Dive Advice Travel
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The event takes place off the KwaZulu/Natal south coast of Africa every June & July. Well ..... ALMOST every June & July ! Please note that there are always risks that can mean you get "stood-up". The show doesn't always go on ! It seems to be a water temperature issue. If the water is too warm, the sardines just don't budge from where they are.
However, if you're up to the challenge & ready to weigh possible disappointment against probably super thrills, I say take a chance ! Sign up for this unparalleled underwater wonder which attracts divers and photographers from around the world on a yearly basis. You can read more about the event at the bottom of the page.
We use several operators in South Africa – Tim Ray from Dive the Big Five and Nic de Gersigny from Seal Expeditions, also the very popular Scuba Addicts and a few select others. We simply recommend that you choose carefully if you're booking on your own. Not all of the operators have the same safety standards. The operator we work with are tried and tested and we can highly recommend their programs.
Also, world wildlife photographer, Amos Nachoum, often adds photo expeditions to South Africa in his extraordinary repertoire of trips. He doesn't do Sardine Run every year, but when he does, he offers one of the high-class options.
There's plenty of other excitement also when diving in South Africa where you will find ample action with the great predators of the oceans!
Check out all of the info here on our South Africa page ... and when you're ready to more info or want to book a trip, just give me a call or send me an email. I'llrespond to your request with any additional details that you wish. Cheers, Dom
Revel in the excitement of cage diving with GREAT WHITES. Swim out to meet TIGER SHARKS, Zambezi BULL SHARKS & RAGGED-TOOTH SHARKS ("raggies") at Aliwal Shoal. Marvel at oceanic blacktips, HAMMERHEADS, guitar sharks & whale sharks ... plus DOLPHINS & MANTA RAYS, swirling schools of pelagic fish, VIVID CORALS, volumes of reef fish & plenty of beguiling macro subjects. Then of course, there is the infamous SARDINE RUN – probably what every diver thinks of first when southern Africa is mentioned.
Southern Africa is almost certainly known to divers for its abundance of ocean predators ... but as we all know, the big guys aren't there if there are no little guys !
There are plentiful large reefs here which are largely coral built upon ancient rock formations. With healthy corals – hard & soft plus sponges & anemones – there is also a wide range of endemic smaller fish and invertebrates ... colorful & prolific.
The southernmost diving, in particular, can be extremely challenging and much of the diving here is recommended for advanced divers. You'll find big swells and strong currents ... and cold water during some periods of the year.
The "raggie" is a grey nurse shark and it's the mass of sharks which arrive every year between August and November that cause the stir. Divers often see 50 or more raggies in one dive. In spite of their savage appearance, the raggies are gentle animals and divers can confidently swim in their midst with never a problem.
In addition to the raggies, Aliwal Shoal is also very well known for other large pelagics. At varying times of the year, dependant on migratory habits, divers can see tiger sharks, zambezi sharks, oceanic blacktips, hammerheads, guitar sharks, whale sharks, manta rays and the occasional humpback whale.
Dolphins are in residence all year round along with plenty of turtles, devil rays, massive potato bass and great schools of pelagic fish. And, finally, there are two good wrecks here .... The Produce, which went down in 1974 and the Nebo which was lost on its maiden voyage in 1884.
Protea Banks is also a unique reef system also along the Kwa-Zulu Natal South Coast of South Africa which offers high-energy pelagic encounters. Large schools of yellowtail, kingfish, tuna and barracuda draw in the sharks and other predators.
The Zambezi bull sharks are perhaps the most prevalent here with guitar sharks coming in as number two .... but divers will also see hammerheads, oceanic blacktips, dusky sharks and humpback whales in their season.
The reef and reef life are very much the same as Aliwal Shoal.
The reefs all attract different varieties of life, but if you dive a multitude of sites during your stay you can expect to see plenty of large rays, lots of turtles, schools of jacks, trevallies, barracuda, kingfish & the almost-human-looking potato bass.
Add to that the swirling schools of snapper, fusliers, sergeant majors and goatfish … the intriguing critters such as cleaner shrimps, Durban Dancing Shrimps, harlequin shrimps (and other varieties) … frogfish, scorpionfish, ghost pipefish & crayfish ... plus trumpetfish and lots of morays – juveniles and adults.
See our Practical Information for South Africa for notations on recommended times of year and diving levels.
There are two alternatives for cage diving with great whites in South Africa – the Simon's Town venue and the Gansbaai venue. Simon's Town has fewer operators than Gansbaai, so is often the preferred location for serious shark enthousiasts.
There are plenty of 1-day programs available ... but as the areas where the shark diving is done is known as the « Cape of Storms » we highly recommend planning at least two here – preferably more. If you have a day where the weather conditions prohibit leaving shore, you'll miss your shark adventure entirely.
The best of the operators will include information briefings about the animals, their habitat and their habits ... explaining how they hunt, feed and breed.
You'll be transported in a boat which carries its own (very safe) shark cage, which remains attached to the boat the entire time. You begin your voyage early in the day, crossing to your observation site where 4 or 5 people at a time enter the cage. The others are rotated in on a schedule. Gear is provided by the operators .... and most offer snacks while you're on the boat. Return to port is normally 2 :00 pm at the latest.
The topography includes arches, drop offs, overhangs, gullies & caverns. You'll find a couple of good drift dives and will be delighted by multiple manta ray cleaning stations.
The waters are rich in large fish species : potato bass, humphead wrasse, groupers, kingfish, barracuda & wahoo .... as well as mid-size beauties such as angelfish, blue surgeons, red fang trigger fish, emperor angelfish, yellowback fusiliers, unicornfish, butterflyfish, lionfish & sweepers .... plus falling strictly into their own unique categories ... trumpetfish and crocodile fish. Certain areas are notable for their large quantities of juvenile fish of a variety of species.
With excellent reefs (including some stunning sea fans) the macro category is also covered here. Any decent photographer's eye will find nudibranchs, several varieties of shrimps, pipefish, lots of frog fish, scorpion fish, razor fish and long nose hawkfish.
Billions of sardines spawn in the cool waters of the Agulhas Bank and move northward along the east coast of Africa toward Mozambique. The shoals are often more than 7 km long, 1.5 km wide and 30 metres deep and are clearly visible from spotter planes.
For divers, far greater allure is held in the overwhelming numbers of predators that follow this shoal.
Dolphins and game fish litter the surface of the ocean, darting and diving, grabbing every sardine they possibly can. You never know where to look because the action is fast, furious and absolutely everywhere around you.
Now, the challenge for the average diver is to select when to go .... as the timing of this event is impossible to predict. Should you choose to experience a Sardine Run during your diving "career" you need to know that you may get lucky on the date you pick ... and you may not ! This is true adventure.
We work with several operators and will be happy to advise you where and when to book based on the most current information we have .... but it's all a gamble. No one is in charge here ! But, if you're a gambler ... and if you place your bets carefully ... and if your luck holds .... you're in for one wild & exotic ride!
Located at the tip of the African continent, South Africa's southern & eastern shores offer fabulous diving going north up into the waters of Mozambique opposite the island of Madagascar. Known best around the world for the Sardine Run which travels up that coast most years, Southern Africa is home to plenty of surprises.