Sardine Run - Fast Food in South Africa

By Scuba Diver Life

Find out more about the yearly sardine run and one of the most incredible diving experiences in the world. Photos by Ken Knezick from Island Dreams

  • May - July

    For a couple of months every year a mass of sardines 100 feet deep and miles long move North up the Eastern African Coast. The oldest record of this occurence is from 1853.

  • Rarely Fails to Happen

    In the past 12 years, the sardines have failed to run twice. The theory is that this migration has to do with reproduction and the water temperature is a factor since they follow a cold current north.

  • Not Always Easy to Find

    Local boat  operators look for signs pointing to where the shoal is.  The main one is the presence of feeding cape gannet or massive pods of dolphins. Some even use microlight planes to get a visual.

  • Dolphins Do Most of the Work

    Once the shoal is found, the real fun begins. Divers and snorkelers can see super-pods of common dolphins numbering in the thousands.  They round up the sardines in massive bait balls.

  • Generally Migratory Feeders

    For reasons unknown, the resident pods of bottlenose dolphins rarely participate in the feed.  The common and bottlenose dolphins that do take part are all migrating pods. 

  • Then the Sharks Join In

    Once the sardines are gathered, sharks join in on the feeding frenzy. Bronze whalers, dusky sharks, nurse sharks, blacktip sharks, spinner sharks, and Zambezi sharks are most frequently seen.

  • A Rare Mix

    Alongside the dolphins and sharks, divers can see king mackerel, cape fur seals, penguins, cormorants, and Byrd whales. Humpbacks are often in the area but they don't participate in the feed.

  • Advanced Divers Only

    Because of the frequent poor visibility, cold water (66 - 70 F), and the wildly distracting activity in the water, diving on the sardine run is only for divers with at least advanced certifications.

  • Hop On In

    Plan your trip to South Africa to see one of the wildest spectacles our oceans have to offer. Bring your camera, your desire for adventure, and your sense of wonder. Oh, and smile back at the sharks.