Dive the annual Sardine Run
Offering all-inclusive Sardine Run packages since 2008. Experience this annual phenomenon of millions of sardines which takes place off the coast of Port St. Johns in the Eastern Cape of South Africa whilst being in the presence of hundreds of dolphins, sharks, diving birds, whales, game fish and seals. During your Sardine Run trip you will also get to dive one of the top-10 dive sites in the world, the Aliwal Shoal in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. You’ll feel like you’re in a David Attenborough production or filming for Natgeo or the BBC Earth series.
Our Sardine Run packages include ALL transfers, accommodation, scuba diving, cylinders, air-fills, weights, diver permits and meals!
Next Sardine Run starts 17 June – 25 July 2024!
Dive Centre & Gear Hire
Dive gear available for hire from our on-site dive centre, so no need to bring your own gear or travelling between your accommodation and dive centre.
Diving the Sardine Run
We are your hosts, tour guides and dive guides for the duration of your Sardine Run trip.
You can look forward to exciting surf launches, up to 8 hours a day at sea searching for the annual Sardine Run migration. Port Saint Johns is nested in the heart of the wild coast therefore the landscape from sea is spectacular. Therefore, whales breaching really close, mega-pods of common dolphins, brydes whale, occasional sightings of orca and mola-mola can be expected. You’ll pass sites such as blow-hole and waterfall bluff, amazing offerings by nature.
On the second day of our all inclusive Sardine Run package, you will dive the Aliwal Shoal which gives you a chance to check your dive gear, get your weights sorted and also to dive with the sharks found on the Aliwal Shoal in South Africa, rated as one of the top-10 dive sites in the world.
Blue Ocean Dive Resort, based in Umkomaas, South Africa is perfectly situated for scuba diving the Aliwal Shoal and its on-site dive centre means no daily transfers between your accommodation and dive centre whilst diving Aliwal Shoal!
The first two nights of your package is spent at Blue Ocean Dive Resort, offering newly renovated rooms available in single occupancy [1 x king size bed], twin occupancy [2 x single beds] & double occupancy [1 x king size bed]. Every Room has private en-suite facilities with showers, is serviced daily and has air-conditioning. The resort is a mere 3 minute walk from the beach with views of the ocean from the restaurant deck.
On the third day, we make our way to our accommodation in Port St. Johns, Cremorne Estate, which is rated as one of the top locations to stay during the Sardine Run.
Cremorne Estate has direct access into the Umzimvubu River where we launch our boats from, so there is no daily travelling to the launch site and makes for a much more comfortable [and dry] start to your day.
Every room at Cremorne Estate overlooks the Umzimvubu River and have awesome views of Mount Thesiger which towers over the resort with a height of 342-meters. Rooms available are single rooms [1 x king size bed], twin rooms [2 x single beds] or double rooms [1 x king size bed] which all have private en-suite bathroom [with showers], private balconies and are serviced daily. Each morning breakfast is served on a deck over-looking the river.
After the diving enjoy some fantastic walks, visit some local attractions or relax in the awesome restaurant & bar area over-looking the river.
Typical Day at Aliwal Shoal
We meet at 7 am for a quick coffee, toast, and fruit. This is NOT the breakfast that’s included instead, to keep the wolf at bay while diving.
Kit-up and dive briefing
Once breakfast is finished, we move into the kit up area and get ready for the days diving. Our dive team is there to help you. With your gear, load the boat and to brief you on launching and the days diving at Aliwal Shoal.
DIVE DIVE DIVE
Jump on the vehicles and we are off to the launch site. This is where you will experience an exciting surf launch on our 8m RIB. The diving is planned around the best sites for the conditions each day. Get up close with the several types of sharks in addition to the rest of the marine life. Our dive depth varies from around 15 to 35 meters depending on the dive sites. While our focus is to get your gear sorted for diving the Sardine Run. You will also be scuba diving with some of the sharks found on Aliwal Shoal. Also seeing a vast variety of other marine life including whales, dolphins, rays, turtles, eels and much more. We do two dives on Aliwal Shoal before heading back to the dive center at Blue Ocean Dive Resort.
Typical Day at Port St. Johns
We meet at 7 am for breakfast and receive updates about the sardine run action and the day’s conditions so we can decide where the best diving will be. Once breakfast is finished, we kit up for the day’s action. The dive team is there to help you with all your diving needs, to brief you on your days diving and the action you are likely to see.
Sardine Run Diving
We launch from the Umzimvubu River in Port St. Johns operating north or south depending on where the sardine run action is. Most of the day is spent at sea, launching at about 8 am and we are back by about 3 pm. The day is ruled by the Sardine Run activity. We enter the water many times during the day. Sometimes just on a snorkel and other times scuba, diving the baitballs, it really depends on how fast the action is moving.
We follow the common dolphins as they work together to create the bait balls and then the action begins, the dolphins, birds, sharks, and Brydes whales all enjoy a huge feast. The noise of the diving gannets is amazing as they surround the boat, diving for the sardines. The action is amazing, and you are often surrounded by hundreds of dolphins, sharks, diving birds, whales and more. We also have many opportunities to watch the Humpback Whales on their annual migration.
Rest of the Day
In the late afternoon, we return to the accommodation at Cremorne Estate, where you can choose to relax, download photos & video footage or you can opt to go sightseeing in the afternoon. We are always available to take you on local excursions to show you more of the area. Our dives are for advanced divers and the depth varies from around 15 to 35 meters depending on the dive sites.
In the evening we enjoy dinner at the restaurant. Have a drink with your new dive buddies and discuss the day’s Sardine Run and diving events. Finally, you retire to your bedroom with en-suite facilities and enjoy a relaxing night’s sleep. Ready for the next day’s diving.
Every year from around February to August the South African Coast is enriched with life. This is a result of the annual migration of sardines. Starting at the west coast of South Africa in around February and moving along to the east coast of South Africa through the months until around August when they disappear.
During the Sardine Run, as the colder water moves up the east coast of South Africa, the sardines follow the currents and their food source, bringing a huge diversity of predators with them including many species of whales, shark, dolphin, game fish, sailfish, penguins, seals and more. The annual Humpback Whale migration passes Port St. Johns, offering some amazing sightings of the Humpback Whales, in the water, close to the boats and when the whales are breaching!
Many theories exist about the Sardine Run [water temp. etc] and many people have different ideas on what creates the ‘perfect’ Sardine Run, however from our experience we have seen great action on days when the conditions are not ‘perfect’ and quiet days when they are. The bottom line is that the only way to experience the Sardine Run is to enjoy what you see everyday!
Whilst the Sardine Run can never be guaranteed, one thing that is guaranteed with our Sardine Run packages is that you WILL see whales, sharks, 100’s of dolphin and marine birds which are on most people’s bucket list.
- You stay at Umkomaas’ premier dive resort Blue Ocean Dive Resort
- Your dives on Aliwal Shoal are accompanied by Ragged Tooth Sharks and Oceanic Black Tip Sharks
- 2 x reef dives at Aliwal Shoal
- We have NO hidden costs
- Your package includes ALL transfers
- Your package includes breakfast, lunch AND dinner
- We offer the BEST accommodation in Port St. Johns at Cremorne Estate
- We have our own launch site
- Your skipper and dive guides are among the most experienced at Aliwal Shoal as well as at Sardine Run
- Both resorts are home to the friendliest staff
- You’ll receive personal attention
- Every Sardine Run package includes a trip to the Port St. Johns Airstrip with the most scenic views
- We offer extra mural activities over and above – hiking trails for the fit and adventurous, scenic guided tours on our vehicles, the Gap and Blowhole
- All our boats are PLASTIC FREE. You will not find single use plastic in any of your boat lunches.
Apart from our Sardine Run packages being aimed at divers, snorkelers looking for pure adventure are welcome too. Getting up close and personal with sharks, game fish, seals, penguins, sardines, mola-mola and, on occasion, orca and many species of marine-birds and marine mammals.
Water temperature is around 18 – 21 degrees Celsius so a 7mm wetsuit will suffice. This is because a lot of the action is experienced on snorkel. As a result dry suits cause drag and you could miss out on the underwater feeding frenzy and baitballs. Therefore dry suits are not entirely suitable.