THE GREATEST SHOAL ON EARTH – The Sardine Run, watch as our ocean awake

The greatest shoal on earth is an accurate description of the huge shoal of sardines that leaves the West Coast of Africa to follow a cold ocean current that flows up the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, during the winter months of the year.

Billions of the small silver fish follow the narrow cold water ocean current, which is rich in plankton, as it flows up the South Coast of KwaZulu, to set the stage for one of the most incredible marine spectacles ever seen in the world. Following the huge shoal of sardines in this amazing ocean extravaganza is over 50,000 common and bottlenose dolphins, thousands of sharks, shoals of different species of game fish, seals and tens of thousands of sea birds all competing for nature’s bounty in the warm Indian ocean off the coast of South Africa.

In an amazing spectacle of combined hunting skills copper sharks and dolphins team up by herding sections of the shoal closer to the surface, making it easier for seabirds to plunge in and take their share. Also forming part of the commotion in the ocean are hundreds of humpback whales who salute the ocean extravaganza by lifting their large tails as they move up the coast during their winter migration.

The Hibiscus South Coast of KwaZulu Natal does not spend winter in a lethargic state. Annually, winter is part of a magnificent time of the year when the famous Sardine Run takes place – an extra-ordinary phenomenon termed “The Greatest Shoal on Earth”. This phenomenon takes place between Port St. Johns and Durban along the South African East Coast. The South Coast of KwaZulu Natal stages 90% of this spectacle, due to the narrowing of the continental shelf, as well as having the majority of the tourism infrastructure. Every winter enormous shoals of sardines create an eruption of activity that attracts an abundance of predatory sea life. Boosting excitement levels are twenty thousand common dolphins, five thousand bottlenose dolphins, tens of thousands of gannets, thousands of sharks, seals and a collection of marine animals, ranging from the Brooders and Humpback Whales to the ever lurking game fish that arrive from all different directions to gorge on these tasty morsels. This migration being annually dished up by nature during June and July.

On account of a mixture of inshore currents and the narrow continental shelf as well as predator herding, sardines are compressed and thus forced to beach. Beaching causes human sanity to be forgotten as “sardine fever” spreads like wild fire. People of all shapes & sizes scramble to the beaches for every beaching and sardines in turn become prey to seine netters or shore anglers. This spectacular symphony of sea life is legendary which results in Southern KwaZulu Natal proving to be a vibrant venue to view whales, dolphins and many other marine predators.