Sardine Run – The Greatest Shoal on Earth

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What is it?

The Sardine Run is an epic wildlife event. Billion of sardines migrate northward along the South African coast following a current of cold water coming from the Agulhas Bank. The run begins when the water temperature drops below 21° C. The huge migration attracts thousands of dolphins, sharks, game fish, seagulls, and different species of whales.

During the Sardine Run the shoals can be more than 7 km long, 1.5 km wide and 30 meters deep and it is visible from ultralight planes.

Dolphins at the sardine run

Where is it?

The Sardine Run starts in the waters of Agulhas Bank, shallow part of the southern African continental shelf, situated south of Cape Agulhas.

The best place to dive with the shoals is in the Wild Coast, in the waters in front of Port St. Johns.

A blacktip shark

When is it?

The whole migrations happens every year, depending of many factors, one of this is the water temperature, from May through July.

The best time, where you have more chances to live the Sardine Run is between the end of June and the beginning of July.

Game fish at the Sardine Run

Why it is so special

Amazing sea life

The shoals of sardines along the coast attracts many different species of predator. While in the Sardine Run you can see:

  • Thousands of dolphins: Common and Bottlenose Dolphins.
  • Thousands of sharks: Bronze Whaler, Dusky, Grey Nurse, Blacktip, Spinner and Zambezi Shark.
  • Thousands of game fish: Bluefish, King Mackerel, Garrick, Geelbek and Eastern Little Tuna.
  • Thousands of birds: Cape Gannet, Cormorants, Terns and Gulls.
  • Hundreds of whales: Blue and Humpback Whales.
  • READ ON: Top 8 Sharks you can Encounter in South Africa

A blacktip oceani shark near a baitball

Bait balls

Bait balls are the main reason for many divers to join the Sardine Run.

Dolphins round up the sardines into bait ball by swimming around the sardine and relising bubbles, this scares the sardines and pushes them to the surface.

These bait balls are formed by thousands of sardines and can be 10–20 metres in diameter and extend to a depth of 10 metres.

Once the bait ball is formed all the the other predators take advantage of the opportunity. The average lifespan of a bait ball is around 10 minutes.

A humpback whale at the Sardine Run


As we mentioned above the bait balls are the main attraction for many divers but, in my opinion, what is really amazing about being at the Sardine Run is the quantity and diversity of sea life that you can see. We’re stated to call this experience Seafari because it is very similar to a safari but is done in the sea. Everyday that you’re out on the boat everything can happen and everything can be seen.

A whale close to our boat

Live it!

Every year we organise the Sardine Run for a small and selected group of divers. The most expert guides, the best lodges and the most exclusive activities are waiting for us in South Africa.

Sardine Run photo gallery

A selection of the best pictures we took during the various Sardine Run.

Sardine Run videos

The video we shoot at the Sardine Run.