July - Sardine Run

© copyright by Hajime Ishikawa

© copyright by Hajime Ishikawa
© copyright by Hajime Ishikawa
1.7. 2016
Here we go !!! Best day of the Sardine Run 2016 so far. The guys have seen it all ,played directly in front of the Ocean View Hotel. Beulah and the staff could watch bait balls and activity from the veranda. Unbelievable !!!
And the boats even better. They had a pinguin, a marlin, three different species of sharks, gamefish and gannets working a bat ball the size of a room.
For 55 minutes our guests were in the water witnessing this spectacle of nature.
This is what they came here for.
High Fives everywhere after the boats beached in the afternoon.
Happy days in Coffee Bay !!!
Protea Banks
For the first time in a very long time we had a Baited Dive which did not work. Kyle got one black tip and one zam in the beginning which lost interest pretty quickly. Thereafter no more sharks....
Second dive on the Northern Pinnacle of Protea Banks was amazing though.
Excellent vis with 25m and sandtigers everywhere.
Lovely, sunny day, warm Air and water temp of 22C

© copyright by Hajime Ishikawa
2.7. 2016
Finally today was the first day where we got blown out. For at least 5 days we saw that saturday was going to be a no go day due to strong winds brought on by a cold front. Last night it started and blew pretty much all day today. The waves are high, the sea rough .
Our guests were warned in good time so nobody got a bad surprise. Beulah and the team from the Ocean View Hotel organised alternative programs for our guests.
Some went to see the famous Hole in the Wall, a large rock formation just offshore with a hole in the middle made by the tides. Others went to see the local Sanoma = Witch Doctor, some enjoyed a scenic drive along the high cliffs of Coffee Bay, tremendously beautiful landscape. And the rest just enjoyed the beautiful setting of the Ocean View Hotel.

And despite wind and waves, the sun is still doing its magic....

3.7. 2016 Sardine Run
Despite the cold temperature of today and the cold front of yesterday, the sardines stayed cosy under their blankets , well hidden from all the predators including Sardine Run Hunters.
Therefore, today we had the Day of the Whales.
Humpback whales everywhere. Our spotter plane directed our boats to various pods which allowed our guests to take award winning photo shots and get close and personal with these huge giants of our oceans.
© copyright by Hajime Ishikawa
4.7. 2016 Sardine Run
The day started a bit slow until suddenly the pilot reported a Bait Ball. It turned out to be anchovies instead of sardines but the whole party was there. Dolphins, birds, sharks and game fish.
A bit later we found a proper sardine bait ball. The guys said, it was the size of probably two boats.
Everyone had enough opportunity to film and take pics. When they watched their video clips back tonight, they realised that there was a huge whale which came from below the bait ball. Nobody saw the whale !!!
In the end we had 3 bait balls today and a complete team of happy guests.
This is quite unusual. In the previous years we would be more than happy to just see 2-3 bait balls a week...
For some unknown reason we are now hopelessly overbooked for thursday and friday. Actually the reason is simply that two groups booked much less people originally. I then sold the remaining spots when last minute both groups came up with more people. Somehow situations like this always sort themselves out. Or so i think...
The solution in this case is that i now have to take the third boat down to Coffee Bay on Wednesday instead of on Saturday. Our business on Protea Banks is shifted over to our colleagues. But we make sure our staff is fully involved. Karen and Brooke are making sure, everything runs smoothly and Kyle will lead the dives with our guests.
Protea Banks
The good old Protea Banks was alright lately. No great fireworks to be honest. Today we did a baited dive and got 3 black tips and 1 bull shark. The sharks were not even interested in the bait. Normally they can't get enough and compete over every last morsel...
The vis was 20m and temp 21C but we only managed the one dive before the base was closed due to strong winds.

© copyright by African Dive Adventures
© copyright by African Dive Adventures
© copyright by African Dive Adventures
5.7. 2016 Sardine Run
Today was a horror day for me...
It started yesterday when i was told that one of our starter motors on the boat is busy packing up. I ran around all day to find another starter. When i finally did, it was not working. So i ran to the auto electrician and begged him to fix it quickly before the end of the day. A helicopter was going to fly to Coffee Bay today and take it with him. When we delivered the starter to the pilot he said, his trip was cancelled...
In the meantime we realised that we are quite a bit over booked for Thursday and Friday. I was hoping it would sort itself out. Sometimes some people don't want to go out every day all day long and other times, some people get sick and can't. But for some reason, it seems like this time the problem doesn't want to go away...
So i have no option but to take the third boat down to Coffee Bay tomorrow. While i am busy making last minute arrangements - which include buying food for my maid and my dogs while i am away - i get this call by midmorning. One of the boats has lost its steering and must return to base. There is nothing worse than having steering problems. It is a shit job and very messy and if one doesn't know the mechanism, it is hard to deal with it. And we cannot afford to lose another day !!! So for today the boat came back by 11h00. Lucky, Beulah was quick and organised aeroplane flips for most of the guests who lost sardine run time. They were happy with this alternative. But i am running in circles because i don't know what to do to solve the problem. I phone the boat shop and ask his advise and even ask him if he could drive to Coffee Bay if necessary. No problem from this side.
The wait is agonising and my mind is playing tricks with me. When i finally get the call around 15h00 that all is clear and sorted, a huge weight falls off me . I carry on getting everything ready for my trip tomorrow when the damn phone rings again. You can hear it in the ringtone....shit is coming as soon as you pick up....
The Toyota Prado is broken down. ...
What to do now ? I give them Gary's number and they phone him. ( mechanic )
Then they phone me to tell me that they have to speak to gary again but can't get hold of him. I phone Gary and can't get hold of him myself. So i phone the crew to tell them that i can't get hold of Gary when i see a call from Gary coming up. I answer Gary and ask him to phone the crew as a matter of urgency.
By now i am cooking.
The only thing i can do now is to save the heart specialist's emergency number.....

It is past 21h00 now and everything is sorted. The boat works, the Prado works, i am ready to tow the boat at 5h00 tomorrow. So what was all this trouble for, i ask ???

Oh yeah, the Sardine Run ? I have no clue what happened today but they said it was good............
Protea Banks
We all got to the base and get ready to dive but the harbour was closed due to bad waves coming from all sides. Too dangerous to launch. We waited until 9h00 when the harbour master made his final call to keep the base closed.
With all the other troubles going on, it was a blessing for me while a disappointment for all my divers.

© copyright by African Dive Adventures
6.7. 2016 Sardine Run
I am in Coffee Bay. Had to bring our third boat down quickly. The trip was without any incidence for a change.
Today was blown out. Sardine Run as well as Protea Banks . No boat could launch.
Even though the crews were not out at sea, work never stopped. Cleaning day is as important as sea day. They work, these guys, i must say. Up at 4am to get everything ready t=for the day ahead. Then a quick breakfast and off it goes transferring the guests to our launch site. There the adventure begins. All hands on deck. Everybody has to get involved in the extreme launching of our boats through ever changing conditions at the river mouth. Amazing. Not one day is the same.
All day action out at sea and then it is packing away for the night time....
This is real work. And the guys are still smiling....
Our spotter plane is as valuable as our boats. What would we do without it !! Russel the Happy Bush Pilot takes care of things in the sky and just by taking our guests for a flip he has become invaluable to our business. People love flying over this amazing landscape as much as seeing sardine bait balls and ocean action.
We have an amazing product here all kept together by Beulahs never compromised determination. What a woman she is !!!!

© copyright by African Dive Adventures

7.7. 2016 Sardine Run
Today we had three boats out on the Sardine Run. I was lucky to be on the last boat out ( at least it was a slight bit warmer ). In the beginning it was quiet, but just as JP finished with his briefing the spotter plane reported bird and dolphin activity. Not far from us we saw how dolphins and birds congregated from all sides to an area about 3km from us. We followed this and saw birds literally raining out of the sky. Hundreds of Gannets and dolphins jumping, leaping and spinning all over.
The activity was too fast to get into the water. We had to drive constantly to keep up with the animals. So we had excellent surface action. Many times we saw a bird diving in and coming up with a fish in it's beak. Amazing !!!
By midday it calmed down and we wanted to look for some whales. There were some around but they did not want to play with humans...
As we slowly put the boat homebound we suddenly spotted a distress flare. What was this ? We knew, our three boats were safe because we were in constant contact with each other. All other craft we have encountered was a jet-ski driven by a father with his two kids. Would they be in trouble ? Out at sea you cannot ignore a distress flare. So we got into contact with all our boats to see which one was closest to the area where we saw the flare. A few minutes later, one of our boats came across the jet-ski which drifted dangerously towards the rocky coastline. Thank god, the skipper of the vessel had the sense of shooting the flares.
We saved the people and towed the jet-ski back to our base at Mapusi.
A nice adventure which ended well....
© copyright by Hajime Ishikawa
© copyright by Hajime Ishikawa
8.7. 2016 Sardine Run
The day startet slow. I was sick as a dog during the night. There was no way i could go on the boat. As i got up a bit later i saw and heard that the day is more than slow. Nothing to see from the surface. Even the plane reported nothing to see. How disappointing...
Beulah and i were worried all day. Beulah keeps herself busy. There are not five minutes in her day when she stops. Always something to do. Checking arrivals, transfers, hotel rooms,fetching fuel for the boats etc, etc, etc. no end.
I needed a break in the afternoon and went down to the launch site with my drone.
By 14h30 the first boat returned to base and i managed to get lovely aerial footage of the beaching process. Driving into a river mouth is not everyday's business. The water level is never the same..
The guests were very happy - against all expectations. What appeared to us on land to be a quiet day was altogether different out at sea. They had tons of whales, 42 breaches, new born baby whales with mothers. Incredible experiences.
An hour later the second boat arrived back and they had the largest sardine shoal seen in years. The estimate was 100m long, 10m wide and 5m deep. Solid sardines.
Apparently there were no predators on this shoal, but the sheer sight of such a male was hugely impressive. Later on the guys saw several smaller bait balls with the full complement of hunters.
My greatest joy was to see that Rodney was on one of the boats and has seen it all. He really deserves such a great experience for all his loyal support over the years.
Nobina and her Japanese guests also were over the moon. And the third boat followed with similar encounters. Happy Days all around !!!

© copyright by African Dive Adventures
© copyright by African Dive Adventures
© copyright by African Dive Adventures

© copyright by Hajime Ishikawa
© copyright by Hajime Ishikawa
9.7. 2016 Sardine Run
We expected a bit of wind today but when we got up it was quiet. There were dark clouds hanging low over the ocean but for real sardine hunters this is no reason to back down.
I had to go back to Margate to look after new arrivals and a group who will be diving with us Monday and Tuesday.
Two of our boats launched as usual and before long, the ocean awoke.
They had another huge shoal of sardines similar size to yesterday's. And again without any predators at all. I guess, some of the poor buggers must be able to do their job....can't all be eaten !!!
Shortly afterwards they found a real Bait Ball with sharks and dolphins.
A Brides whale came in on the action and countless humpback whales breaching everywhere.
By mid morning the sun pushed the clouds away and let her life-giving warmth blanket the earth.

10.7. 2016 Sardine Run
We had a good day today with a rare Bryde's Whale, several humpback dolphins, hundreds of common dolphins and many, many bottlenose dolphins.
We had several Bait Balls but the activity was fast moving. It was not easy to keep up with the animals and taking pics was almost impossible. Nevertheless, everybody saw lots of action. We had two boats running today. All our guests were pretty much exhausted at the end of the day. In and out of the water is taking it's toll. I am sure, a number of people will have burnt plenty of calories today.
I take full credit should some of our guests drop a dress size when they come home... J
© copyright by Hajime Ishikawa
© copyright by Hajime Ishikawa

11.7. 2016 Sardine Run
Another Day of the Whale. Again one Bryde's Whale and countless Humpback Whales kept our people entertained today. We didn't see any sardines and for the first time no Bait Balls. We did have an amazing run with Bait Balls so far. So one day off is the right of every sardine !!!
In the early afternoon the wind picked up, a choppy North Easterly and all 3 boats opted for an early return to base.
Thankfully we have such a lovely, cosy accommodation at the Ocean View Hotel. Most guests preferred a comfortable room to an uncomfortable boat today. Nothing wrong with a bit of relaxation....
© copyright by African Dive Adventures
© copyright by African Dive Adventures

12.7. 2016 Sardine Run
The day of the dolphins. Our spotter plane led the three boats directly into a super pod of common dolphins. This is a school of dolphins consisting of several thousand animals. It is typical for this time of the year to see these enormous schools along the Wild Coast. When one gets in the middle of such a pod, it is a mind boggling experience. As far as you can see there are dolphins. All you can hear is the short blow of air the animal makes when it catches a new breath. Indescribable ...
Besides the common dolphins there were another huge amount of bottlenose dolphins which played in the surf right in front of our hotel, the Ocean View.
Many humpback whales also everywhere. Other than in previous years, the damn whales don't want to interact with people this season. Maybe they came slightly later than usual and still need to get used to humans with their noisy boats ? Who knows.
No sardines were sighted today but gannets were diving which means that they did see sardines for sure.
The poor little buggers are probably fed up with this stupid game everybody plays with them. Time to run faster. No wonder if one has the likes of Claudia and Frank after them....and Andy and the Swiss,,,, Sigi and the Austrians,,,,Peter and Eva...Boud and the Americans.....the Wetekam Family....oh dear, oh dear. I'd also make a run.....
© copyright by African Dive Adventures
© copyright by African Dive Adventures

13.7. 2016 Sardine Run
Day of the Sardines. For over two hours our guests of two boats were in the water with sardines. Just as i thought, the Sardine Run might come to an end, it started up all over again. Sardines everywhere. It didn't matter which direction one looked or swam. Even from the beach people saw the boiling black masses. Brilliant !!!
Spike saw a bull shark , he reckons was the size of the boat. This might be a bit too bigdue to the general excitement, but what he really meant was that the shark was huge !!! Besides the bull shark they had dusky, bronze whaler and black tip sharks.
Dolphins again in silly numbers and even the elusive gannets made an appearance. Those guys didn't get it right this season. Most sardine bait balls the gannets missed this year. So it is a really welcome sight to see these talented hunters dive bombing and shortly afterwards resurfacing with a sardine in their beak.
Two hours non stop is a long time....
© copyright by Hajime Ishikawa

14.7. 2016 Sardine Run
Today was a quiet day. We had a small bait ball which dispersed pretty quickly.
Thereafter the guys saw the odd whales lazing around, some dolphins and a number of bored birds.
At 28C it was too hot for much ocean action. Although we appreciate the cosy warmth of the sun, it makes the ocean lazy...
In general, i have the feeling that the Sardine Run 2016 is slowly running out.
Tomorrow is the last day in our program. We are glad, it is almost finished. Three and a half weeks of bonebreaking work takes its toll on all involved.
JP brought the first of our three boats back home today. The Toyota Prado has given us quite a bit of a headache. And so it was today. The headache of all headaches.
I got woken up by Beulah with the words : we have a huge problem...
You jump out of bed when you hear this and run in circles...The whole day is a mess.
So i rushed down to Gary the mechanic and asked him what the problem with the car could be considering the symptoms we got. He narrowed it down to three potential problems :
Either the diesel filter is blocked due to dirty fuel, or the battery is loose and shortens out or my clever anti theft system has bitten me in the ass.....
After a long day of worrying JP and Adriaan arrived shortly before 17h00 safely home. The car was dropped off with Gary straight. Can't wait to hear tomorrow what the real problem was.....

Last day Tomorrow....oh dear....
15.7. 2016 Sardine Run
Last day today. We have made it !!!
Although it was a hot day with almost 30C degrees, we had good action again. Pretty much everything which takes part in the Sardine Run was present today.
Lots of sardines, a few fast moving Bait Balls, lots of dolphins, five different species of sharks, whales and gannets.
All came to say good bye to us. We are going home this weekend but the show will go on.
Next year we will be back. Bookings are open and are already looking good.
© copyright by Russel Mackenzie
© copyright by Russel Mackenzie
17.7. 2016 Sardine Run
Our first boat comeback on Friday. The Prado barely made the journey and went straight to the workshop. JP and Adriaan are back.
Yesterday, Tristan and Josh came back alive and well. Today it was Spike and Arno with the second boat.
Slowly we are bringing all our equipment and staff back to base. Only Beulah is still missing together with Shorty and the third boat.
She worried all day about Russel who was flying back with the plane today. He didn't answer any of her calls... In the evening she phoned me : Russel had an emergency landing !!!
Apparently he wanted to circumfly a rainy area and took a wide turn away from the coast over the inland of the Eastern Cape Province. He was flying along merrily when suddenly there was a loud bang and then nothing at all anymore...No more motor.
Within 15 seconds Russel was down on the ground. He had just enough time to pick the best possible place to ditch the aircraft. Luckily, there was a wide field of grass which was even enough not to damage the stricken plane and it's pilot.
He had to walk 8km to get a signal onto his phone to make a call. Those thin little legs must have been steaming, oh boy !!!
A friend of his came to evacuate him with a helicopter. Tomorrow he and his friends have the difficult task to dismantle the plane and get it out. No idea how they will get a car and a trailer there.
Apparently the crank shaft snapped. Somewhere off the beaten track along the Wild Coast. Russel is glad this did not happen 5km out over the ocean...

And poor Beulah is still in Coffee Bay. Spike will drive down today to get Shorty and the third boat back. I will drive tomorrow and bring Beulah and all the rest back. But we will take it easy and have a 2 day break at the lovely Ocean View Hotel...

© copyright by African Dive Adventures
© copyright by African Dive Adventures

© copyright by African Dive Adventures
21.7. 2016 Sardine Run
This morning after breakfast Beulah and i will be on our way home. This is the last trip out of Coffee Bay for this year. Spike returned home yesterday with one day delay due to trouble with the boat trailer. Barely 15km outside Coffee Bay one of the wheels came loose and sheared all wheel studs. It took 5 hours to sort it out. By then it was too late for the long journey. It never ends....
When we get home we will probably find most of our stuff on a huge pile in the storeroom, waiting for us to get sorted out.
The boats are back in the yard, the vehicles are back in the mechanic's workshop and we will spend the next two weeks cleaning, sorting, replacing and packing away everything we need for the Sardine Run 2017

This weekend i will post my summary of this years event...let's first get home...

24.7. 2016 Sardine Run Summary
We are back home. All went well for a change.. Now we have the enviable task to get everything back to scratch, cleaned up, repaired and ready for the Sardine Run 2017.
All our boat propellors are bent and our vehicles are in the workshop.
Beulah and i are ready for the bush. Anywhere where there are no people...where there are no employees...!!!
It is not so much the looking after our guests which takes it all out of us but the controlling of our staff. Making sure that they don't forget anything and that they stay on the straight and narrow. The smallest misbehaviour could lead to criticism when guests pay a lot of money for a service.

Luckily it so happens that we are now on a long winter break. All of next week looks windy and rainy. September is the worst month on the coast. No dog should be outside.. least of all us seadogs...
We'll start up again in October when the sun rises early and warms up the ocean....
In summary, i can write the following about our Sardine Run 2016
This year was definitely one of the best Sardine Runs we had in the last 8 years since we started.
As always, we have no influence on nature, but we make sure that everything humanly possible is done in order to create the best possible conditions we can.
Our accommodation at the Ocean View Hotel is amazing. And so is the food. All our guests were absolutely happy.
Our transport vehicles between the hotel and the launch site were great fun. We had a Landcruiser Prado and a Safari Landcruiser which were there to take our people where they needed to go.
Our large 8m rigid inflatable boats ( RIBs ) were in excellent condition and ideal for the conditions along the Wild Coast. One of our boats had a problem with the steering. This can happen and was fixed the same day. The people were taken back to the hotel where an alternative program was organised immediately. Most of them went on a microlight flip, others did a land excursion. The next day everything was back to normal.
Our crews were like always hard working and competent. We are working together on the Sardine Run for years now which proves a huge advantage. Our boys know exactly what to look for to find Bait Balls, Dolphins, Whales, Sharks, Gannets etc.
Together with our spotter plane they are unbeatable !!!
And Mother Nature was equally good to us.
Within the first two hours on the fist day we found a sardine bait ball. This is the ultimate on the Sardine Run. !! Normally we are happy if we find 2-3 Bait Balls a week. This year there were few days when we did not see a Bait Ball.
Some sardine activity was fast moving. This did not allow our guests to go on scuba. They had to be in the water as soon as possible, so snorkel fins and mask were all they needed.
Other Bait Balls were larger than we had ever seen. But funny enough, these large masses of sardines did not have any hunters on them.
Other Bait balls had the full package. Gannets, Dolphins, Sharks and even Brydes Whales.
Again we had encounters with sailfish hunting sardines this year. Brilliant !!!
We saw Gannets raining out of the sky, more Brydes Whales than ever before, and we had our boats in the middle of suppress of dolphins consisting of several thousand animals. Can anybody imagine this ??
The weather was perfect. No clouds and no rain, just sun and often even too hot.
We lost two days in all to strong winds. Our alternative program entertained our guests on land at no extra cost.
It definitely looks asif Coffee Bay was the place to be this year. Now and then we encountered boats all the way from Port St.Johns where our colleagues struggled to find any action. In desperation they drove 70km one way to Coffee Bay.. in a RIB...
Our biggest advantage is that there is only one hotel in Coffee Bay. We have an exclusivity agreement with the owners and so our entire area belongs almost entirely to us alone. No fighting with other boats over a Bait Ball or other activity.

We really offer excellent value for money !!!

We are more than happy with this year's events. There is definitely an upward trend.
In the past 4-5 years our Sardine Run has steadily improved.
The photos from our Japanese Photographer speak for themselves !!
Those who took part have a great story !!! ... Sardine Run 2017 :25.6. - 25.7.
31.7.2016
Windy, huge waves, cool temps and lots of rain. This has been the weather in the last ten days. We did not dive anyway, but even if we wanted to, it would have been difficult. The base in Shelly Beach was closed most of the time. This is the typical weather for the next two-three months.
Life here in margate has climbed down a lot now. At night we sit in front of our open fire place and enjoy the fact that we don't fall asleep at 19h00 already...
Our equipment and everything we took to Coffee Bay slowly is finding their place back again. One of our cars is still in hospital, diesel pump cooked !! The Hilux is driving but with a limp. One of it's back spring plates is broken and the bumper still bent...
My parents and sister with daughter have arrived in the country. By Thursday they will arrive at our place and Saturday we want to go on a small holiday together to the Kruger Park and Eastern Transvaal. In September, me and Beulah want to go back to the Kruger. As we don't have an accommodation booking we are planing to get some camping equipment. Haven't camped for 20 years, but i think it will be amazing to sit under the stars next to a warm campfire.
We are looking at buying a tent and stuff one needs. Looking at something like a disaster relief tent and an inflatable queenside mattress. Need a tent heater and whatever else. Sure this is going to be fun.....
Sardine Run 2017 : 25.6. - 25.7. Book early to avoid disappointment !!!
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