Visitors to South Africa are often familiar with epic bush safaris that provide an opportunity to spot the country’s incredible wildlife, including the Big 5 – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo. However, the incredible Indian Ocean along the KZN South Coast is also the ideal location for an epic ocean safari – with the chance to spot three of the Marine Big 5!
“South Africa’s land safaris are common and a well-known tourism attraction for South Africa, but people don’t realise the incredible potential to enjoy ocean safaris and see the spectacle of our marine animals from the KZN South Coast,” commented Phelisa Mangcu, CEO of South Coast Tourism & Investment Enterprise (SCTIE). “We offer an unforgettable blue wilderness experience where visitors can view and even dive with big ocean animals, and there’s no better time than during the annual Sardine Run.”
The Marine Big 5 are the whale, shark, dolphin, seal, and penguin – many of which are drawn close to the KZN South Coast shores as they hungrily chase the shoals of silver sardines heading north. The winter months are also renowned for the annual humpback whale migration as these large mammals head to warmer waters to have their calves before returning close to shore. For KZN South Coast visitors, the sight of whales breaching and lobtailing is a daily occurrence from the shoreline. These are joined by frolicking dolphins that can be seen, year-round, riding the waves and swimming playfully among the surfers.
These ocean spectacles can be enjoyed by chartering a boat out into the ocean, where visitors can enjoy sightings from the boat or swimming and snorkelling nearby. For those looking to take in a birds-eye-view of marine activity, there are helicopters, light aircraft, and microlight flips available with companies like World of Wings Flight School and Airtrack Aviation.
Daniél Ludick, pilot and Aviation Operations Coordinator at Airtrack Aviation, explained: “Helicopter scenic flights over our stunning coastal areas during the Sardine Run hold another level of wonder, with near-guaranteed sightings of marine action from above! We offer a variety of helicopter scenic flight durations and route options, from a 15-minute local flip to exploring deep into the wonders of the Wild Coast such as Waterfall Bluff and beyond – a true ocean safari by air! An added bonus of flying during the Sardine Run is the immaculate weather and ocean conditions, providing us with smooth air to fly in and virtually see-through subtropical waters.”
Taking a dive into the KZN South Coast’s ocean depths is a must for any diver, with the Paradise of the Zulu Kingdom home to two world-renowned sites at Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks. Ocean safari operators like Aliwal Dive Centre and African Dive Adventures can provide visitors with everything from PADI instruction to equipment hire and epic ocean adventures. Aliwal Shoal is also only the second place in the world where shortfin devil rays are known to congregate at cleaning stations, after Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique.
A definite highlight is spotting some of the many shark species found in abundance along the KZN South Coast, among them raggies, blacktips, duskies, spinner and tiger sharks. There are local tour operators ready to provide a close-up encounter with a shark cage diving experience.
“The Sardine Run is a great experience on the KZN South Coast from fisherman netting the sardines to great diving! Our guests also enjoy the chance to see the Humpback whales on their annual migration from Antarctica while diving into the warmest water in winter!” commented John Miller, of KZN Shark Cage Diving KZN, which also offers snorkelling with sharks.
Visitors who prefer marine life on a smaller scale can enjoy the KZN South Coast’s Blue Flag Beaches and tidal pools, with the region home to the highest number of both in the province! With the subtropical climate, visitors can swim and snorkel in these waters throughout the year, with children kept busy searching for marine life in the rock pools.
The safari adventure can even continue inland with the KZN South Coast’s gorges, valleys, waterfalls, and nature and game reserves home to a variety of wildlife and birdlife. These can be experienced on 4×4 adventures, hiking and biking trails, with many extreme adventures and cultural excursions on offer. Among these are the Mission Tourism Route, 8km Weza Hiking Trail, 71km Umzumbe River Trail, KwaNzimakwe and Nyandezulu Experiences, and Wild 5 Adventures. The Golf Coast, as the KZN South Coast is colloquially known, also has 11 quality courses for visitors who want to experience the local wildlife and exquisite views from the greens.
Don’t miss out on the Sardine Run action
Keep updated on all the Sardine Run action by visiting South Coast Tourism on Facebook; South Coast Tourism and Investment Enterprise on YouTube; @infosouthcoast on Twitter or Instagram; and South Coast Tourism & Investment Enterprise on LinkedIn. Follow the hashtags #greatestshoalonearth #sardinerun #sardinerun2023 #kznsouthcoast #extendyourstay #seakznsouthcoast
SCTIE has also put together a 3-day Sardine Run Tour Package that includes diving, fishing, surfing, ocean safaris, helicopter or microlight flips, as well as hinterland experiences. To find out more about this, get in touch with local tourism operators, or discover more about KZN South Coast sites and events, visit the website, check out the Events Calendar, the KZN South Coast Meeting Planner Guide and more!