Sardine Run | Incredible photos of the annual South African sardine run!
Photo Cred: Ugu South Coast Tourism 

The Sardine Run is around the corner and this is how you can enjoy it this season, whether watching from a whale deck or other adventurous ways…


South Coast, South Africa (24 May 2024) – The ‘Greatest Shoal on Earth’ is set to arrive on the KZN 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, 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, a number of factors can influence the start and end dates. The water needs to cool, so it’s best to wait for 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 in which 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, making it a spectacular event.

Beth Neale - South African ‘Mermaid’ freediving champion films KZN South Coast’s Sardine Run
Photo Cred: Beth Neale

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 Prof Peter Teske from the University of Johannesburg who says:

“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 run to monitor activity and remove shark safety gear ahead of the run so that the animals can move freely. SCTIE keeps in constant contact with the KZN Sharks Board, sharing regular updates via social media platforms (listed below).

Wayne Harrison, of the KZN Sharks Board, said there had 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?

Deborah Ludick, Acting CEO of SCTIE, shares, “The Sardine Run is best experienced on the KZN South Coast where tourism operators are ready to welcome visitors! We’re fortunate that the Sardine Run migration gives visitors to the area front-row seats of this globally renowned phenomenon.”

Here are some exciting ways to experience the Sardine Run:

  • From boats: Numerous charter boats offer close-up experiences, including snorkelling or scuba diving at Aliwal Shoal or Protea Banks, or deep-sea fishing adventures.
  • From viewing decks: Enjoy the action from beaches or whale decks like Umtentweni Conservancy Whale Deck, Ramsgate Whale Deck, Impithi Beach Kiosk, and Umdoni Golf Club Whale Deck.
  • From the eateries: Relish delicious seafood meals and refreshing cocktails with a view at ocean-facing pubs, bars, and restaurants along the KZN South Coast.
  • From the skies: Take to the air in a microlight, helicopter, or light aircraft for a unique perspective of the Sardine Run. Experienced local pilots offer flights that provide stunning aerial views of this marine spectacle.

Catch the Sardine Run on the KZN South Coast where ocean sunrises and hinterland adventures await! Keep updated on all the Sardine Run action by visiting the KZN South Coast website.

Incredible photos of the annual South African sardine run!
Photo Cred: Ugu South Coast Tourism

Sources: KZN South Coast
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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