The temperatures are dropping and the aloes are in full bloom along the KZN South Coast which means one thing – the annual Sardine Run is on its way! Anglers, seine netters, divers, and spectators are already heading to the Paradise of the Zulu Kingdom in preparation for one of the planet’s biggest biomass migrations and the Greatest Shoal on Earth.
“Not only does the KZN South Coast enjoy some of the country’s best winter weather, but we’re also fortunate enough to offer front-row seats to the annual Sardine Run – an incredible spectacle to behold and one of our greatest natural phenomena,” explained Phelisa Mangcu, CEO of South Coast Tourism & Investment Enterprise (SCTIE). “The past few years we’ve experienced some of the best Sardine Runs, with a lot of shoal activity close to shore. We’re optimistic that the 2023 Sardine Run will be just as spectacular for all our visitors and anglers.”
The Sardine Run is a calendar highlight for local fishermen who haul in big catches to sell directly to the public, to fisheries, and restaurants. Demetre Stamatis, one local seine netter, said they’d already noted a lot of fish activity up the coast with pilot shoals passing Mazeppa Bay (Eastern Cape) and Hagga Hagga (Wild Coast), and there’s a good chance the shoals will be arriving in the next few weeks.
Commenting on the importance of this migration for local anglers, Stamatis said: “On a commercial side, there are a number of netting licence holders that rely on the Sardine Run to supplement their income, and a number of the buyers who need the supplementary income generated by the catch because, this time of year, they can’t rely on fresh vegetables and fish. There are also those who process the sardines for sale later in the year which can be a cheap and viable resource.”
Stamatis said it’s difficult to determine a good number of nets per season because the more sardines that are caught, the lower the price they can be sold for: “The Sardine Run can go on for up to six weeks, and daily netting can be up to 15 nets a day – but this is the exception rather than a rule. There will be a lot of days that only one or two nets are taken.”
How to experience the Sardine Run
From the golden shores to the ocean depths and even from the blue skies, there are so many ways to take in the #greatestshoalonearth along the KZN South Coast. The region is home to 58 incredible beaches and boasts the highest number of Blue Flag Beaches in the province – as well as the highest number of tidal pools. Visitors can enjoy this ocean spectacle from the shores, or take a hike to one of the many whale-viewing sites which offer great sightings of the Sardine Run and migrating humpback whales.
There are several tourism operators ready to take visitors on a close-up experience of the Sardine Run. Charter boats will head out to the action where visitors can take in the spectacle from the boat, or even enjoy some snorkelling among the sardines, dolphins, and game fish.
The #greatestshoalonearth is also considered a bucket list experience for scuba divers and free divers who can experience the Sardine Run from world-renowned dive sites, Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks – both Marine Protected Areas. Protea Banks is ideal for shark sightings while Aliwal Shoal is ideal for all levels of diving experience with a series of caves, crevasses, and ridges home to a huge variety of marine life.
These sites also attract international film crews looking to capture this unique ocean experience for a global audience. Currently, Roland Mauz of African Dive Adventures – based at Shelly Beach – said he is working with a film crew from the Discovery Channel that is shooting for its annual Shark Week segment.
Visitors can also enjoy an aerial view of the KZN South Coast with a flip in a microlight, helicopter, or light aircraft. World of Wings in Umkomaas offers microlight flips for views of Aliwal Shoal, Scottburgh and the lower South Coast; while the Margate-based Uvongo Airtrack Aviation offers scenic helicopter and aeroplane flights for a great view of the coastline.
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