30.6. 2017 Day 6

Similar activity as yesterday. This is what i can make out between several bad WhatsApp calls. The satellites are down today and communication is very difficult.
Calls break up and often i don’t get the picture.
At first i heard Beulah saying that they saw nothing today. I walked around with my heart in my pocket….oh my god….
Then i got another call hearing that they had lots and lots of Cape Gannets diving. They dived from about 20m above the surface and when they came back up, they had a sardine in their mouths. Lots of dolphins and whales a bit distant today.
The vis has improved and the water had gotten cooler which is a good sign.

29.6. 2017 Day 5

After the cold front from yesterday the weather has calmed down again and the sea is yet again nice and friendly. It has gone considerably colder which is a good sign.
The launching this morning went so smoothly that i can’t even report anything about it. Better not to call up a ghost !!!!
At around 8am Beulah phoned. Far too early for my regular call. So when i saw her name on my screen, i immediately got an adrenalin shot.
What’s wrong ? Was my answer…
She laughed and told me that she got info from the boats that there are lots and lots of gannets diving amongst many dolphins.
What this will translate into, we will see later today….i am holding thumbs !!!
And it was amazing. Lots of action everywhere. They are reporting thousands of birds diving, hundreds of dolphins hunting. The ocean seems to be boiling with sardines flapping around. So it was definitely the day we were waiting for.

This is Sardine Run.
Our biggest problem this year is that we don’t have a professional photographer. Last year we had Jimmy the Japanese who supplied us daily with outstanding photos. This year we struggle and have to beg and steal from whoever has anything…
I hope, it will get better.

28.6. 2017 Day 4

The ocean is completely calm. It is the proverbial calm before the storm.
Our crews are eager to get the boats launched and offer as much sea time for our guests are possible. By lunchtime we are facing a 30knot Sou’Wester.
So we will take this into account and make sure that if and when the wind arrives at Coffee Bay, our boats will be within esay distance to the safe harbour of Mapusi river mouth.
Actually, we are all waiting for this cold front with great hopes for better action thereafter.
The wind came through at lunchtime and Spike and his boats made the safety of the river mouth in good time.
It was the day of the whales today. Whales wherever they looked. Humpbacks, 30 ton beasts. At some stage 9 humpbacks surrounded one of the boats. They almost touched the boat much to the guest’s excitement and a bit of fear….

27.6. 2017 Day 3

” The Unimog is broken and we have 30 guests standing around on the beach ” ….was my wake up call this morning . Oh dear. ….
The coffee goes down the sink. Blood pressure is standing on 198:120 ( most probably BAR !!! ) What do i do now, 6 hours away ???
We are renting a Unimog this year to save our 4x4s from being slaughtered.
It turns out, the crews have made a plan and got all boats into the water without delay. Nobody had to wait. Thankfully.
Now its all about finding some action…..
So the old Unimog was fixed again and is back in action.
The day went quite okay. Some of the boats were amongst hundreds of dolphins, another boat came across schooling anchovies. The visibility was pretty poor as we see on the photo…
The microlight spotted a huge shark. We thought it might have been a Great White, but they said, it had a large, wide mouth…most probably a tiger shark then.
Things went well and all our guests are happy.

Spike van Vuuren
If you ever met Spike, you know he is not a normal terrestrial human. We believe he came from the sea and most likely will return there one day. There is no-one i know who is so at home out there. He loves dealing with boats and any sea condition is fun for Spike.
This year he is the team leader of the three crews, in effect the operations manager.
And he is living up to the challenge wholeheartedly. Spike, age 47 outworks any of the younger crew. His energy seems boundless and nothing is too much for him.
When the young ones have collapsed in bed at night, Spike is still working.
He is an absolute super-star !!!

26.6. 2017 Day 2

It is 9am and i have not heard from Beulah yet. This is starting to worry me a lot. I understand that they are busy and to get three boats into the sea through a river mouth is stressful. So i dont need to add to their problems. But by now i should have contact. No network. Damn…
Eventually i get through to Beulah. All boats are out, the aircraft is airborne. Shot.
Apparently the Brasilians delayed the Japanese because the fists are real slow and the latter want to get cracking. I told Beulah to take the Brasies last. They hate being rushed and the later they launch the less fuel we need…got to think of everything !!!
So today was similar to yesterday. Besides dolphins and whales, the boats came across a good number of sharks as well. Still it is very quiet for this time of the year. There is apparently a cold front on the way. This might change things to the better…hopefully.
While i am waiting for some good pictures from Coffee Bay i have some screen shots of video footage i took recently. Some magic pictures of our river mouth we launch through as well as the remoteness of the Wild Coast beautifully at peace with nature

25.6. 2017 Day 1

 Welcome to Sardine Run 2017
Our guests had a magic breakfast at the Ocean View Hotel and were transferred in our safari vehicles to the river mouth from where the boats are launching. It sounded like the boats went out smoothly and the aircraft is already scouting out the area for the best possible action of the moment.
The weather is perfect today. No wind, no clouds, calm seas and cool air. All sounds great.
I am sitting on hot coals here in Margate and await news on an ongoing basis. Later today i will report back.
I will write the most accurate report possible with the infos i am given by the staff down in Coffee Bay. I hope, that readers from near and far will be able to experience a bit of our Sardine Run on this blog.
So today was not the greatest day. They saw whales and lots of dolphins. The guests were swimming with the dolphins. It is a start.
Still 22 days to go….

24.6. 2017 Day 0

We are ready to start with the Sardine Run. Today, the crews of our three boats did a practise run and launched one of the boats out to sea. Also the pilot flew his aircraft to see how things are looking.
Later this afternoon the Brazilians will arrive, Muraari and Erin, my Saxon friends Ralf and Michael as well as the Israelis Tal and Afik. These are our first guests this year.
We wish them good luck and much fun and assure everybody that we will do everything in our power to make this event professional and pleasant.
This is the most important time of the year for us. We stress about the Sardine Run the minute the old one is over. The next 4 weeks are going to be our greatest adventure.
Our crews are a bunch of really nice guys :    
Brian, Michi, Adriaan, Steven, Brian, Marco and Spike
I am sitting on the reserve bench ….probably because they don’t want me to shine and take all the glory away from them….politics is everywhere….

22.6. 2017

Life in the rough lane is always adventurous. We had trouble at the base with the cops again who inspected boat trailers and pulled lots of them off the road. A boat trailer , like any other road trailer has to have a break axle if the load is of a certain weight. As boat trailers always drive into salt water, these real mechanisms last seldom longer than a few weeks. So hardly anybody spends the money on the useless break axles.
I did. Because i can’t afford to have trouble if i am dealing with mainly international divers who come a long way.
So i got a call on saturday, our colleagues were pulled off the road and they can’t dive their clients now. Great for us. So we got some unexpected business.
The diving last week was brilliant. The Raggies are full up on the Northern Pinnacle of Protea Banks. Last week we estimated a hundred plus. Yesterday we thought it was somewhere between 200 and 300 animals. No place on earth has such incredible numbers of sharks. It is mind boggling…
Spike took our second boat down to Coffee Bay last Saturday. He took his wife and child along in the hope to give them a lovely day in lovely Coffee Bay. So they left at 2h00 am super early with the plan to get to the destination early in the morning. But Africa threw a spanner in the works. He broke down at 7am just outside of Umtata.
This part of South Africa is like a desert….
One of the wheel bearings collapsed completely. It took hours for someone to stop and help him. All the while, MRs and Kiddo are cooking in the car….
By 14h00 they were on the road again. And around 18h00 they arrived in Coffee Bay with only a small bit of a sense of humour left.
But Spike is not a Sissie and can handle anything. Amazing guy and a privilege to have him in our lives.
We urged him to stay another night extra so his family can also enjoy a little outing. Not often they get to see a different place.
So they cam back on Monday. Beulah and Brian left on Tuesday for the sardine Run.
They will stay until 18.7……
On Wednesday this week, Spike and the rest of the boat crews took the third boat down to Coffee Bay. They got there safely and without adventure.
Now they all busy setting up for the great Sardine Run event which will start for us on Sunday with our first day out at sea.
Our clients will arrive on Saturday and then it counts.

Sardine Run
Lots of stories are flying around. Apparently the Coffee Bay area is promising. It looks like we will have an amazing run this year. Lots of gannets are diving and hundreds of dolphins are visible from the hotel’s terrace. Also our colleagues further north report good sightings. I think we will know exactly what is going on once we have our aircraft up. Dave, our pilot will be on his way tomorrow.
This afternoon Spike and the crew were practising launching through the river mouth. It is no easy thing to get a boat through a maze of rocks without damage.
Let’s see what news transpires in the next few days…..

13.6. 2017

Rumours are running hot. Everybody sees sardines everywhere and nobody knows who said it…
Old Spike has taken a trailer down to Coffee Bay this morning. Packed with diving equipment, boating equipment and who knows what. In fact, they take so mich stuff that i dont even know if i still have furniture in my house !!!!!
So i gave him a call earlier on and heard that things are looking good down there. He has seen gannets diving in front of the hotel and lots of whales. Everything seems to be just fine for a good Sardine Run
In the meantime all of us here in Shelly Beach are getting more boxes ready. Steve and i are quickly glueing the boat together so we don’t have any guests falling out…JJJ

10.6. 2017

I am resting my fingers these days because from 25.6. i will have to write my daily Sardine Run reports here. This will be our first day at sea in Coffee Bay.
We are working feverishly on the logistics of this event. One boat is already down in Coffee Bay. On Monday Spike will take our trailer fully loaded down. Then goes the second boat and afterwards the third boat. Almost our entire operation will be relocated to the Ocean View Hotel. What a mission !!!
The hotel will cost us half a million, the spotter plane 150k, i am still looking to buy a tractor, the staff is organised. This is not a joke !!!
Besides all this we carry tremendous responsibilities. Not only do we have to do everything possible to avoid anybody being injured, we also understand that this event is the dream of all our guests. They pay us good money for this which we cannot take lightly.
Our staff will give their best at all times. They will not get drunk or party while we are busy with the Run. Our machines, vehicles, vessels, aircraft are in top condition.
Our hotel is getting ready for us with excellent accommodation and even better food.
Everything and anything humanly possible will be provided to make this Sardine Run a Dream Come True for all our guests. Hopefully Mother Nature is looking at us favourably…
In the meantime we are lucky to have a break from diving Protea Banks. We definitely need every minute of every day to organise, buy, repair, pack and do lots of admin work in the office.
Also our beloved dogs need a bit of attention. Naughty Thembi bit our vet in the food when he did a routine check up on her last week…..eish….
I have started reading The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony.
Ou man, once you touched this book you can’t put it down again. What a story, what a man !!!