Finally we get the message we were waiting for : BAIT BALL !!!
Nobody can imagine how happy this makes me to hear. It is like a huge weight was lifted off my back.
Spike and his boat had several smaller Bait Balls and one larger one towards the end of the trip.
A huge Brydes whale came out of the water to give Spike the fright of his life right next to the boat. Apparently, he ( Spike ) almost jumped overboard...
Sharks were hunting the sardines and so were dolphins and gannets.
So this was definitely a real Sardine Run day as we all wished for.
2.7. 2017 Day 8
Only one boat launching today. It is changeover time. Tonight we are awaiting 20 new guests.
The aircraft together with our Japanese agent Nobina are seeing about 20 mantas from the air. What a sight. Groups of 3 and 4 mantas everywhere. A pity, the boat was not nearby and could not see this beautiful sight.
But the boat with old Spike at the helm did very well. They saw lots and lots of sardines today. Albeit without a bait ball, it was still a great day at sea. Hundreds of dolphins were about and whales everywhere.
Guests and staff were exhausted when they came back to the hotel later in the afternoon.
On the last flight of the day, Dave and Nobina spottet hundreds of sharks from the air. They could not make out which kind of sharks but most probably bronze whalers, back tips, duskies - our usual sardine run sharks. They were just awestruck by the sheer number of these animals. Hundereds....
3.7. 2017 Day 9
After a strong 30kn South West wind late afternoon, the sardines are definitely woken up. They are everywhere. Thousands and thousands of sardines. In front of the Ocean View Hotel there are pockets of sardines. Black spots everywhere in the bay. They are from top to bottom thick !!!
Funny enough, there are no predators on the sardines and hence no bait ball. Still it is a magic experience for all our guests.
Although there were so many dolphins about, it was the bottlenose dolphin and not the sardine hunter - common dolphin. Maybe this is why the gannets were missing. Nobody told them !!!
The common dolphin is instrumental in rounding up sardines and bringing them near the surface by using their sonar noises and bubbles. Once the sardines are up from the deep, the birds can start diving for them from 30m height. The dolphins and sharks then start decimating the bait ball and with some luck, one can see a brides whale scooping up tons of the little fish.
And this is where the divers/ snorkelers want to be.
Amazing day today as the pictures of Andre Seale from Honolulu show.
4.7. 2017 Day 10
We had a good day today with happy guests all around.
Although we did not see a bait ball, we had plenty of sardine pockets everywhere.
No dolphins of gannets working on them, but sharks and whales none the less.
Today , the guys saw Southern Right Whales which are very rare in these waters. They are really Cape Town whales and seldom come up this far north.
Black Tips and Bronze Whalers were seen plenty today.
Our crews know the business by now and it is running like a well oiled machine. Beulah directs the guys and makes sure, everybody does his chores. She stresses like hell of course in anticipation of good news. All we want is exciting days and happy guests !!!
5.7. 2017 Day 11
The ocean is alive on the Wild Coast. There are sardines everywhere. They like to stay at a depth of around 5m where the water is nice and cold. We are waiting for Common Dolphins to round them up and bring them to the surface. Black patches indicating thick pockets of sardines are in front of the Ocean View Hotel, along the coast and all over. There are whales, even our Capetonian Southern Right Whale is still enjoying life in Coffee Bay.
The group leader of the Koreans has a video with a free diver who encounters a huge whale and can virtually touch it. Unbelievable. I hope, Beulah posts it on her Facebook...
Things are definitely good here and by all accounts it seems as if it is all coming together now. We do have a few hot days forecast, but the water is nice and cold. Just like the sardines want it.
6.7. 2017 Day 12
Today was the day of the whale. Our boats got right in amongst the whales and divers became part of ocean life. Amazing. I see the footage and pictures and am awestruck. These are experiences one can never forget. Mother and calf Southern Right. Wow.
Those giants are huge, man. One doesn't know how big they are until one is confronted with them. I am always terribly nervous when we get too close to whales. But if we see the pictures, it seems as if they know exactly what is in the water with them and they take care not to hurt us....
I am going to Coffee Bay tomorrow. Probably will stay the weekend, take some people down and show my face. Maybe i will go on one of the boats if there is a space. Looking at these brilliant pictures, i really think i should be there. it is definitely enticing me big time.
Beulah new photo-friend is a famous free diver in Japan. Seems like everybody there knows him. And as we can see, he is definitely at home in the water. His pictures are amazing, artistic. Beulah gets like 20000 - 30000 hit on Facebook for his pics....wow
7.7. 2017 Day 13 BAIT BALLS
After a six hour drive i get to Coffee Bay. Only collected one fine... Guess i can't complain. When i enter the hotel premises i enter into a new world. Everything seems hectic around here. Beulah is very happy to see me but she has a lot of stress.
Looking for wetsuits , looking for booties to lend to guests. Some guests asked for L size when in fact they are XXL. This makes life complicated. One diver booked a size 7 bootie but another one took them yesterday although she did not book it before. Staff and people everywhere and each one is on another mission.
The first guests arrive back from sea. All smiles. Today was the best day this season. Bait Balls everywhere with full on action.
Stepping into a very busy situation when one comes from a very relaxed one is like walking through a cloud. I am totally confused. Orders are given and things are done.
As the guests arrive at the hotel, stories are exchanged and people are visibly excited. Happy excitement. Thank Goodness !!!
We are waiting for pictures but nothing comes forward. Eventually we get some from Brian. Still waiting for the really good ones from the Japanese freediver.
Looks like they are all exhausted. No-one feels like working on their pics. For now they are safe in the box.
I am sure, they will follow soon
8.7. 2017 Day 14 BAIT BALLs
Things on the Sardine Run are getting better every day. Yesterday was definitely the best day so far. Today is even better. Bait balls everywhere. Our guests are totally excited. This is what they all came to Coffee Bay for. !!!
The weather is perfect. No cloud in the sky, 28˚warm, no wind and flat seas. Amazing. According to theories we should have cold weather for good action. But we don't complain. On Monday there is a cold front predicted and temperatures will barely reach 17˚ We will see what the truth is. Maybe Tuesday will be the perfect day ??
The guests had four species of whales : Humpback, Brydes, Southern Right and Minky Whales. Unbelievable.
Sharks and Dolphins on the Bait Balls but strangely enough very few if any Gannets.
Millions of Sardines...
I let the pictures do the talking....
9.7. 2017 Day 15 BAIT BALLs
Another great day on the Sardine Run in Coffee Bay. The pattern is similar to the last couple of days. We have bait balls to choose from, dolphins and whales .
Life is good and our guests are happy.
After all it is an incredible adventure and those who are here are truly privileged .
We have 8 days left on this year's program here in Coffee Bay. The thought of it coming to an end is a bit sad. Everybody is into it, everything runs smoothly with very few hick ups. It is fun for everyone.
Tomorrow it is back to Margate for me. I have to look after my guests in Shelly Beach and make sure my dogs are okay. Anyway, it looks like a bit of bad weather tomorrow.
I will be back next weekend to pick up the first boat.
10.7. 2017 Day 16 BAIT BALLs
Today wasn't the greatest day, but the guys had bait balls and lots of whales breaching. The whales love the windy weather.
We were actually expecting to loose this day to strong winds but in the morning it looked as if we missed the predicted South Westerly. We decided to launch the three boats and see what happens. If the wind came, we would be back to base quickly. So it really was an unexpected bonus day.
The boats spotted bait balls and hunters but all the action was pretty fast moving which made it difficult for the guests to follow.
By lunchtime they came back one by one boat and chilled for the rest of the afternoon.
We are all hoping for tomorrow and Wednesday to be good action due to much colder temperatures.
11.7. 2017 Day 17
Against all expectations the day panned out pretty uneventful. The ocean around Coffee Bay went quiet. We had a small Bait Ball in the morning but it was fast moving and the visibility of the water had dropped quite a bit.
Afterwards the day was spent chasing whales and dolphins.
Now we are hoping for tomorrow...
i will drive back to Coffee Bay tomorrow to pick up the first boat. Two of our crew will also be on their way back home tomorrow. Slowly it fizzles out. By the weekend i come back again for the second boat and then we will only have a few days left on the Sardine Run 2017.
I bet, all hell breaks loose in the ocean just now.....
12.7. 2017 Day 18 BAIT BALLs
Today was the day !!! Bait Balls everywhere and predators of all sorts on them. Just what we were waiting for. It was amazing Sardine Run as it should be. Wow !!!
We had thousands of gannets diving, we had whales breaching barely 10m away from the boats. Breaching and breaching again and again...unbelievable.
Sure, the vis could have been better to make it a perfect day. But what is a perfect day ???
Everybody came back excited. The bottom bar at the Ocean View Hotel was full of divers when i arrived in Coffee Bay. The chatter was a happy and excited one and everybody i asked just gave me the big smile i so much like to see !!!!
I decided to zoom down to Coffee Bay today to pick up the first boat and equipment no longer in use. I want to get all our stuff home as soon as possible. This is a huge mission. So stressful and so much can go wrong.
How often have i lost a wheel on a boat trailer because they go into saltwater all the time. Brian changed the bearings but will they survive the long journey back ??? Through huge potholes and whatever... I hate it. Therefore i want to get it done.
Besides material problems there could be heavy traffic making the journey difficult. And the police could give me a host of troubles, not least because i recently lost my driver's license out of my pocket. I also have a normal emergency axle on this boat instead of a break axle.
Lots of worries and a bad nights sleep...
13.7. 2017 Day 19
Today i pulled out of the Ocean View Hotel with my load of the first boat by 5am. The hotel was still dark and quiet. The wind was blowing and i feared that today would not be a good day to go out. I heard from Beulah that the two remaining boats both launched. One of the boat came back pretty quickly, maybe less than an hour after it launched. The guys were cold and did not enjoy the rough sea.
The other boat had tougher guys and girls on board who did not want to give up the hunt for sardine action too easily.
And they were duly rewarded by mother nature. They had birds raining from the skies. Gannets, they talked about thousands. Unreal. The show goes on and as is always the case, the worse the weather, the better the action.
Where thousands of gannets dive, millions of sardines are hanging out. And this was definitely the case today. They were awestruck when they got back before midday.
My dreaded trips went exceptionally well. I got through the potholes undamaged and had a pretty quiet road all the way home. My bearings were holding nicely, no wheel came off this time !!! Phffffeeew.
Once there was a police road bloc. I counted close to 10 police cars and cops everywhere. They stopped every car and my heart dropped. Oh dear, this is going to cost me !!!
What happened ?
I was the only one waved through !!!!! I could not believe it. Oh wow !! The government lost a small fortune today !!! Yeah. Hahahaha. I am so happy.
Tomorrow i must go to Durban and on Saturday at 4am back for another run.
Will i be lucky again ???
Watch this space.............
14.7. 2017 Day 20 BAIT BALLs
Today was definitely the best day so far. We had Bait Balls wherever we looked. Each of the guys could choose their own Bait Ball...brilliant.
Gannets were raining out of the sky, dolphins rounding up sardines everywhere. Sharks eating themselves full ...
This is the Sardine Run as we were all hoping for
15.7. 2017 Day 21 BAIT BALLs and Best Day
So, today is definitely our very, very best day on the Sardine Run 2017 !!!
All morning we had bait balls everywhere. the action never stopped. The bait balls were numerous and countless. What really made the day is that the entire food chain is hanging on it. Countless sharks, dolphins in their hundreds, thousands of gannets rain from the sky, whales wherever one looks. It is epic !!! The ocean is cooking !!!
This is what we were hoping for all along. This is our wildest dream come true !!!
Even the visibility has increased to about 8m. We can live with that.
I am in Coffee Bay to collect the second boat and two crew members. Time to go home. I can see the action at sea from the hotel terrace. Wow !!
I can hardly wait for the guests to return. I want to see the faces, hear the stories.
They are over the moon...
I wish, all my lovely guests from all over the world who did not have such great activity would have been here today. Muraari and Erin, Andre, Leo and Anna, Daniel and Nobina with their groups and all the others. I would have wished you all this super day...
This is Sardine Run as you see it on National Geographic.
Tomorrow at 4am it is time for me to set off home. I hope the roads are free, the towns are quiet and the cops are attending church....
16.7. 2017 Day 22 BAIT BALLs
Today should have been blown out. A strong South Westerly was forecast and we had very little hope to launch.
At 4am i am on the road. Although i never believed it was a good time to travel in Africa during darkness, i have found, that especially towing a heavy load, the night time is ideal. The animals are still sleeping, i can drive fast and slow and in the middle of the road.
Spike and his team want to give it a shot. At 8am they push the last remaining boat in. The 30kn wind had gotten lost...
Even Dave can fly and do a recci for Spike and his guests. He directs our boat directly into a minefield of sardines and bait balls. Brilliant !!!
The day pans out to be amazing but nothing beats yesterday !!
I make good headway with my boat. No people, no animals no traffic. In 7 hours i reach home. A normal trip lasts 6 hours. Perfect. I can still enjoy my sunday...
Spike and the group return by lunch time. They have seen what there was to see and all are most excited. The wind did freshen up after all. But it is a good time to return and chill.
Our man Brian Nhleko
Just as i am getting ready to relax i get the news that Brian is very sick. He has been fighting disease for a long time and many a times he stood in the grave with one leg only to retract it in the last minute.
On the way to Coffee Bay with me yesterday he had an epileptic seizure. This was absolutely terrifying to watch. One can't do much to help other than making sure, the person does not hurt himself. Inside a car, it is pure horror.
When we arrived we sent him straight to bed. The fit lasted about ten minutes, but this took everything out of poor Brian.
After 3 hours he could walk and talk again. Just as he wanted to do a little work he had another fit. This time it left him in a bad way...
We took him to his room and kept a watchful eye on him. The next day his condition deteriorated. We managed to get a German doctor to look at him but he was totally unresponsive. Brian needs to come home immediately and go to a hospital. We don't want to drop him in a strange hospital in a strange province where his family can't reach him. Alex the hotel manager packs Brian into his car and drives him all the way from Coffee Bay to Port Shepstone. He leaves at 16h00 and arrives in Port Shepstone by midnight where i meet them.
Brian is really in a bad way. Poor man !!
Alex gets in his car and drives straight back to Coffee Bay....that's tough...
17.7. 2017 Day 23 BAIT BALLS Last Day
Today us the last day of our Sardine Run program. I can hardly believe the day has finally arrived. The Sardine Run has become routine in my life. Everyday stress, hope and joy. Everyday relief, new hope, new stress and new worries. The emotions are driving me crazy.
Today started very slow. It didn't really matter because we had the best day already in the bag. And suddenly all hell broke loose.
The entire airspace was covered with gannets. They rained down in hundreds as if a cloud had burst. One feels sorry for the sardines !!!
Dolphins are making bait balls wherever one looks. Bait Balls , bait balls, our most highly priced sardine run commodity there for the pickings.
And the vis had improved big time as well.
Whales, sharks and game fish. The entire food chain was doing her thing.
What a sardine run !!!
A friend of ours who works at Port Shepstone hospital phones me and tells me that Brian is still not doing well at all. He is still not responsive, doesn't know where he is and who he is. Bad news.
In the evening i get a phone call from his mother. He had recognised her. Wow !!!
He is on the way up. Tomorrow i will go and kick him out of bed !!!
Spike, Marco and Beulah are packing up the pick ups and get ready for the last departure tomorrow early. I am hoping that this last journey will go well.
Tomorrow we are going to dive with rebreathers. My friends Supp and Lotzen and i will take one boat, the bubble-makers will take the second boat.
I can't wait. Since one month exactly i have not been in the water. For some reason, probably stress, i didn't even miss it too much. But now i am getting highly excited at the prospect of getting wet again on my beloved Protea Banks.
Sardine Run 2017 Summary
The stress of the year is finally behind us now. We are back home and almost everything is in its place... except that there is a mountain of equipment still piled high in the garage. But for now we simply just closed the garage and nobody will see the mess.
So, our Sardine Run 2017 was amazing.
Unfortunately it all started a bit slow. Our first guests in June didn't really see much of the sardines and bait balls, but they had excellent whale action and dolphins. Not bad at all !!!
Unfortunately no-one can foresee what will happen and when the best time will be. Mother nature has her own moods and rules.
At the end of May we got a call from the Ocean View Hotel. The sky was white with birds, the ocean was cooking. Everything was happening and we were still at home oiling the bearings. Damn... We were a bit worried and feared that we might have missed the Sardine Run ??
When we started our first trip then on 25.6. the ocean was quiet but for said whales and dolphin action. Oh dear...
We did everything we could to make our guests happy. Whales and dolphins too are all part of the Sardine Run. And who gets up close and personal with a 30 ton beast everyday ? And who gets to swim in the midst of a super pod of hundreds and even thousands of dolphins ??
Even the hotel does its bit to make our guests happy. The place is super cosy, the rooms are really nice and the food is amazing. The staff are extremely friendly and do a really good job.
We love the Ocean View Hotel and so does every single guests of ours !!!
But even our first guests got a whiff of the little fish. I don't think anybody did not see a bait ball. Even if it was a little one.
And then in July the run started up. Each day was better than the last. Bait Balls became more frequent, hunters, whales and birds.
In the past we were happy if we saw a bait ball every couple of days. This time we had so many might balls that our guests could each pick his own private one...
Dolphins wherever one looked. Four species of whales. Humpback, Brydes, Southern Right and Minky Whales. Some days we encountered all four .
Sharks were seen in their hundreds and the airspace was dominated by gannets.
Our crews too were working well together this year. Spike, the team boss held it together professionally. He truly excelled.
Spike was serious, fully motivated and constant. His enthusiasm flowed over to the other guys and kept the momentum going.
Life at the Sardine Run is hard for the team. They get up mostly at 3h30am ( !!! )
They have to get everything ready including fuel for the boats, equipment, hot coffee and chocolate for the guests, lunch packs for the guests, radios, check the launch site which changes daily with the tides and so much more.
It was freezing cold in the early morning hours. Really not much fun then...And this goes on for 23 days non stop.. I take my hat off to every single one of my guys !!!
Our Steve had his 22nd birthday during the Sardine Run. As he was congratulated in the restaurant at dinner, the Israelis got up and sag their version of "Happy Birthday" for him. Thereafter the Japanese got up and sang in Japanese. Then it was time for the Brazilians in Portuguese.
What a privilege for our Steve ...!!!
But our guests too were magic. Not every year did we have such easy going and pleasant people. Some chaps brought a whole lot of luggage from their lives at home which is not always easy to deal with for Beulah and the staff. No nonsense this year !
Nobody was weird, strange or difficult.
Nobody demanded, complained or sulked.
Our guests this year came from : Germany, Austria, Switzerland, USA, Russia ( they did not discuss the elections !!! ) Brazil, Belgium, Japan, Korea, France, Australia and South Africa. The Ocean View Hotel was a hive of international activity. Beautiful !!
A great big Thank You goes to all who trusted us with the Sardine Run 2017. Those who chose a time slot, took the chance and paid a lot of money for it. This for us is a huge responsibility which we do not take lightly.
Of course we can't influence nature, but we do everything else possible to give every guest a good time and good value for his money.
And this is Beulah's main concern. She spends exactly one month in the Ocean View Hotel , away from her beloved home, dogs and husband.
She resides in room number 9 every year where it looks like a storeroom/office with a bed. This is due to her arrangement in a usually lovely room, of course !!!
She takes over the reign of the hotel ( the owners simply just relinquish ...) and runs everything. She is awake first and asleep last. She checks and directs, corrects and sorts out whatever comes her way. She works on a day by day basis, step by step.
She has time to sit with every single guest and makes sure there is nobody for want.
Beulah is without a doubt on top of the food chain. She gets the job done under some of the harshest conditions in a remote village at the bottom end of Africa.
She is Super Woman !!
Only a five week holiday in a tropical island paradise is appropriate Thanks for her efforts.
A big Thank You also goes to our pilot Dave Jackson. Without his eye in the sky our Sardine Run would not be the same. Dave flew his cloth bird before the first boat was out at sea. Imagine the cold, especially up high in an open micro light...brrrrrrrr
He checked out the entire area and directed the boats to the best possible activity. This he did several times a day. Our guests had the option to fly with the plane and see the sardine activity from the air. Magic.
Dave is a professional pilot, always social with the guests and staff. Great man to have with us. Good job, Dave.
Our biggest problem this year was the absence of a professional photographer. There are only limited words to describe the action on a Sardine Run. Photos could do so much more and therefore are so incredibly important.
We depended on our guests and a few photographers we invited on short notice. First a great photo opportunity needs to present itself. This needs to be recognised and a picture taken. After a day at sea, the photographer needs to have the energy and mind to sit and work on his pics so they can be published. A huge job indeed.
Our special Thanks goes to all contributors :
Martin Heidecker, Ryuzo Shinimiya, Bryan Hart, Ishi Kenishii, Erin Vasudevan, Andre Seale, Michael Supp, Rodney vd Laan and Markus Zehnder.
For the Sardine Run 2018 we have an excellent Photographer from Germany by the name of Lars Ritter von Zahony. ( with a name like this, the results can only be amazing...)
On 18.7. is Nelson Mandela's birthday. In this spirit of reconciliation and love Beulah distributed tons of clothes she collects over the year. People from Germany mainly send her parcels with second hand clothes for kids, toddlers and adults. Everything and anything goes.
And on this day , the poor people of the Coffee Bay area receive a bit of warmth.
Their joy is immeasurable. We wish everyone could see what a warm feeling it is to GIVE !!!
We did not loose one single day to bad weather this year. It is the time of the lovely weather which coincides with the Sardine Run. In previous years we always lost one day to strong winds. This year nothing at all.
Next week Fabian and i will play with our rebreathers on Protea Banks and thereafter it is break time for us.
Man, how i wished for this time to come !!!
But the show must go on and Sardine Run 2018 is in the planing. Bookings are open.
Lots of groups have already made serious inquiries and some have already paid deposits. If everybody comes who said he would, we will have a very busy Sardine Run 2018.
Therefore i recommend anybody interested to rather make a preliminary reservation to secure your place. Rather reserved cancel if necessary than be disappointed if we are full.....
A Sardine Run is an experience for life !!!
Brian, Beulah, Steven, Marco, Spike, Adriaan, Michi, Brian, Dave
Sardine Run Super Team
An amazing film by Stefan Liphardt - Sardine Run 2018
We are back diving on Protea Banks. The water is inviting, not too cold at 22˚, the usual winter-vis of 15m, magic weather and lots of sharks.
We had two boats out today. One boat for scuba enthusiasts and one boat for real divers who prefer it silent and bubble free !!! JJ
Of course we loved every minute. Close to a hundred raggies, lots of zams and black tips and even a tiger shark was spotted by the rebreather divers.
Brian seems to be on his way to recovery. I went to see him a couple of times in the hospital. From very bad and completely out of this world he is now weak but responsive. He talks and smiles and can even walk to the bathroom. Wow. Glad.
His mother phones me with regular updates. Good thing, we all go on a long break now.
Today i did my 100th rebreather dive. It was a dream !!!
Yesterday i got an error code as i hit the bottom of the reef. " ABORT " commanded the Swedish made. But the German doesn't just bugger off once he is under water. After trying all kinds of tricks i could not get the rebreather right and had to go on my bail out cylinder. I usually don't carry a bail out as i hate the damn thing dangling off my side. But with clients i have to take the job serious and do what i have.So i went on the bail out and carried on diving for another 35 mins. AT least my buddy got to dive a bit longer.
Today we were prepared. The plan was to surface and change to scuba kit with nitrox in case of another failure.
And what happened ? Nothing went wrong of course and the two of us had a most brilliant rebreather dive number 100 !!!
We were joined in the celebrations by 50-60 raggies, 2 zams and 3 black tips.