Sardine Run 2018 June

5.6. 2018

It is that time of the year again when we go out looking for adventure. Yes, the Sardine Run is about to happen.
We had a few days break and used the time to take 2 boats down to Coffee Bay.
Adventure caught up with us very quickly….
We left our warm and cosy homes at an ungodly hour of 03h00 on sunday morning.
Two Vehicles and two boats. Spike, Steve and i
After barely 45km my left trailer wheel blew.
It was damn freezing on the way to Harding, Kokstadt. Pitch dark and 7˚
With a bit of an effort we managed to change the tyre and just as we had the new one on, it’s valve shot out.
No way to fix this, we have to use our second spare wheel. This was done a bit faster as we were pretty well experienced by then.
We had Spike’s 1963 trolley jack which was a bit tired and couldn’t hold it up for too long. ED, they call it.
Steve, the youngest had to pump that jack and got himself a sweat of note 7˚…
After an hour we were good again and on our way south.
By now i was traumatised of course. Blowing a tyre is not fun. On the radio there was an add at this very same time saying that if you blow out a tyre it could have all consequences and could be really dangerous.
This added to my stress and anxiety.
Suddenly i hear screeching noises like hell. I am finished with my nerves and realise, it was part of the damn radio advert….Maybe my radio was too loud ? It sounded so real.
Just as i settle in and get my confidence back, my car feels wrong again.
Mayday, mayday, mayday i shout into the radio which connects me with the other car.
My second wheel blew. This time the right side.
The tyre is completely shredded.
Just as the sun is coming up we are mounting the third and last spare wheel. In fact, we take the Prado’s spare wheel which is bigger than the normal trailer wheel. But this is not a problem. Just looks a bit odddd.
And off we go. By now i am seriously traumatised and on edge all the way.
The terrain is getting more hilly around Kokstadt. Long uphills slow us down and long downhills require our full concentration.
Suddenly i smell something burning. It must be my car. This is an almost new Toyota Double Cab 4×4 vehicle. It was just at the service.
I am to a breaker, in fact when i drive i only break it absolutely necessary. Drive accordingly of course. So even with a heavy load, i try to keep off the breaks as long as possible.
But somehow i managed to get my break drums glowing. I can be lucky nothing caught real fire.
Who says it’s boring to play games in Africa !!!
The last stretch we dodged potholes and then we entered the downhill into Coffee Bay.
What a lovely place it is. The town itself is a disaster, no doubt. But the Ocean View Hotel, our base for the next month is simply magic.
We park the boats , off load all the equipment we brought with us and made ourselves comfortable.
The next day we looked at the launch site and the landing strip for our spotter plane.
Our launch site changes every year due to masses of water which flows down this river into the sea. Rocks get moved and sand gets shifted.
We realise that we will not be able to get a boat into the water without a tractor….
This is a hectic realisation. Last year we hired a Unimog who launched and pulled our boats in and out of the water. This lovely person decided to let us down this year. And we got something like 3 weeks notice.
Now the stress has really kicked in.
Where the hell will we find a decent tractor at a decent price. We phone and search the internet. We eat, sleep, drink and dream “tractor”
On Tuesday we drove back home and now the challenge is on….

8.6. 2018

A hugely exciting day today. We got our new boat. What a lovely boat it is. This makes it our number 4
This time we decided to go for 4 stroke motors. They are a lot more fuel effective, should use half the juice and no two stroke oil.
We took it for a spin, Mark,me, Spike and Steven.
You are supposed to drive very slowly for the first ten hours . No more than 3000rpm
After fifteen minutes i wanted to know it. It was just too itchy to ignore.
Sticks forward than off she flies. Hell, we almost got thrown off board. This boat is as fast as a torpedo. Lovely. Tomorrow will be the first dive done on the new boat.

Paddle Out For Sharks
In line with World Ocean Day ( which is today ) we are organising the yearly Paddle Out For Sharks event. Beulah, Carrie, John and Steve worked really hard to organise this event properly. They have advertised everywhere free boat trips and a whole lot of infotainment for everybody.
At around 7h30 we will launch a number of boats and gather offshore Shelly Beach. We will be joined by Heather;s surfers and will do a little speech about the importance and the plight of sharks in our oceans.
Thereafter more boat trips, motorbike rides, presents for the kids and a whole lot of fun

19.6. 2018 Sardine Run Day 0

Today our first guests have arrived in Coffee bay. We have a group of 8 Japanese divers , most of them have just dived Protea banks with me in Shelly Beach.
The guys are fully motivated and ready for the adventure.
There is a lot of sardine action along the coast. Everything predicts one of the best Sardine Runs for a long time. We are all gripped by the fever and hope it all works out
As usual we had tons of teething problems. Our beloved Ocean View Hotel first needs to get used to our presence. They are coming out of a kind of bad- economy -winter -sleep and need to shake off the sand first.
We had no option but to buy a tractor for the sardine run to happen at all. When we came to bring the first 2 boats down we realised that we will not be able to launch them with ordinary 4x4s. The river is too rocky and not passable with a normal off-road vehicle.
So we spent a fortune buying this strange machine and transporting it down to Coffee Bay was an episode all on its own.
After extreme stress and bullshit we finally found a reputable company who did a professional job and transported the Beast from Shelly Beach to Coffee Bay.
It was expensive….
When our staff arrived in Coffee Bay they realised that the road to the launch site was all but life threatening. The tracks = road is barely half a meter away from the 100m straight drop off the cliff.
Poor Beulah who fears hights more than me (!!!) freaked out.
After half a female melt down we had a massive crew doing road works for most of the day. Apparently it ended up having transformed the tracks into a free way…
Really ??
Our pilot, wife, plane and friend have arrives as well. We had to find out that he had an accident recently and would not be able to fly for us. Therefore he brought his friend with him who is apparently his best pilot in the business.
What can we say ? This is professionalism.
You don’t let your commitment down, you make a plan.
I am very impressed with our partners from Ballito Microlight School.
Dave and Rona didn’t want to worry us with bad news and solved the problem one shot.
At today’s try run, they were not entirely happy with the aircraft they brought down and decided that Rona will drive back to Ballito = 10 hours from Coffee Bay to fetch another, second aircraft. In the meantime, the one there will be used.
We pay a lot of money for air support, but when i see such commitment, i am glad i choice Dave and Rona from Ballot Microlight School as our partners.
People with honour and integrity.

20.6. 2018 Sardine Run Day 1 Bait Balls

Today is the first day out at sea. The launch was hectic with massive swells. No problem for our Spike. I do however think our guests were holding their breaths.
The plane was in the air albeit not very stable. Apparently the engine spluttered all kinds of nasty sounds out. They tried it 3 times today and decided to rather wait for the new plane to arrive tomorrow.
In the meantime Spike and marco hit the big time.
Marco calls it The whole Sardine Run in one Day.
They found a super pod of common dolphins 3000-5000 animals strong.
They had whales everywhere and they had even a couple of smaller bait balls.
This is definitely the first time in ten years that we hit it so well on day one. !!!
Everyone is happy and fully excited. I think Michihiro and his guests have already seen what they came to Africa for.
The pressure is definitely less now…But the show must go on !!!

21.6. 2018 Sardine Run Day 2 Bait Balls

Second day on our sardine run 2018 was another successful event. The guests again had bait balls, whales all over the place, dusky sharks, diving gannets, mega pod of dolphins with thousands of common dolphins.
The weather was great, the sea has calmed down and the boat had a really great time out there. They only got back to base at 15h30 which is a good sign.
Our aircrew has managed to get the replacement plane to Coffee Bay and they did a test flight this afternoon. Ready to perform fully again from tomorrow.
I must say, i am tremendously relieved about the last two days being so great. I did worry that the first group so early into the run season might not get all the action. I am most grateful that my worries were unfounded. Maybe i should worry about the next group ?
To me, this damn sardine run is just one huge worry run. I worry about everything until the last guest has successfully boarded his plane again…lovely job i have !!!

Protea Banks
Although it felt pretty quiet on the dives, we did see a lot actually. On the Southern Pinnacle of Protea Banks we had a school of Barracudas, a Giant Guitarshark, a Zambezi, 2 hammerheads and a Black Tip.
On the Northern Pinnacle of Protea Banks we counted 18 Raggies, one Zam and one Black Tip.
Vis is around 15m, current 1 Knot and the Watertemp 22˚
The weather is absolutely perfect

22.6. 2018 Sardine Run Day 3 Bait Balls

So, we had two mega good days on the Sardine Run so far.
And then came day 3…
Apparently today was simply epic !! Nobody seems to have words to describe today’s events. It was just out of this world.
Spinner Sharks leaping out of the water. 3000 + bottlenose dolphins, a bit later 5000+ common dolphins. Didn’t know there is enough space in the ocean for so many animals…
Later a school of hammerheads..?? Really ? Never saw this before on the sardine run.
Black Tips and Bronzies feeding on a tuna ball. Jeez, what next ?
And next where the whales. Humpbacks everywhere and Brydes.
Just as the divers were getting ready to jump into the water on a sardine bait ball, here comes a Brydes whale out of the deep and swallows the whole damn bait ball one shot !!! Unbelievable. The whale barely missed the boat.
Ball gone. Divers took their fins off again…..
Protea Banks
Tigershark on the baited dive. It was spotted but it did not stay. Bull sharks and black tips entertained our divers beautifully. A humpback whale swam right past them.
What is going on ?
One of our guests was so excited that he forgot to inflate his CD when he surfaced next to the boat. What happens ? It goes down and is never to be seen again. Real expensive kit. The whole lot….

23.6. 2018 Sardine Run Day 4

Today was a relatively quiet day. This was to be expected. The morning was pretty uneventful, even our eye in the sky could not help much.
This gave the crew the opportunity to show our guests the lovely landscape along the shore of the Wild Coast. After a lunch break on the boat, they followed a humpback whale and her calf. Mother whale was not comfortable to let the Extra-Aquatic Aliens get too close to the baby and kept moving away from the boat. Skipper Spike abandoned the idea and gave the animals their deserved peace.
Then they found a large shoal of sardines. Although there was no bait ball, the mass of fish was enormous.
Our guests were in the water for almost 2 hours watching the spectacle.
Protea Banks
I had all but a quiet day on Protea Banks today. 20 divers are stirring the water properly and we have all hands full looking after our herds.
On the baited dive we had a tiger shark ( as always lately just for a quick moment )
We had 2 bull sharks and 3 black tips. Even a hammerhead came pst the bait.
On the Northern Pinnacle of Protea Banks we had about 20 raggies, a black tip and a zam. Finally on the Southern Pinnacle of Protea banks we saw a good number of hammerheads, a school of barracudas, a guitar shark, some zams and some black tips.
Everyone had fun and everyone is back on land safely.

24.6. 2018 Sardine Run Day 5

Although nothing yet beats the first three days, today was definitely a good one too.
We had loose sardines en masse. Funny enough, there were no predators on them.
maybe they are all full at the moment ??
We also had the usual whale activity, dolphins in huge numbers and gannets diving from above.
Our guests from World Travel in Tokyo are most excited. they definitely got way more than expected.
This is the Sardine Run…. you just never know.
Having said that, the Sardine Run 2018 is by no means finished yet. As our new guests stream in at the Ocean View Hotel, the sardines are gathering up and getting ready to run again and again. And then again !!!
We had an amazing time with our Japanese Guests. They are leaving tomorrow and i am sure, they will carry their memories of the sardine Run with them for life.
Tomorrow, our Chinese divers are moving down to Coffee Bay. They have been with us here at Shelly Beach for the last four days.
They are keen and ready for action and it is up to Spike and his people to make them happy as well.

25.6. 2018 Sardine Run Day 6

Despite several tries i could not get hold of Beulah today. Most likely a network problem on the cell phone masts. So i have no idea what the sardine run was like today. A good thing is that i also haven’t heard of any problems…
20 new arrivals at Coffee bay today. I guess that kept them all busy. Probably blew the internet.
So i will sleep well tonight and report tomorrow about both days.
Protea Banks
Supp and i went on rebreather and Chris came along on Nitrox. Man, we had an amazing dive. We went all along the Northern Pinnacle of Protea Banks. Past the second cave and further. 45 minutes bottom time included 12 mins deco. Brilliant !!
The landscape down there is completely untouched. Everywhere we saw raggies peacefully swimming around. Here was one and there were three, another two further up and a single one roaming further down. It was paradise.
A great Hammerhead, a Zambezi and a huge school of Barracudas.
Totally flat seas with whales wherever we look.
Its magic

26.6. 2018 Sardine Run Day 7

Hell, i am battling. Not enough time in the day.
I got up at 4am , now it is 21h30
We had a great day on the Sardine Run with lots of smaller, fast moving bait balls. Sharks and dolphins everywhere and the whale activity was amazing.
Apparently Beulah has great pictures but the internet connection in Coffee Bay is tired.
Maybe and hopefully tomorrow…???
Protea Banks
Protea banks was absolutely crazy today. I have Bartosz Sykus from Poland with his group here and i am sure, Bartosz has the luck.
It started with the Baited Dive which was brilliant. 2 Zams, 5 Black Tips. One of the Zams was a male and particularly friendly with me. I loved the interaction and made sure he got a fair share of the bait.
Besides the sharks on the bait bucket we had a number of Hammers in the water. The highlight was a Sailfish which was most curious. It stayed what seems to be a fairly long time. Enough for everybody to see him and take pir=ctures of him. Hopefully i will get some tomorrow. As guide i could not take my camera along…
Second dive was another cracker.
Bull sharks, Black Tips and Hallers right through the dive. One Great hammerhead.
And then came the big ladies….
Two Humpback Whales swam right under our group. Barely 3-5m away. I could have touched them.
I can’t describe the feeling when i saw these animals so close and so cool.
They looked at us with their soccer ball eyes and all the positive vibes of mother nature was sent out to us.
I know it sounds stupid, but this moment with these giants was damn emotional for me and many others on this epic dive !!!!!

27.6. 2018 Sardine Run Day 8 Bait Ball

So the soccer was a total disaster….but elsewhere in the world we are having a sardine run like never before.
it is unbelievable what goes down in Coffee Bay !!!
Once the three boats launched, the plane reported lots of sardine activity off the hotel beach. Really ? Just outside the front door it all happened.
After a short trip the guys got what they were hoping for.
An epic Bait Ball.
It lated for 6 hours. Never before had we experienced anything like this !!! We are out of our tree. Is this possible or are we dreaming it ???
Six hours of non stop full on sardine run action Bait Ball.
Countless dolphins and dozens of sharks. At some stage the divers went back to the boat because they could not read the sharks anymore. They were everywhere and they were giving it to the poor old cards. damn !!!
The divers went back and carried on with the best ever action. Six hours – really ???
How did you do this with one scuba cylinder, i ask.
We spent most of the time on snorkel at the surface. This was much better. Twice we went on scuba and looked at the action from below. It was just another angle.
And then the 3 Brydes Whales came. Ridiculous !!!
these giants repeatedly came up from the deep right through the sardine bait ball and scooped as much as they could, barely missing the divers/snorkellers.
Unbelievable. I saw a drone movie. It is crazy !!!
There are 20 odd divers in the water and 3 mad whales are eating and breaching right in the middle of the humans. And guess what ??
The animals know exactly what is going on and not one single human gets hurt.
Those gentle giants are very well aware of the fragile people in the water and they instinctively make sure that nobody gets in each other’s way.
This is nature at it’s best

28.6. 2018 Sardine Run Day 9

Today we got blown out by a strong South Wester. We saw it coming and were prepared with alternative programs. Our guests could choose from various alternatives free of charge.
Our crews were not exactly unhappy about a small break.
Dennis came back to Margate and told me the story of the epic bait ball.
Apparently it was truly a six hour spectacle. Everything i was told lined up. Unbelievable. Our clients are more than happy. It is not all our doing, but we most certainly did our part. Mother nature delivered, and she did so better than National Geographic can ever document.
You always need a bit of luck in life. Yesterday everybody was lucky….

29.6. 2018 Sardine Run Day 10

The hectic action has cooled down a bit today. We saw los of whale activity, loose bait balls and many dolphins. The sea is still a bit unsettled from yesterday’s wind but we were out as planned.
We are so glad that we bought this tractor on short notice. It was a costly addition to our equipment. Alone the transport of this monster machine from Shelly Beach to Coffee Bay cost us the equivalent of US$ 1000. But it is worth its weight in gold.
In order to be able to offer a really good sardine run experience to clients who have paid a pretty hot penny, people like us must be well organised. We do have the tools for the job and this feels great.
Also our crews are of course critically important. These guys make or break a sardine run season.
On top we have good, old Spike who has been with us for close to 20 years.
Spike has an endless energy and a motivation which connects to staff as well as guests. His family can be proud of him. Spike never rests, hardly sleeps and works harder than anybody.
Marco from Switzerland is also back with us again this year. A super guy, scuba instructor and equally hard worker. Nothing is too much trouble for Marco.
Our great Steven is of course part of the crew as well. He has quite a responsibility as skipper of one of the 3 boats. Steve is my right hand man here on Protea Banks.
I miss him terribly as i now have to do his job in the morning as well as mine…
Old man Brian is happiest on a boat off Coffee Bay. He loves this place and the sardine run and everything about it. All year he just waits for this time. Probably the happiest man around.
Jan and Ole are two scuba instructors from Tofo in Mozambique. Great guys and fully motivated. It is their first time on the sardine run with us but they fit in with the team as if they were here for years. So good to have them with us.
Dave our microlight pilot had an accident a few days before the sardine run started. Not sure if he crashed his bird or if another plane caught him on the runway. So he quickly made a plan and sent us another of his pilots from his Ballito Microlight School.
And finally there is Beulah, my hero who is holding everything together and coordinates the lot. She is amazing. A business-woman through and through.
On the sardine run and at home i gladly give her the space she wants to run our business. Without her we could not do it.
And me ? I am slogging away here in Shelly Beach on the bones of my ass…..

30.6. 2018 Sardine Run Day 11

A more quiet day when we compare it to Day 8 but yet we still had great ocean action.
After following a pod of 8 humpback whales our guests got the show of their lifetime. Whales performed about every known movement such as breaching, tail slapping, rolling, tail sailing, hopping and more. And all of this right next to the boat.
A while later we came accross a large school of dolphins which entertained the divers for quite some time. Diving gannets and loose sardine shoals were amongst the day’s highlights.
An overall fantastic day