Dive and Snorkel the Sardine Run for Incredible Marine Sightings!
Why We Love It
The Sardine Run in South Africa offers some of the most incredible marine sightings on the planet! Pods of dolphins numbering in their thousands, numerous species of sharks, and a huge variety of bird life, all come to feed on sardines and other fish, offering phenomenal photographic opportunities both above and below the water. The annual humpback whale migration offers loads of breaching too.
We love the perfect location for this highly experienced operation, working in the area since 2008, and offering daily outings with their exclusive aerial support (spotting) aircraft and pilot. With a maximum of 8 guests per boat, sightings are optimized. Most of the time the action is fast-paced so you'll snorkel. If you encounter a more stationary ball, you'll have time to get your scuba diving gear on and dive with the action.
The owner of this operation is a Shark Research Institute international field agent, which mission is to use science to educate on sharks and protect them. The dive center is involved in several community projects: the Black Tip Swim School, as many locals, cannot swim, and the Amapondo Children’s Project, which promotes education, and offers mentorship for local people to develop their businesses.
Who Is It For?
For Advanced Open Water divers with good buoyancy, and snorkelers, with good level of fitness. The Sardine Run is a fast-action event, resulting in this trip being rated as “strenuous” and aimed at the adventure seeker. If you're interested in adding a safari, some land excursions, or some more diving at Protea Banks - ask us.
Full and exclusive aerial support (spotting) with their aircraft and pilot. This is not shared with any other operator.
Accommodation on a double occupation basis, at Port St. John’s River Lodge, including breakfast and dinner.
Ocean days, weather permitting
Cylinder, air fills, weights and belt
Packed boat refreshments
Diver permit to dive within Pondoland marine protected area
Drying room for wetsuits
Hot shower rinse-off at boat jetty area
What's not included?
Airport transfers – can be arranged at an additional charge.
Drinks other than the ones mentioned, lunches
Dive gear rental - must be pre-booked.
Additional chargeable land-based activities
Gratuities for staff
Daily outings last for approximately 6 to 8 hours depending on sea and weather conditions.
Early Morning Departure:
The boat will collect you at 06:30 AM at the hotel which is river-based.
Heading down the Umzimvubu river and into the surf zone at Port St. Johns
Highly exciting African surf launch
Searching for the Action:
The crew will start looking for all types of action, from whales, dolphins, and ocean bird action to the little silver sardine and bait fish type action.
The skippers will be in touch with their “eye in the sky” pilot for an update on sightings.
Jumping in the Water:
Once an action is located, the experienced crew will determine whether it is fast-moving, necessitating snorkel viewing, or more static, whereby you can go straight onto scuba equipment for those wishing to use scuba gear.
First-hand action will be experienced by snorkellers, divers, and boat-based passengers, which ensures an exciting day out for everyone where no one is left out of all the excitement that nature brings with her.
Aside from sardine, there are several other species of bait fish (anchovies, sugar mackerel, red eye herring to name a few) doing their migrations at the same time, attracting predators of all sizes.
Huge pods of dolphins and several species of sharks are some of the species you'll get to see on every jump-in.
There's also a huge variety of oceanic bird life coming to feed: Cape Gannet, albatross, petrels, cormorants, etc.
Finally, the annual Humpback Whale migration offers loads of breaching and surface displays, thanks to the topography of our coastline.
The attraction of it all is the fact that one just never knows what one will come across or experience on any given day.
Season: from early June to early August each year
Currents: occasional strong currents
Visibility:5 to 20 m (16 to 66 ft)
Water Temperature:14° to 22°C (57° to 72°F)
Depth: deep and shallow dives
Port St Johns is where the continental shelf comes closest to land along this South African stretch of coastline. This seems to create a funneling effect, bringing animals closer inshore. You'll encounter deep water very quickly as it drops off into the continental shelf.
When there's fast-paced action, the only way is to jump in and watch the action pass by, jump back on the boat, and do it all over again.
Stationary action or bait ball is what everyone looks for and hopes for, as it can last from a few minutes to a few hours. This scenario occurs when the common dolphin starts feeding on bait fish that will ball as a strategic defense. Once the dolphins have captured a ball and brought it to the surface, then there's enough time to get your scuba diving gear on and join the action.
There can be days when nothing at all is happening, and then the team will try to spot humpback whales.
If things were to be unusually quiet for some reason, there are several reef sites offering shark sightings. There's also a world war two wreck in shallow water.
Operation created in 2008
Number of boats: 3
Maximum number of divers and snorkelers per boat: 8
PADI Dive Center
Specialty Courses on Sharks - ask us
Languages spoken: English
Equipment Recommended: if possible, bring your own 5 to 7 mm wetsuit, a hood, a mask and snorkel, fins, BCD, and regulator. Booties and gloves are recommended too. You should also have an SMB.
Insurance: both dive insurance and travel insurance are mandatory. We recommend DAN Europe, which has plans to cover both - ask us for a quote.
Nearest Hyperbaric Chamber: Durban, South Africa
Visas, Flights, and More!
You must have a valid passport to enter South Africa, and a return ticket
Most citizens do not require a visa to stay in South Africa for up to 90 days
Ensure your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond the period you intend to stay
The fastest way to get to Port St. Johns is to fly to Mthatha Airport (UTT) which is 1,5 hour drive away.
If you land at Durban international airport (DUR), the transfer takes roughly around 6 hours.
The team can arrange airport transfers - ask us.
There is malaria in Mpumalanga Province (including Kruger National Park), Limpopo Province, and north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal to the Tugela River in the south. There's also chikungunya and dengue, so take necessary precautions to avoid them.
Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended.
Bring sunscreen, a hat, a rash guard, a warm sweater, a rain jacket, some walking shoes, insect repellent, and any prescription medicine you need.