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Sardine Run Experience


Experience the greatest animal migration on Earth by diving the annual Sardine Run off the Wild Coast of South Africa on this fully inclusive week long trip departing from East London during late May/June.

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Sardine Run Experience

What is the Sardine Run?

The Sardine Run is an annual migration of sardines up the East Coast of South Africa. It normally starts from the Southern Cape and ends in Kwa-Zulu Natal, where the fish spawn. The sardines follow a cooler than usual counter-current which passes close in-shore. When the conditions are right and this happens an array of marine predators are ready to meet them. These include thousands of Cape Gannets, huge pods of Common Dolphins, several shark species, such as Dusky sharks and Copper sharks and even whales including the impressive Brydes Whales.

How do we see the Sardine Run?

On this experience you will spend five days per week at sea, following the incredible marine action and getting into position to experience the sardine bait balls from the boat or in the water. Here you will witness birds, dolphins, sharks and whales all working together in order to feed off the bait balls. You will have one rest day which may also include an activity from a local service provider: this could be a quad bike trip, a game drive, a cultural tour, zip-lining or a number of other active or relaxing options.

Whale watching

During this time of the year the Humpback whales migrate up the coast and they can be spotted daily, moving in pairs or small family groups. Southern Right whales can also be seen occasionally, but it is the Brydes whales that really get involved with the sardines. It is an incredible spectacle to witness a Brydes whale swallow a bait ball in a single mouthful. We also often see Bottle-nosed Dolphins and have also seen the shy Humpbacked Dolphins near the shore.

Birds that follow the sardines

Aside from the Cape Gannets, there are several other bird species that are commonly spotted including  African Penguins, Cormorants, Yellow-nosed Indian Albatross’s, Sub-Antarctic Skuas and many more.

Where is the sardine run experience based?

This trip is based in the seaside village of Cintsa which is about 40km North of East London The ski-boat is launched directly off the beach there, sea conditions permitting. On days with larger swells, we divert to the East London harbour which allows a safe launch in almost any sea conditions.

Location and Accommodation

Cintsa is a beautiful location and gives us an effective range of some 150 km of the South African Wild Coast, from Hamburg in the West to the Kei river in the East. Our base is the charismatic Buccaneer’s Lodge on the Cintsa river mouth, where our guests are accommodated in en-suite rooms with beautiful sea and river views. Meals are delicious and generous: full hot breakfasts and health breakfasts are served daily, delicious packed lunches are sent out with the boat and our evening meals are buffet style themed dinners.

Trip Details

  • Arrive at East London Airport on Sunday afternoon where you will be met and transferred to Buccaneers Lodge on the first day of your trip. We have a full briefing in the evening, where we can sort out equipment and camera issues.
  • Five days at sea and one rest day.

Please Note: Diving on bait balls is rare. The sardine run relies on the coming together of many different variables: weather and currents, predators and of course, the sardines! Some days are going to be quiet and some days will be very busy. We will do our utmost to get you into the best position to appreciate this event, either from the boat or in the water.

Daily Itinerary

  • 06h30 – Breakfast overlooking the stunning Cinsta valley
  • 07h00 – Kit up and walk down to Cintsa beach
  • 07h30 – Launch boats just before sunrise
  • 07h30 to 15h00 – We spend the day on the water searching for visible signs of sardines which includes bird action and bird diving. During the quiet periods, we’ll scuba and/or snorkel with dolphins and whales.
  • 15h00 – return to beach at Cintsa
  • 16h00 – Late afternoon and evening at leisure.
  • 19h00 – Delicious theme dinner.


  • Airport Transfers from East London
  • Shared accommodation for seven nights on a full-board basis.
  • Five days at sea.
  • One rest day.
  • We supply cylinders and weights and additional equipment rental is extra.
  • Single supplementary is available on request.
  • Activities on non diving days will be arranged.
  • Big 5 Game drive and Elephant interaction at Inkwenkwezi Game Lodge.


  • Flights
  • Dive equipment other than cylinders and weight-belts (but can be rented).
  • Alcoholic drinks

What to Bring:

  • Dive Certification Card
  • Towel and drybag for the boat
  • Warm waterproof jacket, beanie and sunhat
  • Sunblock and personal medications (such as seasickness tablets)
  • Cameras (topside and underwater)
  • Own dive equipment, other than cylinders and weight-belts

Available Dates 2021:

  • 30th May to 6th June
  • 13th June to 20th June
  • 20th June to 26th June

Please enquire before booking


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