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Exploring Africa Since 1688

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

South Africa's Sardine Run; The Great Tide

If you enjoyed last year's post on "The Great Migration - But Underwater" you may be interested in watching the remarkable footage "Nature's Great Events: The Great Tide" being aired on BBC One tonight at 2100 GMT (and repeated on Sunday at 1800 GMT). I assume those without BBC One will be able to access this show in due course on DVD or possibly on BBC One's live online broadcast.

"Nature's Great Events: The Great Tide" produced by Hugh Pearson and narrated by David Attenborough covers the feeding frenzy of thousands of sharks, whales, dolphins, gannets and other predators on millions of sardines migrating northwards along the South African coast. Absolutely fantastic footage of this event has been captured by Underwater cameraman Didier Noirot. Particularly interesting has been the insight into how squadrons of Gannets, after diving to a depth of 10m (30ft), join the other predators and swim to pursue the sardines to a depth of 20m (60ft). For more on this show including some incredible video clips to whet your appetite see today's BBC story here.

Witness this yourself:
The event occurs most years but is dependent on the alignment of a number of natural factors including rainfall and ocean temperature. ROAR Africa partners with the expert dive operation who pioneered the Sardine Run; Blue Wilderness. If you're interested in witnessing this remarkable event here is some detail on a trip we can arrange for you:

Video from "azuloceano".



Timing:
Best date to target: June 18th (arrival) through June 25th (departure)
6 days of diving and ocean activity. If you picked another week to be available you'd be best choosing the preceding week.

Destination:
East London as the operating base rather than KwaZulu-Natal or Transkei. The week before we'll check in and may re-route you up the coast to Coffee Bay (by car), Port St Johns (private air charter), Port Edward (via flight to Durban). This can also be done at a moments notice during the week.

Operators:
Blue Wilderness. These are the pioneers, the makers of the Blue Planet series, and the experts who we work with.

Chance of Success:
Surprisingly high. Maybe even 80-90%. Even though people say the run has not happened for quite a few of the past 7 years this is not entirely accurate. What that means is it hasn't happened on a massive scale. Blue Wilderness has had great success catching smaller sardine events every year except the only "flop" year which was 2003. That is only a flop from a sardine perspective. There is plenty to do and see. The biomass has been lower during the last 7 years mostly due to drought (one of the parameters is food from runoff/rivers) which broke last year.

Other diving options (non-sardine diving):
Cape Town: offers interesting diving. Kelp dives, wreck dives, shark diving. June is not a good time of year for Pelagic species diving in Cape Town but it is prime for Great White breaching. I say breaching specifically. This occurs during a limited time of year and in a certain area only.
KwaZulu-Natal: near Durban: great time of year for both Raggies (Ragged Tooth Sharks) and Tiger sharks on Aliwal Shoal.
Mozambique: Excellent time for Whale Sharks and Manta Rays in Mozambique. Tofu is a good destination.
Madagascar: Good time for Whale Sharks and whales.

Of course there are plenty of other non-diving activities that ROAR Africa can include in a trip. In fact you could witness a double-migration. This is a good time to witness the great migration of herbivores while on safari in Botswana.

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