Every year, between May and July, millions of tiny silver fish travel in titanic shoals from the icy waters off of South Africa's Cape Point to the coastlines of our subtropical Kwa-Zulu Natal. We call this annual event the Sardine Run.
The Sardine Run is a natural migratory phenomenon, occurring when the North-Easterly winds shift the surface layer of ocean water away from the shore, allowing cooler water to surface. When the South-Westerly winds then guide the warmer surface water of the Agulhas current towards the shore, increasing the inshore temperature, the sardines seek out the cooler water to spawn in.
The shoals can often be more than 7 km long, 1.5 km wide and 30 meters deep. They can clearly be seen from both passing boats and even spotter planes. In fact, the shoals are so impressive that they are visible on satellite pictures. The Sardine Run could be compared to East Africa's great wildebeest migration.
The sardines as together with the wild reason, there is safety in numbers. However, such large numbers also attract predators, including hundreds of birds, sharks, whales and dolphins, to make their presence known, eager to feast on the sardines. Dolphins play a unique role in the predation of these shoals, manoeuvring the sardines into 'bait balls'. The 'bait balls' can be between 10 to 20 meters in diameter These 'bait balls' do not last long, but allow more than 10 minutes, but allow for a group of sardines that are more easily predated on the massive shoals.
The current interest in the sardine run has had a major impact on the local economy, drawing international and local to the KwaZulu-Natal coastline for diving expeditions. The run has become a major event in tourism and has a great deal to offer.
If you aspire to take a swim with the largest global migrations.