The winter months along the KZN South Coast bring with them sunny days, incredible ocean conditions, and the greatest shoal on earth – the Sardine Run! This subtropical paradise provides seaside visitors with front-row seats to this world-renowned spectacle that features billions of sardines followed in hot pursuit by marine life in all shapes and sizes.
“The Sardine Run is a highlight on the KZN South Coast’s tourism calendar, and we’re looking forward to welcoming visitors who can finally experience this natural display after two years in lockdown and the devastating recent floods,” said CEO of Ugu South Coast Tourism (USCT), Phelisa Mangcu. “Whether from the land, the sea or the sky, we have the best viewpoints for our many visitors who are looking for a really unique family-friendly holiday.”
Always keeping a close eye on the sardine action is Dr Ryan Daly of the Oceanographic Research Institute in Durban, and the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity. Commenting on this year’s Sardine Run, Daly said conditions are set for it to, hopefully, be another bumper year.
“What we know about the sardines so far is that there appears to be a lot in the Western Cape with sightings in the Plettenberg Bay area,” said Daily. “We know they’re down in the Cape, the question is will they come up here?”
Although recent floods in KZN caused a surge in water and debris into the Indian Ocean, Daly said the impact on the ocean has largely passed, and it shouldn’t impact the Sardine Run which is expected to arrive around May.
“Temperature is the main thing that dictates the timing and extent of the movement up the coast. It has been an unusual couple of years in that they’ve been very wet. But 2020 and 2021 were relatively good Sardine Runs, both of which were similarly wet being La Niña years. It’s holding the same pattern, so I think we’re going to get another good one. But we’ll have to wait and see!”
Greg Thompson, operations manager at the KZN Sharks Board, said they would start their Sardine Run monitoring in the second week of May.
“Our first few flights are normally through to East London to try and gauge how far north the sardines have moved,” explained Thompson. “This is to ensure that our shark safety gear is removed well before the first pockets reach KZN waters.
“As we all know it’s fairly easy to monitor large quantities of sardines with associated predators in pursuit, but the small pilot shoals that pop up out of nowhere can be a challenge. Therefore, we also rely on the information and sightings we receive from the residents, fisherman and dive charters in the Eastern Cape. Let’s hope we are in for another bumper year of sardine fever!”
What is the #SardineRun?
The Sardine Run is an incredible annual phenomenon, believed to be the planet’s biggest biomass migration. Billions of these silver fish move northwards towards warmer waters, swimming past the KZN South Coast from May. The shoal comes incredibly close to shore, attracting anglers and seine net fishermen who capture the fish for commercial sale.
But beyond the human interest in these fish, the Sardine Run provides many marine animals with a wholesome meal. Flocks of seabirds – cormorants, gulls and terns – can be seen diving into the waters, while dolphins, game fish and even whales feast on the salty fish. Sharks – copper, dusky, blacktip and spinner – also join in the feast, making this one of the best marine viewing opportunities.
Visitors to the KZN South Coast can enjoy the show from the shoreline if preferred. Those looking for more of a close-up experience can charter a boat out to see, and even scuba dive or free dive with local tour guides. The view is impressive from the skies with local microlight operators taking tourists on viewing trips.
This is also when the annual whale migration gets underway – another epic ocean experience. Watch as the humpback and southern right whales head northwards towards Mozambique from the seaside or from the many whale decks at Umtentweni Conservancy Whale Deck, Ramsgate Whale Deck, Impithi Beach Kiosk, and Umdoni Golf Club Whale Deck.
There’s so much to ‘sea and do’ on the KZN South Coast
The Sardine Run is just one of the exciting attractions to the Paradise of the Zulu Kingdom. Visitors are spoilt for choice in this natural haven that boasts a number of family-friendly, outdoor activities. These include:
- Boating or diving adventures at two world-renowned dive sites, Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks;
- Blue Flag Beaches for swimming, snorkelling, rock pool exploring, surfing, kayaking and more;
- Deep-sea fishing or rock-and-surf angling in some of the best spots;
- Tidal pools for protected bathing;
- Rickshaw Rides’ along the Margate beachfront;
- Incredible golfing at any of the 11 golf courses;
- Trail hiking, biking, and 4×4 adventures in the hinterland;
- Extreme adventures including gorge swinging, ziplining, white-water rafting and abseiling;
- Authentic rural excursions at KwaXolo Caves Adventures, the KwaNzimakwe Multi-Trails, the Nyandezulu Experience and Ntelezi Msani Heritage Centre;
- A farmland experience on the KZN South Coast Agri-CULTURE Tours;
- View the Mzamba fossils in the Petrified Forest; and
- Unmatched birdwatching including a visit to the Oribi Vulture Viewing Hide;
… and many more!
To keep updated on the Sardine Run, download the free ‘Explore KZN South Coast’ app from Google Play and Apple stores, check out ‘South Coast Tourism’ on Facebook or YouTube, @infosouthcoast on Twitter or Instagram, or ‘Info Ugu South Coast Tourism’ on LinkedIn.
Follow the hashtags #seaanddo #greatestshoalonearth #sardinerun #subtropicalparadise #kznsouthcoast. Visit www.visitkznsouthcoast.co.za for more information on tourism offerings.