautiful.
In the morning after breakfast Mad Brad drives our guests across the undulating country side to our most idyllic launch site where the boat is waiting to be launched. Undulating here can mean almost vertical drop in the rocky 4 x 4 road which brad negotiates confidently with the hotel Landrover. Arriving at the Mapusi river mouth is an adventure all on its own. There the breathtaking scene works its first wonders of the day.
We manoever the boat through the rocky river bed whose depth changes daily with the tide. one day we can drive right through into the launch basin, another day we have to push through the deep gullies and jump over the sandbank with full speed. In the launch basin we can safely wait for the perfect opportunity to launch. Stunning.
As we get into the deep water of the ocean along comes the plane and directs us to the best activities within our reach.Here are whales, there are dolphins and diving gannets. The pilot spots a Bait Ball from above and sends us to the perfect spot. The team work is amazing. Sometime is gets quiet for a while. We drive along the coastline and delve in the wonders of this beautiful Wild Coast. A great favourite is The Hole in the Wall. This is a rock the size of an apartment block which gets pounded by waves all year long. After thousands of years the water has managed to break through a hole right in the middle. Fascinating to watch the waves splashing against the rock..
Why was our Sardine Run such a great success ?
We had the perfect package which ensured that everybody who chose African Dive Adventures got what they paid for:
- Coffee Bay and its surroundings is absolutely stunning
- Our hotel is cosy, everyone immediately feels at home
- The staff is friendly and helpful at all times. Their smiles are heart warming.
- The food is delicious. The buffet offers a five course meal for every taste.
- Our boat is large, spacious and safe
- The boat crew is experienced, competent and well versed in matters Sardine Run
- Our base Mapusi is idyllic and adventurous, but allows for a safe launch anytime
- The plane directs us to the best possible action all day long
- Our pilot allows one guest as passenger on every flight at no extra cost.
- We go out to sea from 9h00-14h00. We are flexible and don t mind staying longer
- Should there be a quiet day we will use our bait ball and do a baited dive.
- All equipment is handled and taken care of by our staff.
- Our heated drying room allows for warm and dry suits in the mornings.
- And we are not shy to work. We bend over backwards for our guests...