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5 epic ways to catch the Sardine Run

Dolphin activity is often used to track the sardine run, dubbed the Greatest Shoal on Earth, along the KZN coast. Picture: Kobus Mare

Dolphin activity is often used to track the sardine run, dubbed the Greatest Shoal on Earth, along the KZN coast. Picture: Kobus Mare

Published Jul 13, 2022

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Durban ‒ The annual Sardine Run is a world-renowned phenomenon, accompanied by some of the best diving. With the Marine Protected Area (MPA) Aliwal Shoal just offshore, Rocky Bay has become a prime dive site for everyone from beginners to advanced level – with the winter Sardine Run making it a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“This year, we’ve seen some great Sardine Run action offshore of Rocky Bay, which is great for visitors watching from the shoreline as well as those wanting an up-close experience,” said Annien Koulountis, resorts manager at Rocky Bay Resorts. “There are various options at Rocky Bay including boat trips; snorkelling among dolphins, rays and fish; shark cage diving; scuba diving and more. We’re fortunate that, with our warm Indian Ocean, this is the country’s warmest place for diving in winter.”

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How to witness the Sardine Run in Rocky Bay on the mid-South Coast

1. Watch from the shoreline

Koulountis said for those watching from the shoreline, there was lots of marine action: “At this time of year, the ocean is truly alive, with the humpback whale migration underway and lots of whales breaching. There has also been bait ball activity associated with the Sardine Run, including birds diving and dolphins frolicking. For those interested in aerial viewing, there are also paraglider and microlight tours available locally.”

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2. Dive or snorkel

“This is such an exciting time of year for boat rides and diving because of all the migrations that are happening at the same time – the Sardine Run, the humpback whale migration and the start of the ragged tooth shark mating season,” explained Michelle Smith, owner of Mokarran Dive Charters, based at the resort.

“This makes for epic boat rides, snorkelling and diving which coincides perfectly with school holidays. Obviously, nature has her own rhythm which we cannot control, but that is exactly what makes these once-in-a-lifetime sightings so special.”

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Mokarran Dive Charters gives visitors a fun, personalised and professional experience, for first timers as well as experienced snorkellers and divers, from children to adults.

They offer "game drives“ out to sea through the surf zone, before travelling along the coast for some snorkelling at the reef. The team also offers PADI dive courses and recreational dives. Visit www.mokarrandive.com.

3. Shark cage diving

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“For visitors wanting a truly unique ocean experience, shark cage diving is a must-try,” said John Miller, owner of Shark Cage Diving KZN at Rocky Bay Resorts. “There are so many species of sharks found in our warm waters at Aliwal Shoal, making it one of the best spots to dive. At this time of year, we’re likely to see black tips, dusky and spinner sharks which grow up to two-and-a-half metres. It’s a completely safe and secure adventure, with no diving experience required, and we cater for everyone from six years of age ‒ even non-swimmers can participate.”

The steel cage is attached to the boat at all time for safety as per SAMSA regulations, with the team specialising in cage diving. The team will also enlighten visitors with talks on sharks, marine life, conservation and shark nets while doing surface viewing from the boat.

To check the options and costs, visit www.sharkcagedivingkzn.com

4. Deep-sea fishing

Rocky Bay Resorts is also home to Albacore Fishing Charters run by Lloyd Pellew and his team. He boasts decades of experience in fishing and boat charter, with seven charter boats available.

“From the beginning of June to end of July we have the annual Sardine Run which is really a must for everyone to witness,” said Pellew, who was born and raised in Rocky Bay and boasts more than five decades of fishing experience. “There are shoals and shoals of these silver fish moving up the coast, accompanied by hundreds of dolphins and birds.”

For queries and bookings, contact Pauline on 074 362 4206.

5. Microlighting or aircrafts

Take in the Greatest Shoal on Earth from the skies with World of Wings Flight School. Experienced pilot, Noel McDonogh, takes visitors and prospective pilots on training flights along the KZN South Coast around Rocky Bay. By taking to the air in a microlight or aeroplane, visitors enjoy a birds’ eye view of the Sardine Run action.

For more information or to book a flight, contact Noel at [email protected] or 072 117 5130.

Rocky Bay Resorts is running its Winter Warmer Special until the end of the month to give holidaymakers the best deal this winter. For more information or to book at the caravan park or a log cabin, https://enquiries.rockybay.co.za/.

To find out more about Rocky Bay diving, fishing, snorkelling, camping, and more, visit www.rockybay.co.za or like the @RockyBayResorts Facebook page.

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