Sardine Run 2018 July

1.7. 2018 Sardine Run Day 12 Bait Balls

And the show is going on. Crazy how it works. We can almost detect a pattern.
2 days crazy, 2 days calm, 2 days crazy.
Many are asking, is the sardine run finished after the amazing action we already had ?
Not a chance, man !!! The sardine run has only just began !!!!!
Today was marked mainly by sharks. Apparently ridiculous numbers of sharks everywhere. Graeme talks of hundreds ? It sounds like today was the day of the sharks. The boat stopped and the water was boiling. They realised it is the toothy guys having their turn at the sardines. So the divers went in of course !!! We don’t play games here, we are here to see sharks and the entire food chain.
Large Duskies, Black Tips and Bronzewhalers were giving the sardines a bad time !!
At the same time there were Bottlenose Dolphins spanning almost an w=area of one square kilometre.
Sensational, truly sensational stuff today.

Protea Banks
Even here in Shelly Beach we had our small share of the sardine run. When we launched we got into a pocket of sardines probably 50m x 50m big. We dropped the divers into the shoal and gave them a taste of the Sardine Run.
Then we watched humpback whales everywhere. Jumpini, hopping, rolling, sailing and motoring . Whales were all over the place. Under water we heard them whingeing.
Our visibility on Protea Banks was excellent at 25m and the water was pleasant at a temp of 23˚. Simply magic.
On the Northern Pinnacle of Protea Banks we had about 20 odd Raggies and on the way up we saw Black Tip Sharks.
On the Playground where we did our second dive we were accompanied by two massive Bull Sharks. Once we went into midwater 4 Black Tips took over the shift and brought us back safely to our boat.
Tomorrow looks pretty bad with a huge wind looming.
This might be a real good thing for the Sardine Run in Coffee Bay.
Watch this space….

2.7. 2018 Sardine Run Day 13

We are hopelessly blown out by a huge South Westerly wind. Beulah reckons, she has never experienced such a strong wind. Some of the buildings were damaged.
It was forecast as a 42 knot wind, it was probably stronger than that even.
Our guests, 24 pax were offered excursions for the day , free of charge.
Some went on a guided hike, others went to see the Hole in the Wall. Yet others chose to visit a sangoma = traditional healer.
Although we have lost a valuable sardine run day, nobody is particularly unhappy. A proper cold front will work wonders amongst the ocean inhabitants. We think, this will kick ass among the sardines. Not that we could ask for more…but the show must go on for another two weeks so absolutely every one of our guests will experience the sardine run properly.
Hope the waves are not going to be too wild tomorrow…

Protea Banks
Even here on Protea Banks we got blown out. Early this morning i took the boat to the harbour. It was quiet and still pitch dark. The harbour master did not want to open the base today as he received hectic storm warnings from the weather office.
We were hoping to get a window for the first dive.
Just as we went back to the shop to meet our divers the wind started with a bang.
It was sad having to apologise and sending disappointed divers back again. This is dealing with nature…safety comes first.

3.7. 2018 Sardine Run Day 14

We don’t hear a word from Coffee Bay. Apparently the mega storm on Monday has brought the village on its knees. No power, no telephones, no cell signals, no computers. A world cut off from the outside.
Sounds like a real holiday.
Of course it comes at a price. No hot water, no lights or electricity in the rooms and so on. The hotel has a generator for emergencies . But this one is just strong enough to keep the kitchen and restaurant going.
This is Africa. And this is The Wild Coast !!! Now it is real wild.
I am pretty sure my crews and 24 guests are having a good time sitting by a huge bon-fire under millions of crystal clear stars….

Protea Banks
Thomas, Charlie and i went out to Protea Banks today and dived in a 5m sea. It was rough, but it was fun too.
Our launch was like launching a rocket. The new boat Spitzbüble is damn fast. A lovely boat.
We had the usual winter visibility of 15m, gentle current and 22˚ water temp. The air war really fresh today, it was actually a pain to change from warm winter clothes into a wetsuit.
We saw 3 Black Tips, 3 Hammerheads, 2 Bullsharks and 1 Sandshark. Sweet dive.
Thomas has taken the photographs here on a recent dive

4.7. 2018 Sardine Run Day 15 Bait Balls

So, after two and a half days of almost no comms we have a few messages of hope.
In the morning all was still looking more than bleak. This afternoon the mood in Coffee Bay has changed. There is a bot of electricity for now ( not sure what it means, a bit ? ) but for me this bit means hope and return to normality soon…
I hear, yesterday and today we had bait balls and the usual whale and dolphin activity.
particularly today was a good day. We had bait balls , we had a he amount of sharks, we had brides and humpback whales and we had lots and lots of bottlenose as well as common dolphins.
It sounds very much like a cracker day on the sardine run 2018 once again.

5.7. 2018 Sardine Run Day 16 Bait Balls

Slowly the situation in Coffee Bay returns back to normal. We have electric power, with it we have hot water, light and internet connection.
What a relief. It sure was an adventure after this crazy storm, but thankfully the adventure came to an end. Jeez.
Now the Sardine Run continues. We had bait balls which were pretty quickly pulled apart by predators. We also had exceptional shark activity today.

Protea Banks
On Protea Banks we had a brilliant day. On the baited shark dive we had 11 Black Tips, 2 Zams and 1 Dusky. Visibility was 25m !!!
Watertemp 23˚
Current a nice 2kn which got us a distance of almost 4km in one dive.
The second dive we did on the Northern Pinnacle of Protea Banks. I counted 13 Raggies, 4 Zams and 2 Black Tips. Excellent vis and warm water did the job.
The weather has been absolutely perfect lately. Not a breath of wind, not a cloud, not a drop of rain. The sea is completely flat. It is a lovely time of the year

6.7. 2018 Sardine Run Day 17 Bait Balls

Good days in Coffee Bay. We see bait balls we have huge shark action and magic whale activity.
Things are going very well. The crews are working like clocks. They are exhausted by now but they know, we all have to push on. Constantly guests are arriving and leaving. Our system works. We allow our guests to choose their own dates. It certainly adds some movement into the day to day operations.
Our tractor proves invaluable. This monster machine makes our sardine run possible.
The photos i receive from Coffee Bay are getting better every day.
I am doing my share here in Margate. Besides doing all the diving on Protea Banks, i have to entertain agents from Japan and China, two emerging markets .
I am just as exhausted , seldom get to bed before 23h00 and up by 4h30
My phone rings 25-30 times a day. I will definitely throw it into the ocean one day…
But for now we need the damn things to manage what we do. Beulah, Spike and their crews on the sardine run, me and my crews on Protea Banks.
We have another 10 days to go. Will look forward with great interest to everyday’s reports from crazy Coffee Bay

7.7. 2018 Sardine Run Day 18

Today was one of the few days without a bait ball. We saw lots of loose sardines but no predators on them. I think, they deserve a break…
Today’s hi light was a Southern Right Whale playing with the divers.
There is not a day when we don’t see anything at all. Thanks to our spotter plane which flies tirelessly , our boats are kept up to date with the activity in our reach.

8.7. 2018 Sardine Run Day 19

Today we had excellent whale encounters. Humpback whales were playing within throwing distance from the boats, rolling and tail flapping.
Later the boats came across lots of common and bottlenose dolphins.
Sardines were around plenty, but no bait balls were seen.

9.7. 2018 Sardine Run Day 20

Today was a really quiet day. We have encountered some whales and quite a few dolphins but all in all it was a pretty low day on the Sardine Run 2018.
In my personal opinion, we are still in the middle of the run. I am convinced, we will still encounter a couple of cracker days before we go home in just over a week’s time.
On a positive note, there were tons of sardines on the South Coast for a change.
I bought 150kg of the lovely slithers, perfect shark bait for the rest of the year.

10.7. 2018 Sardine Run Day 21

Poor Beulah is stressing. For a couple of days now they had no more Bait Ball. In the past we were most happy if we would see one little Bait Ball in a week or so. But we got spoilt and especially so this year. We truly had the time of our lives on the Sardine Run for the first 2 weeks. Hectic !!!
But no Bait Ball and no Sardines does not mean it is all over !! Of course the doubt nibbles away on one’s brain…
To make matters worse, we had an accident with one of the 3 boats. It’s trailer broke, the axle came loose and the boat smashed into the trailer’s v-bar and hit a proper hole into the hull.
100% drama !!
Of course the guests who were on this boat could not launch and were jumping up and down. We need to repair this damage as diligently as we can so we can launch the next three days without fear of sinking the damn boat with man and mouse…
Beulah had all hands full to make up for the lost day. She organised a tour for the group with Don as leader. Don has been a life saver !!!
To top it, Beulah organised a free microlight flight for all members of the group who could not be on the boat today. That did the trick. All smiling again.
And when the other 2 boats reported no Bait Ball action, the smiles grew even bigger…

11.7. 2018 Sardine Run Day 22

It was a hot day today. Whales and dolphins everywhere. Of course we are looking for sardines, and we did find some but there were no predators on them and so they swam peacefully around enjoying the good life…
The schools of dolphins we are encountering are immense. How many animals are in one kilometre ? How many in 3, 4 , 5 ? It is brilliant what we see along this crazy Wild Coast.
Our boat which had a hole in its hull was successfully repaired and launched today.
I am most pleased that it did indeed not go down !!!
Maybe the boys deserve some credit ? We’ll see…
I was quite ready to bring the 4th boat down to Coffee Bay yesterday if the damage would not have been fixed. I would have been quite happy to tow it over night so our guests will be able to go out to sea.
This is our commitment to our guests.
You get what you pay for !!!
Thankfully good, old Steve, Ole and Nasa did a sterling job.

Protea Banks
Protea Banks rocks. It is pure magic here.
The sea is completely flat, mirror smooth, not a breath of wind.
At the moment we do doublethink dives. Normally i hate double tanking but because the sea is so, so lovely we enjoy a proper surface interval playing and observing whales wherever we look. I try to film them with the drone but don’t manage. I am simply not experienced enough and always glad when the bird is back in its box , rather than on the bottom of the ocean…
Diving on the Northern Pinnacle we found 10 raggies, 2 zams and 8 black tips.
Second dive on the Southern Pinnacle of Protea Banks an unbelievable 300-400 hammerheads, zams and black tips.
The water had 22˚ and the vis was just on 20m.
We didn’t want to go home today..

12.7. 2018 Sardine Run Day 23

Although we hear lots of reports of masses of sardines still along the Wild Coast, we don’t see much of the little shits the last couple of days.
It is crazy what kind of importance these fish have achieved during this time of the year. Normally we don’t give a damn about a sardine , but during the Great Sardine Run, the sardine is everything. And people want to see them at all costs. Nothing is good enough. It has got to be Sards…
We are having the most amazing whale encounters. It is indescribable.
And schools of dolphins as far as we can see. Thousands of animals…but no sardine…
Even old sea-dogs like Spike and Brian cannot believe the immensity of the schools of common dolphins they see out there. Simply mind blowing.
Our plane flies like hell to look for bait balls and our boats are cruising all over the ocean. My fuel bill is shooting through the roof, but…what can i do…
It is always our policy to give everything we have !!!

13.7. 2018 Sardine Run Day 24

Today again we had unbelievable whale and dolphin action. Our 3 boats came past a spot where lots of gannets were diving for sardines. Unfortunately there was no bait ball.
Tomorrow 16 guests are departing. I really would have wished them to finish the adventure with great bait ball action, but mother nature did not feel like loosing her sardine babies today. Good for them, they are having a reprieve in their stressful existence. ( maybe we could also look at it from this angle )
For the last 3 days we will be down to one boat.
Wonder what is going to happen , i bet the Sardine Run will kick in again with full force…
Protea Banks
Protea Banks was great today again. Claudia and Frank have come up from Coffee Bay and spend a week here with me on the banks.
We had 12 black tips on the baited shark dive plus 2 zams. It was crowned by a humpback whale who came by to watch the shark circus.
Our divers were ecstatic.

14.7. 2018 Sardine Run Day 25 Bait Ball

It is really cold today and the wind is hacking. Spike and his men are not sure if it is possible to launch today.
Beulah and i want to make sure that we use every opportunity to take our guests out to sea, but safety must always come first.
It is completely low tide this morning. Rocks and low water levels in the river mouth combines with huge waves rolling by force us to call it off for now.
We will assess the situation later.
Beulah organises a tour to Mapuzi Caves for everyone.
By 11am the wind starts calming and the returning tide has brought some water into the river. The launch is now possible. Safe.
Spike and his boat stays out until 16h00. Besides the usual whale and dolphin activity they find a Bait Ball. We are so relieved. The waiting was worth it. The Sardine Run 2018 is not yet finished !!!
Unfortunately today we have a great departure day. 14 guests are leaving. It is sad when we have a good day and so many people can’t experience it with us.
We are down to one boat now, crewed by Spike and Marco.
Steve, Brian,Jan and Ole are coming back to Margate today and with them the first boat.
I am anxious to get all my toys back. Very nervous. So far the damages to our equipment were not too bad.
Just before Port Shepstone Steve and the boys have a blown trailer tyre. I think it is tyre number 4 or so.
The way this tyre blew up is most unusual though. It looks as if the entire tyre was cut in thousand equal strips….never seen this before….

15.7. 2018 Sardine Run Day 26 Bait Balls

Today we have yet another crazy good day on the sardine run. We got a number of bait balls. Not just one, not just two but quite a few. just what we needed. !!!
The day turns out to be really great.
What a pleasure to finish off this season on such a high note.
Tomorrow is our last day on the Sardine Run 2018. Some of the last guests did not want to go out to sea today. Wanted to dry their equipment rather…???
Drying equipment ? Really ???
Today is one of the best days on our Sardine Run. And there are some people who are rather drying their equipment !!! Can anybody believe this !!!
There is the Golden Rule : Never miss the last dive/day
Those who did not miss it will never forget it….

16.7. 2018 Sardine Run Day 27

I can hardly believe it, but today is the last day of our Sardine Run 2018 program.
The Mellingers from Switzerland are our last guests on the boat. We give them everything we have for the last time. Of course everybody is just itchy to go home now. But our last day must be completed as well as our first day.
We did not have any bait balls today but therefore we had a whopping 20m visibility in the water and incredible whale action.
Believe it, 20m vis. We never had such clear water on the sardine run, ever !! Magic.
Unfortunately our chief photographer has already left for Margate, so there won’t be any pics to see.
My poor Beulah was 27 days on the sardine run, plus 4 days before and 3 days after.
Almost 5 weeks she was absent from home and our little doggie family. We miss her like hell.. Usually there are always a couple of times when i can shoot down to Coffee Bay to see Beulah and show my face to my clients. But this year i was too busy here on Protea Banks to even consider driving down. I think, i had one or two days without diving Protea.
Thursday she will come home. I am as excited as a teenager in love. !!!
Hopefully all the changes i did on our house will be acceptable to her. I am not really the greatest interior designer….eish.
But our friends Frank and Claudia, Fabian and Svenja all liked my work. Karen thinks, our shower looks like a hotel shower. This is the best compliment she could have made. Now i know, Beulah will like it.

18.7. 2018

Our Sardine Run 2018 is over.
Since we started with the Sardine Run Program 10 years ago, we had better and better results every year. This year was by far the ultimate. Unbelievable.
One had to be part of this adventure, one had to be lucky as well and one had to keep an open horizon.
Then, if all comes together, our people had an experience of pure nature which nobody will ever forget again.
We had a tremendous amount of Bait Balls which is the ultimate adventure on the sardine run.
This year’s super bait ball lasted six hours !!! Nobody cam imagine this !! 6 hours.
There were sharks, dolphins, gannets and 7 brydes whales on it.
They hunted, they ate, they swallowed non stop.
Those massive whales grabbed sardines right next to the divers, giving them the most unique and hair-raising show. Like a front end loader they shovelled up the sards.
But also the countless smaller bait balls had full on action. Often we encountered hundreds of sharks, more than ever before. Thousands of dolphins, really, can anybody imagine such numbers !!!
We had gannets raining out of the sky…
And of course we also had quiet days, days when we didn’t see any sardines even.
But on these days we had excellent whale activity where our guests could photograph these huge animals above and under water in almost touching distance. It was the whales which came to the people, not the people harassing the whales. Make no mistake, these animals are just as curious in us as we are in them.
We had superposes of dolphins which stretched over several kilometres .
Absolutely brilliant. Ocean Action. This is the Sardine Run.
We also had an extreme storm hitting the Coffee Bay area and cut off the electricity for 4 days. Life became difficult after a couple of days. Luckily the hotel had a small generator which kept the kitchen and the restaurant going. Eventually all our guests were able to have a hot shower in one bathroom which was heated by the generator.
Quite an inconvenience but in true adventure fashion, the people involved appreciated the opportunity rather than cried about the lack of it. The spirit was magic.
Nobody got injured on this year’s sardine run, nobody needed any medical attention, nobody suffered any loss whatsoever.
I think, this is an excellent testimony !!
Beulah, Spike and their crews were unbeatable. Our staff were completely disciplined and therefore they were able to do their jobs 100% right.
When i phoned Beulah around 20h00 every day, our staff were already all in their rooms….
Yesterday boat number 2 arrived safely at home. Together with the boat came our new tractor.
Today Spike, Steve and Marco arrived back and with them the third and last boat.
The boats don’t look like new anymore, but the actual damage on the equipment is not too bad. Nothing a welder, a bit of fibreglass resin and a strong arm can’t polish back to life.
And tomorrow my Beulah will finally be back home. Five crazy weeks went by. I was at home alone and Beulah ran the ship down in Coffee Bay. She has done a tremendous job. Beulah can work like nobody else !!!
Of course i was shopping today.
The house id full of balloons and flowers. The fridge is full of special treats.
Soon everything will be back to normal. Game over…
For 2019 we have already over 60 bookings. Excellent.
Bookings are open : 15.6. 2019 – 20.7. 2019

27.7. 2018

And finally the Great White Shark we saw on Protea Banks the other day
Photo curtesy Garry Lombard – the lucky devil…

In June and July everything goes about the Sardine Run. Millions of people from around the world tune into our social media sites and blogs and follow the incredible events the ocean allows us to be part of.
As we are participating in this crazy event we have to keep our stuff up to date all the time. We do get hits and views into the tens of thousands. It is an amazing platform to promote our business as well as our country.
But it is also a tremendous amount of stress and hard work.
As we don’t sit in our office all day but are actively involved in the life as it happens, we have very little time and energy left in the evenings to write about what happened during the day.
Often there is not enough being reported about the amazing dives we have done on Protea Banks in the meantime.
We had whales on scuba time and time again. This is an experience like not many. At first you think you see a submarine until it sinks in that you are actually looking at a huge whale. Every year we get more of these sightings. Karen and Holger each had 3 whale sightings in one dive….unbelievable.
Although our tiger shark season was not the greatest, we still see tiger sharks on several dives even as late as end of July. So maybe things have just shifted a bit and we have much hope that all is not lost when it comes to diving with tiger sharks.
Today we had sightings of 2 tigers….
Our Raggies came in huge numbers early in May already. We estimated in excess of several hundred. Then the numbers went down steadily until we had about a constant 10 sharks left on the Banks.
Today we saw several hundred Raggies again…..
Our Bull sharks also all but disappeared for the last couple of months. This was supposed to be a strong bull shark season but it was difficult to see one every now and then.
Lately they returned and are visible again.
On the other hand we had hundreds of hammerheads in July when we are supposed to see none…
Who knows what is going on !!!
I don’t really think we need to be worried about our sharks on Protea Banks.
Although our sightings are weird …they are still as wonderful as ever !!!
In other words, we do see more sharks than before albeit not in the usual pattern we have got to know.
Hopefully this is just in line with my belief that us humans simply don’t know enough about the sea to be able to make any assumptions.
He who does is arrogant…..
Okay then. Let’s go home…
See you in 2019