KZN enjoying phenomenal 2018 Sardine Run but be alert for sharks, say experts

2018-06-20 12:30
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human diving into a shoal of sardines in south afr

The 2018 Sardine Run is in full swing on South Africa's Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal coasts. (Photo: iStock)

South African's KwaZulu-Natal is a winter-time playground, second to none. 

Adding to its appeal is the rather phenomenal sardine run - with 2018 being especially busy after a few rather dismal years, according to KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board's Mike Anderson-Reade.

“We haven’t witnessed this for ages. It’s a spectacle to see with hundreds of sharks following the shoals,” he says.

According to the North Coast Courier, fishermen have been averaging about 500 crates of sardines per net. The biggest net saw some 1 000 crated filled on Sunday 18 June. 

The Natal Sharks Board has also warned swimmers that sharks are far more active closer to the beaches, as a result of the Sardine Run. 

The bulk of South Africa's sardine stock is found in the cooler Cape waters, but each winter a small proportion moves eastwards up the Wild Coast. These shoals take advantage of a narrow band of cool water that occurs seasonally between the coast and the warm, southward flowing Agulhas Current. 

While no specific comparisons on previous years were immediately available, Anderson-Reade says, “I’ve been in the business for over 40 years, and I can tell you that it’s a truly exceptional and phenomenal year." 

READ MORE: Shark gear removed from KZN beaches and other facts you should know about the Sardine Run 


“These little fish have been ducking and diving for many years, but if you visit this year, there's a good chance you could witness this exciting phenomenon,” says Philip Schalkwyk, General Manager of the Dream Hotels and Resorts 'Blue Marlin Hotel in Scottburgh.

Schalkwyk explains there are many theories for the decline of the Sardine run on the South Coast over the past few years. Changes in the currents, over-fishing, and climate change have all been identified as possible factors. 


“However, the anticipation continues to build each year between the months of June and August, when batches of sardines pass through our area, and the bird and whale action becomes quite exciting,” he says.

World-renown ocean-life interaction

This Sardine Run image took first place in the Nat

1st Place - Action & Grand Prize winner 
"Sardine Run"
During the sardine migration along the Wild Coast of South Africa, millions of sardines are preyed upon by marine predators such as dolphins, marine birds, sharks, whales, penguins, sailfishes, and sea lions. The hunt begins with common dolphins that have developed special hunting techniques to create and drive bait balls to the surface. In recent years, probably due to overfishing and climate change, the annual sardine run has become more and more unpredictable. It took me two weeks to have the opportunity to witness and capture this marine predation.  Greg Lecoeur/2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 

SEE: PICS: SA sardine run shot wins 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer title

If you're planning on experiencing the 2018 Sardine Run keep the following tips in mind:

  • Be sure to book your accommodation in advance, as many fishing enthusiasts typically flock to the KZN coastline around this time.
  • If you’re looking to do some diving, be sure to book in advance through a reputable dive centre with experienced PADI instructors.
  • The winter months also mark the arrival of humpback whales. Although unrelated to the run, the whale and dolphin encounters should provide ample distraction while you wait for the sardine action to kick-off.
  • Bathers need to be cautious as shark nets are typically removed from most beaches, and swimming is prohibited during this time.

The best spots to see the Sardine Run:

  • Port St Johns
  • Mkambati Nature Reserve
  • Coffee Bay
  • Golden Mile in Durban
  • Aliwal Shoal
  • Port Edward to Hibberdene

READ MORE: Infographic: KZN a year-round wildlife attraction 

The Sardine Run is an anual ocean-life extravaganz

(Source: Fairmont Zimbali Resort)

Other Sardine Run events to look forward to:

“If fish don’t rock your boat, but you are a keen golfer, Scottburgh also hosts an annual three-day golf tournament in June, incorporating our three local courses. The tournament is aptly called The Sardine Run,” adds Schalkwyk. 

  • Ugu Jazz Arts Festival

The 2018 Ugu Jazz Arts and Culture Festival, an outdoor live music event, will boast more than 20 artists performing throughout the night. The event is attended by thousands of music-lovers and features mainly jazz performances by SA legends and upcoming artists.

When: 30 June 2018.
Where: Ugu Sports and Leisure Centre, Port Shepstone.
Cost: From R280 per person. Click here for more.

  • Ballito Pro Surfing Competition

Another athletic highlight on KwaZulu Natal’s winter calendar is the Ballito Pro surfing competition – an international surf and lifestyle event hosted in Ballito. Set to take place over 12 days from 21 June – 1 July, Ballito Pro combines world-class surfing with a vibrant festival.

While surfers compete, spectators enjoy live music performances across a variety of genres, shopping, beach football and other beach and extreme sports, food contests and stalls, among other entertainment.

When: 21 June - 1 July.
Where: Willard Beach in Ballito on the KwaDukuza coast.
Cost: Free entry for spectators.

READ MORE: #LoveSA: Must-do winter events in KZN