The Sardine Run is one of the few trips we organise for groups and not for private or couple divers. South Africa is a great place to experience with a small but selected group of divers and friends.
Not being a close up destination for most of our clients, we wanted the trip to be worthwhile at its best and the two-weeks program waiting for them was just amazing.
As you probably know, South Africa’s sea has much more to offer then the solo Sardine Run; in South Africa you can dive with a numerous different species of sharks and you can even cage diving with the great white shark.
First part: Baited dives in Umkomaas
We landed in Durban in the middle of the South African winter on the 26th of June, but was not really what you would expect finding on classic winter season: sunny days were welcoming us with average of 22º temperature.
A nice lodge with pool and BBQ facility, in the centre of Umkomaas is where we spent the first five nights. We did two dives in the morning and had the afternoons free to browse around and relax.
Aliwal Shoal, the diving spot in front of Umkomaas, is famous for the numerous blacktip sharks that you can attract in the baited dives, the huge groupers (up to 500 kg) you can find in its wrecks and the quite sand tiger sharks that relax along the reef.
While swimming around with 30 to 40 blacktip sharks in the baited dives was just unbelievable, we also enjoyed very much the reef dives where eels, rays, colourful coral and big swarms of reef fish were keeping us busy with our cameras.
Second part: Sardine Run and Seafari
For the second part of our journey we drove 350 km south to reach Port St. Johns, the famous place where to enjoy the Sardine Run, when billions of sardines move northward along the east coast of South Africa.
Their sheer numbers create a feeding frenzy along the coastline, attracting predators ready for the banquet: dolphins, sharks, whales and birds taking advantage of the opportunity given.
Dolphins were just everywhere, gannets flying in the sky and then hitting the water trying to catch the sardines that were coming to the surface, but the most amazing of all where without any doubt the humpback whales, so many of them, breaching near the boat or jumping out of the water for several meters.
We saw them on the surface, “in the air” and underwater, we heard their singing and felt the breeze of the fresh water they spray in the sky when they breath… something you’ll never forget.
In the 5 days spent there one realized how the Sardine Run is much more a Seafari (from sea and safari). Spending the day on the boat and looking to what happens in a such rich-of-live sea makes you really think on nature and its magic.
And who else could our guide be, if not Cormac McCreesh, Editor and Director of AfricanDiver.com, one of the most experienced guides and connoisseurs of african wildlife in South Africa. Only the best partners for Élite Diving Agency!
- JOIN US: Sardine Run – South Africa
Third part: Protea Banks
Going back north we stopped two night in a delicious and spectacular Villa in Mersgate, only few minutes away from Shelly Beach. Protea Banks is the reef in front of this city. Here all is very similar to Aliwal Shoal, reef and baited dives are conducted on a daily basis; the difference is that here you have many more chances to see bull and dusky sharks. We didn’t only see both of them, but we even saw a group of hammer heads and more sand tigers. The water here is most of the time much clearer than the Aliwal Shoal and you can always take really good shots and footages.
The magical moment? When we heard the whales singing underwater!!! Wow!!!
All of this, thanks to “The Man” in Protea Banks, Rowland Mauz. He runs the very best of operations in Shelly Beach.
Fourth part: Great White Shark
Durban to Cape Town it’s a couple of hours by plane, then one more hour to reach Simon’s Town where we could rest for a few nights in really cosy and comfortable hotel in the middle of the city and just in front of the harbour.
The area is one of the best in the world to spot the great white shark, we went cage diving for two days in a row, early in the morning, at dusk, to sea this magnificent creature. Everyone in the group saw it really good, both underwater and flying in the sky. We went sailing with the vessel of Rob Lawrence, one of the best experts and photographers on Great Whites in South Africa. His spottings on the “Flying Jaws” were AMAZING!!! “Look over there!” and a second later… WHAAAAM… here comes the King flying out of the sea!! Again, for EDA, only the best of partners!!!
We spent the first afternoon diving with the Seven Gill Cow Shark, one of the most antique and interesting species of sharks and the second afternoon we’ve been browsing the famous area of Stellenbosch and tasting delicious South African wine. Graeme Grant has proved to be really a great professional, with his organization, kindness, knowledge and experience on the spot. He accompanied us from the arrival in Cape Town, on the Great White experience, in the water with the Cow Sharks, on the tours, from the Penguins of Boulders Beach to the very top of Table Mountain… Not forgetting the spectacular and fabulous experiences of the Wine Tastings… Graeme is there!!!
It’s your turn
Have you been to the Sardine Run once in your life? If yes we would love to hear your story in the comments below. If no then is something you should definitely put in your todo list, check out this year programme.