The Sardine Run is heading for the KZN South Coast!

The “Greatest Shoal on Earth” is set to arrive on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast shores in the coming weeks, bringing with it one of the best ocean spectacles.

For those who haven’t experienced the Sardine Run before, the South Coast Tourism & Investment Enterprise (SCTIE) has put together this Sardine Run Starter Pack to make things simpler:

When is the Sardine Run?

It traditionally takes place in the winter months, June and July – but as with any natural phenomenon, there are a number of factors that can influence the start and end dates. The water needs to cool, so it’s best to wait for the confirmed reports when the water temperature drops. On the KZN South Coast, it’s believed that when the aloes are in full bloom, the annual Sardine Run is on its way!

What is the Sardine Run?

The sardine run is a global migration whereby millions of southern African pilchards – also known as sardines – move along the coastline in massive shoals that stretch on for miles. The movement is impressive in itself, but it also attracts hungry marine predators including dolphins, sharks, whales, seabirds and game fish, which make this a spectacular event.

Why does the Sardine Run happen?

Research has been done into the migration, as there appears to be little reason for the fish to migrate. It’s believed the Sardine Run happens because of the sardines’ reproductive cycle. The sardines originate from South Africa’s cool-temperate Atlantic coast, moving along the coastline to the temporary cold-water upwelling off the southeast coast.

A Times Live report quotes Professor Peter Teske from the University of Johannesburg, who explains: “This is a rare finding in nature, since there are no obvious fitness benefits for the migration, so why do they do it? We think the sardine migration might be a relic of spawning behaviour dating back to the glacial period. What is now subtropical Indian Ocean habitat was then an important sardine nursery area with cold waters.”

Who monitors the Sardine Run?

The KZN Sharks Board monitors the Sardine Run to keep a watch on the activity and remove shark safety gear ahead of the run for the animals to move freely. SCTIE keeps in constant contact with the KZN Sharks Board, with regular updates shared via social media platforms.  

Wayne Harrison of the KZN Sharks Board says there has been already been significant activity noted in the East London region: “There have been a lot of big game fish spotted, as well as Bryde’s whales, with bait balls in the north East London region. So far, it looks as if this will be a good year for the Sardine Run, which is heading this way – but we are certainly monitoring the activity and will keep the public updated.”

How can you experience the Sardine Run?

“The Sardine Run is best experienced on the KZN South Coast where tourism operators are ready to welcome visitors,” says Deborah Ludick, acting CEO of SCTIE. “We’re fortunate that the Sardine Run migration gives visitors to the area front-row seats of this globally renowned phenomenon that has featured in several global documentaries. There are so many ways to experience it from land, sea and sky – it just depends on your preference!”

From boats: There are many charter boats that will take guests out for a close-up experience of the annual Sardine Run. These include watching from the boat, snorkelling or scuba diving at Aliwal Shoal or Protea Banks, or deep-sea fishing.

From viewing decks: Catch the Sardine Run action and whale migration from the beaches or one of the many whale decks including Umtentweni Conservancy Whale Deck, Ramsgate Whale Deck, Impithi Beach Kiosk, and Umdoni Golf Club Whale Deck.

From eateries: The KZN South Coast has many ocean-facing pubs, bars and restaurants that serve delicious seafood meals with great views. Take in the Sardine Run while enjoying a cocktail or a great dish.

From the skies: Get another perspective by checking out the Sardine Run from a microlight, helicopter or light aircraft. There are experienced local pilots who organise flights over this ocean spectacle.

Image credit: SCTIE

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