5 epic ways to experience the Sardine Run on the mid-South Coast

The annual Sardine Run, which passes by the KZN South Coast, is a world-renowned phenomenon, accompanied by some of the best diving. With the Marine Protected Area (MPA), Aliwal Shoal located just offshore, Rocky Bay has become a prime dive site for everyone from beginners to advanced level – with the winter Sardine Run making it a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“This year, we’ve seen some great Sardine Run action offshore of Rocky Bay, which is great for visitors watching from the shoreline as well as those wanting an up-close experience,” said Annien Koulountis, Resorts Manager at Rocky Bay Resorts. “From Rocky Bay Resorts, there are various options available at Rocky Bay including boat trips; snorkelling among dolphins, rays and fish; shark cage diving; scuba diving and more. We’re fortunate that, with our warm Indian Ocean, this is the country’s warmest place for diving in winter!”

How to witness the Sardine Run in Rocky Bay on the mid-South Coast

1.       Watch from the shoreline

Koulountis said that, for those wanting to watch from the shoreline, there was lots of marine action to enjoy: “At this time of year, the ocean is truly alive, with the humpback whale migration underway and lots of whales breaching. There has also been bait ball activity associated with the Sardine Run, including birds diving and dolphins frolicking. Many days Rocky Bay Resorts caravan park and cabin have front-row seats to witness this spectacle. For those interested in aerial viewing, there are also paraglider and microlight tours available locally!”

2.       Dive or snorkel

“This is such an exciting time of year for boat rides and diving because of all the migrations that are happening at the same time – the Sardine Run, the humpback whale migration and the start of the ragged tooth shark mating season,” explained Michelle Smith, owner of Mokarran Dive Charters, based at the resort.

“This makes for epic boat rides, snorkelling and diving which coincides perfectly with school holidays. Obviously, nature has her own rhythm which we cannot control, but that is exactly what makes these once-in-a-lifetime sightings so special.”

Mokarran Dive Charters is a full-service, ower-run, 5-star PADI dive centre, managed by Clive and Michelle Smith, boasting more than 20 years of experience. The highly experienced crew guarantees visitors a fun, personalised and professional experience, for first timers as well as experienced snorkellers and divers, from children to adults.

They offer exciting ‘game drives’ out to sea through the surf zone, before travelling along the coast for some snorkelling at the reef. The duration is 1.5 hours at a cost of R450 per person. This is a popular activity so booking is essential. The team also offer PADI dive courses and recreational dives. To book, WhatsApp Michelle on 084 496 0057 or email mich@mokarrandive.com. For more information, visit www.mokarrandive.com.

3.       Shark cage diving

“For visitors wanting a truly unique ocean experience, then shark cage diving is a must-try,” said John Miller, owner of Shark Cage Diving KZN at Rocky Bay Resorts. “There are so many species of sharks found in our warm waters at Aliwal Shoal, making it one of the best spots to dive. At this time of year, we’re likely to see black tips, dusky and spinner sharks which grow up to two-and-a-half metres. It’s a completely safe and secure adventure, with no diving experience required, and we cater for everyone from six years of age – even non-swimmers can participate.”

The steel cage is attached to the boat at all time for safety as per SAMSA regulations, with the team specialising in cage diving. All diving gear, including wetsuits, are brand new and supplied for the dive. Visitors must bring a towel for afterwards. The team will also enlighten visitors with talk on sharks, marine life, conservation and shark nets while doing surface viewing from the boat.

· The shark cage diving trip is 2 hours with 30 minutes in the cage at a cost of R1 100 per person (discounted from R1 400 per person).

· The snorkelling with sharks trip is 40 minutes of water time, but snorkelling experience is required. This is at a cost of R1 300 per person (discounted from R1 700 per person).

Professional underwater photos and DVDs are also on offer. Booking for both tours is essential. To book a spot, WhatsApp John on 082 373 5950. For more information, visit www.sharkcagedivingkzn.com.

4.       Deep-sea fishing

For those interested in fishing during this season, Rocky Bay Resorts is also home to Albacore Fishing Charters run by Lloyd Pellew and his team. He boasts decades of experience in both fishing and boat charter, with seven charter boats available.

“From the beginning of June to end of July we have the annual Sardine run which is really a must for everyone to witness,” said Pellew, who was born and raised in Rocky Bay and boasts more than five decades of fishing experience. “There are shoals and shoals of these silver fish moving up the coast, accompanied by hundreds of dolphins and birds.”

The cost is R5 000 to charter a boat for a maximum of six anglers, all tackle and bait supplied, or R950 per person for the seven-hour game or bottom fishing expedition. All guests keep their catches, but everyone must have a fishing permit which is available from the Post Office. Booking is essential and can be done through Pauline on 074 362 4206.

5.       Microlighting or aircrafts

Take in ‘The Greatest Shoal on Earth’ from the skies with World of Wings Flight School. Experienced pilot, Noel NcDonogh, takes visitors and prospective pilots on training flights along the KZN South Coast around Rocky Bay. By taking to the air in a microlight or aeroplane, visitors enjoy a birds’ eye view of the Sardine Run action.

The cost for flying in the Foxbat aircraft is R1 350 for 30 minutes, R1 950 for 45 minutes and R2 500 for 1 hour. The cost of flying in the Trike microlight ranges from R700 for 15 minutes through to R2 100 for 1 hour. Flights take off from Umkomaas Airfield in Craigieburn. To book a flight, contact Noel at noel@wowflight.co.za or 072 117 5130.

Rocky Bay Resorts is running its incredible Winter Warmer Special to give holidaymakers the best deal this winter. For the months of June and July, there’s a 20% discount on all log cabin accommodation. There’s also a special running at the Caravan Park – book for 10 nights and only pay for seven, or book for 14 nights and only pay for 10. This is a 20% discount off all their ocean-view log cabins, with the special running until the end of July. Book now at https://enquiries.rockybay.co.za/.