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 The Wild Coast's annual 'Sardine Run' has become one of television's major documentaries.

The pilchard or sardine, Sardinops sagax, breeds in vast numbers on the Aghulas Banks of the the South African Eastern Cape Province. Sardines are not normally found in KwaZuluNatal's relatively warm waters where their preferred diet of planckton and small crustacea are not as abundant as in Cape waters. Every year, to a greater or lesser extent, a cooler countercurrent moving inshore from south to north against the prevaling north-south current tempts the sardines to expand their territory northwards.

The sardines are not, as commonly believed, in a single massed shoal. They are in what are known as pilot shoals and main shoals. The main shoals can be huge-many kilometres long. They are so densely packed that at times they deplete the sea's oxygen and huge numbers asphixiate- die of oxygen starvation. This huge source of food for predators is attended by hundreds of sharks- the Copper or Bronze Whaler shark

Carcharhinus brachyurus is by far the most numerous but Ragged Tooth, Blacktip, Dusky, Tiger and Zambezi (Bull) and Great White sharks are also in evidence. There are huge numbers of dolphins- around 20,000 Common Dolphins, 2,500 Bottlenose Dolphins and even Orca, the Killer Whale ( Orcinus orca ). The true whales Bryde's, Humpback and Minkes are also seen in large numbers.

Not all the predators are in the sea. The migration is followed by huge nubers of marine birds-Cape gannets, Common Terns, White Chin and Wilson's Storm Petrils, Sub Antartic Skua and Albatross- Black Browed, Grey Headed, Yellow Nosed and Shy Albatross.

Although not so common, we should see the Cape fur seal, Arctocephalus pusillus.

The numbers of sardines involved appears to vary according to the temperature and strength of the inshore countercurrent as does the exact locations of where the sardines appear and disappear from the coast. The most southern point for the sardines to appear is around East London in the Eastern Cape Province but it can be much further north. The sardines normally reach as far north as the Mtamvuna River then disappear out to sea at some point between Mtamvuna and Durban, again depending on the water temperature and current strength. This means that to have a reasonable chance of seeing sardines in large numbers- and, of course, the sharks, Dolphins, Whales and other associated species- one must be located on the 'Wild Coast' between the Kei and Mtamvuna Rivers.

In Natal or the Cape below the Kei River, the chances of seeing the larger shoals exist but we are talking maybe a 25% possibility. For this reason and despite the difficult logistics involved, we base ourselves in the middle of the Wild Coast at Port St Johns. There are no dive clubs established in this remote area so we must take our own boat, compressor and dive team to raise that 25% possibilty to closer to 100%.

Diving Conditions

 We are planning to show you one of the Earth's most spectacular natural phenomenums- the migration of millions upon millions of sardines and the vast numbers of predators which prey on them. This is not a routine dive where we can take an 08h30 launch and a short run to the dive site. We are going to launch early and spend many, many hours at sea. No time to ask for help to get your wetsuit on. Sometimes we will come across shark or Dolphin-maybe Orca-activity and there is no time even to grab your cylinder-just mask, snorkel and fins and in we go. Lots of waiting and when it happens- lots of quick action.

Not all activity is below the waves. We shall spend very productive time in the boat observing, filming and photographing the huge flocks of birds diving into the sardine shoals, the Whales consumming---how many sardines in a single mouthfull.

Remember, 90% of the activity can be seen from the boat itself- you do not have to enter the water to see it. Of course, to scuba dive amongst so many sharks, dolphins and whales is every diver's dream but we often have so little time to view a fast action bait ball that divers prefer to jump straight in with just mask, fins and snorkel to not miss a second of the action

This adventure is not for everyone. There are long days at sea and adrenalin pumping encounters with unimaginable numbers of marine animals. If this is really your 'thing' it will be the holiday of a lifetime. If you are seasick after half an hour at sea.............

The cost and details of this Adventure can be seen here

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