Initially the sardines spawn in the cool waters of the Agulhas Bank through spring and early summer. Most of the fish stay in the cooler waters of the Atlantic Ocean and end up along the West coast of Africa.
It is thought that the run on the East coast, containing millions of individual sardines, occurs when a current of cold water heads north from the Agulhas Bank up to Mozambique where it then leaves the coast line and goes further East out into the Indian Ocean.
In terms of biomass, researchers estimate the sardine run could rival East Africa’s great wildebeest migration. However, little is known of the phenomenon. It is believed that the water temperature has to drop below 21°C in order for the migration to take place.
Sardines group together when they are threatened. This instinctual behaviour is a defense mechanism as individuals are more likely to be eaten than large groups. These bait balls can be 10-20 metres in diameter and extend to a depth of 10 meters. The bait balls are short lived and seldom last longer than 10 minutes. What we’re after on our adventure is the predators that come along to feed on these shoals. Bryde’s whales, common dolphins (by the mega pod) bottle nose dolphins, many many species of shark)
It is thought that dolphins (estimated as being up to 18,000 in number, mostly the common dolphin but also the bottlenose dolphin) are largely responsible for rounding up the sardines into bait balls. Once the sardines are rounded up, sharks (primarily the bronze whaler, but also dusky shark, blacktip shark and zambezi shark), game fish (like shad or elf, king mackerel, various kingfish species, garrick, geelbek, sail fish and eastern little tuna) whales (brydes whale & hump backs) and birds (like the Cape gannet, cormorants, terns and gulls) take advantage of the opportunity.
The Cape Fur Seal follows the shoals up the Eastern Cape coastline as far as Port St Johns.
As the sardines move North, their behaviour based on the water temperature is less predictable but can sometimes reach as far as Durban before heading out to sea to continue their annual migration.
Day 2: 2 dives at Aliwal Shoal – Baited Shark dive or reef or wreck
Day 3: 1 dive at Aliwal Shoal – Baited Shark dive or reef or wreck; transfer to Port Saint Johns
Day 4: Sardine Run Ocean Safari
Day 5: Sardine Run Ocean Safari
Day 6: Sardine Run Ocean Safari
Day 7: Sardine Run Ocean Safari
Day 8: Sardine Run Ocean Safari
Day 9: Transfer to airport for departure. NB!!! FLIGHTS AFTER 16h00
Please note: Because of the manner of the boat launch and beaching as well as possible uncomfortable sea conditions, it is advisable that those of limited mobility, frailty or with back problems limit themselves to land-based viewing. For those prone to sea sickness, bring along some ginger tablets available at any chemist without prescription or consult your health care professional.