For those who need water to breathe

Sardine Run map. Go Dive

The Greatest Shoal on Earth

The migration pattern of the sardine run is influenced by various factors such as oceanographic conditions, temperature, currents, and spawning behaviour. Here’s an overview of the typical migration pattern:

  1. Spawning: Sardines usually spawn in the cooler waters off the southeastern coast of South Africa, particularly in the Agulhas Bank region. Spawning typically occurs during the austral winter months (June to July), although exact timing can vary depending on environmental conditions.

  2. Northern Migration: After spawning, sardines begin their northward migration along the eastern coast of South Africa, moving towards the KwaZulu-Natal coast. This migration is driven by factors such as water temperature and nutrient availability.

  3. Southern Aggregation: As sardines move northward, they remain in cooler water pockets and because of this they are pushed inshore. They form large aggregations or shoals along the coastline near Port Elizabeth and East London, particularly in areas where upwelling occurs. Upwelling zones bring nutrient-rich waters to the surface, creating ideal conditions for plankton growth, which sardines feed on. This, in turn, attracts the attention of predators such as dolphins, sharks, and seabirds. This phase of the migration often results in spectacular feeding frenzies, with predators converging on the shoals of sardines.

  4. Transkei Coast: The sardine shoals may pass through the Transkei coast, as the feeding frenzies continue. As the migration moves upward, the bait balls at this phase begin to decrease in size and spread out. 

  5. KwaZulu-Natal Coast: Eventually, the sardine shoals reach the warmer waters off the KwaZulu-Natal coast, where they may encounter additional predators and continue northward along the coastline.

  6. Dispersal and Post-Spawn: After reaching their northernmost point, the sardine shoals may begin to disperse, with individual fish returning to deeper waters or moving offshore. Some sardines may also remain in coastal areas for a period before eventually dispersing further.

It’s important to note that the migration pattern of the sardine run can vary from year to year based on environmental conditions such as sea surface temperatures, ocean currents, and the availability of food sources. Additionally, factors such as climate change and overfishing can also impact the timing and extent of the sardine run migration.

Go Dive Sardine Run Tours

Go Dive operates Sardine Run tours from Chintsa, a small coastal town one hour north of East London. Because Chintsa is closer to the Aghulas Bank region where initial spawning occurs, our Sardine Run starts earlier than other operators in Port St. Johns so we keep pace with the migration patterns. Go Dive is one of two operators based in Chintsa, so, beach launches are quick and there is no queuing for bait balls.   

When you book a Go Dive Sardine Run tour, you will be spending a week (or two) at the stunning Crawford’s Beach Lodge, where all meals are provided and beach access is right at your doorstep. 

If you are interested in witnessing this spectacular phenomenon for yourself, please check out:  and complete the booking form:  

Crawfords lodge

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