Anyone for the Sardine run?

South Africa is one of those amazing destinations when it doesn’t matter what time of the year you are visiting, there is always something to see!  The various climatic zones between all the provinces means you have a wide choice of destinations, whenever you wish to travel.

Although June is winter in the southern hemisphere (hence the 1st of June prompting this article!), it is the start of some fabulous wildlife activities.  The winter months (June, July & August) are actually the best months for Big 5 viewing in the Kruger National Park and Sabi Sand – the bush is dry and the animals are far easier to spot.

The other phenomenon that starts around this time is the Ocean activity along the warm Indian Ocean coastline.  June sees the beginning of the annual “Sardine Run” (there have been 4 non-runs since 1980).  This marvel takes place along the Kwa-Zulu Natal coastline and is an absolute feeding frenzy!  The sardines are heading North, to Mozambique where they will then leave the coastline and go further East into the Indian Ocean.  There is still little known about this magnificent migration but it is believed in biomass (animal matter), to rival the massive wildebeest migration that occurs in East Africa!

The impressive Sardine Run off the Natal Coastline

The millions of sardines form shoals – their instinctive behavior when threatened is to group together, lone individuals are more likely to be eaten than large groups.  The shoals can be up to 7km long, 1.5km wide and 30 meters deep! They are clearly visible from the air or from the surface, and sometimes they actually come so close to shore they’re beached by the incoming tide.

The feeding frenzy occurs with hundreds of “predators” following these massive shoals.  Up to 3,000 dolphins join in the on the excitement, rounding up the shoals into bait balls.  This entices the sharks, as well as big game fish like kingfish and tuna, seals also turn up for their share and then adding to the chaos from the air, are the sea birds.  Picture tens of thousands of Cape Gannets, Cormorants, Turns and Gulls stalling in mid-air, and then plunging headlong into the Ocean.  It is one of THE  scenes to witness!

Diving among the sardines is not for the fainthearted!  There are options for this activity (if you are feeling brave), as well as snorkeling.  There are boat expeditions allowing for surface viewing or big game fishing trips, or there is the option of pier fishing for those just looking to be a part of the action.  The Natal coastline is a must for any addition to a Kwa-Zulu Natal vacation or add-on to a Safari!  Even if sardines are not high on your priority list, the warm Indian Ocean provides buckets of entertainment!

I should be heading along the Natal coastline in a couple of weeks, so keep tuned in if you are interested to find out if I manage to catch this awesome natural phenomenon!

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