With the autumn weather cooling down the coastal waters, the world-famous “Greatest Shoal on Earth” has been spotted along the South African eastern shores, with the Sardine Run on track to hit the KZN South Coast in the coming weeks.
“The incredible Sardine Run is one of our area’s biggest tourism attractions, and sightings of this immense shoal have already been reported nearby in the Eastern Cape, so we’re optimistic this will be a good year for visitors to have front-row seats to the spectacle,” said CEO of Ugu South Coast Tourism, Phelisa Mangcu.
What is the Sardine Run?
This annual phenomenon, which is considered the planet’s greatest biomass migration, sees billions of silver sardines head northwards with the best viewing along the KZN south coast shoreline. The shoals are concentrated near the surface of the water, close to the shore, and attract many marine predators.
The feeding frenzy welcomes a variety of shark species such as the copper, dusky, blacktip and spinner, joined by big gamefish such as shad, garrick and geelbek. Dolphins, and even whales, can be seen feeding on the delicious silver fish, driving them towards the surface where, overhead, marine birds such as cormorants, gulls and terns plummet from the skies into the water in search of sardine.
Commercial fishermen flock to the beaches, using seine nets to encircle the fish, which are then dragged ashore and scooped into baskets. This social occasion also sees recreational anglers and other interested parties heading to the shores with baskets and nets to get their fill of fish, which are then used in meals or sold for bait.
South coast’s many seaside attractions
Tourists visiting this winter spectacle are invited to either watch from the shores of the KZN south coast or embark on a deep-sea adventure with many tour operators chartering boats for a close-up viewing and some fantastic fishing. But for a real Sardine Run experience, visitors can immerse themselves in the coastal waters, scuba diving or freediving with tour operators amidst the sardine excitement.
The year-round sunny weather and temperate climate of the KZN south coast means that, even in the winter months, there’s so much to be enjoyed at the seaside. Divers can take advantage of two world-renowned sites which happen to be marine protected areas – Aliwal Shoal (off Umkomaas) and Protea Banks (off Shelly Beach).
However, if a more relaxed seaside experience is on the cards, then there are several golden sandy beaches waiting to be explored here, five of which have Blue Flag status at Marina, Trafalgar, Southport, Umzumbe and Hibberdene. These provide tourists with world-class standards in terms of environmental, safety and quality. There are many rock pools to be explored and the KZN south coast is also home to the most tidal pools in the province, offering protected bathing conditions.
In addition to the deep-sea fishing opportunities, there’s also the incredible shore angling found here, with many rock-and-surf fishing spots along the shoreline. But beyond angling, the unmatched conditions along these beaches make for great surfing, with international surfers attracted to Umzumbe, Shelly Beach, St Michael’s-on-Sea, Scottburgh, Southbroom, Margate, Port Edward and Lucien Beach. Stand-up paddling, kayaking, windsurfing and snorkelling are also some of the other watersport activities enjoyed here.
The annual Sardine Run also happens to coincide with the whale migration as the humpback and southern right whales head northwards towards Mozambique. These magnificent creatures can be spotted breaching 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.
Don’t miss out on the Sardine Run 2021. Head on down to the KZN south coast.