Sardine run feeding frenzy
Did you know?
The sardine run coincides with the annual northward migration of humpback whales.
The sardine run is a unique and only partly explained phenomenon that sees millions of sardines - more specifically, southern African pilchards – travelling up the east coast of South Africa. This event can take place anytime from May to July, at any spot over a 650 kilometre long shoreline.
Some years it may not occur at all, but when it does, the arrival of the fish leads to a feeding frenzy among sharks, dolphins and sea birds and provides an exciting opportunity to experience this spectacle while snorkelling or scuba diving in South Africa.
In terms of biomass, researchers estimate the sardine run rivals East Africa's great blue wildebeest migration. It is believed that the water temperature has to drop below 21 degrees Celcius in order for the migration to happen, but very little is actually known about the reasons behind the event. The shoals are often more than seven kilometres long, 1,5 kilometres wide and 30 meters deep and are clearly visible from spotter planes or from the surface.
By swimming closely together the tiny fish minimise their chances of being taken by predators, but not all of the pilchards will stay safe from harm. Bottlenose and Common dolphins herd the fish like sheepdogs into a neat 'bait ball' before making a kill.
The numbers and variety of sharks that join in the feast is astounding: bronze whalers, Zambezis, hammerheads, coppers and great whites can be seen in their hundreds. Gulls, terns and gannets dive-bomb from above while orcas and penguins may also join the party.
The event is considered to be one of the greatest spectacles on earth and dive companies organise tours to see the phenomenon. But do bear in mind that chance plays a role and there are no guarantees of actually seeing the run.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0) 21 785 4775
Cell: +27 (0) 83 701 8473
Africa Dive Expeditions
Tel: +27 (0) 82 801 1276