The South Coast's Sardine Season Shimmers with excitement

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The spectacular Sardine Run, also known as the Greatest Shoal on Earth, lures excited spectators, travellers, professional and pop-up fishermen from all over the globe during the South Coast’s sunny winter season.

One of the greatest ocean migrations, this natural phenomenon can happen anytime between May and August and sees millions of sardines move from the colder Cape waters to the warmer waters of KwaZulu-Natal to breed. Forming a giant shoal up to 15km long, the Sardine Run can be seen by satellite. Travelling north, the sardines attract predators including whales, sharks, dolphins and Cape Gannets, who prey on them in a feeding frenzy. Dolphins round up the bait balls and then it’s feasting time for a multitude of shark species, game fish like mackerel and tuna, and birds such as Cape gannets. Periodically, sardines are driven into shallow waters to the delight of all, who scoop up the silvery fish in bucketloads.

As Justin Mackrory, CEO, Ugu South Coast Tourism says “This mid-year season is rapidly becoming more popular due to great weather and a broad variety of experiences and events to choose from. This is why the South Coast is a favourite for thousands of South Africans.”


Plenty seaside and sporting activities take place during Sardine Season to make sure the whole family enjoy the warm winter days. While the rest of South Africa shiver, enjoy the 22 degree Indian Ocean waters, offering the perfect setting for chill zones with beach sports, races & games, beauty pageants, toddlers’ corners and sand art, as part of the annual Sardine Festival beach programme line-up. Beaches featuring organised events include Margate Beach; Southport; Sunwich Port; Hibberdene; Scottburgh; Port Edward; Ramsgate and St Michaels on Sea.

Upcoming sporting events during the Sardine Season include the:

  • Wild Coast Tournament (28 May, 23 Jul)
  • Rocky Bay Night Ride/Run (10 Jun; 15 Jul)
  • Annual Sardine Run Golf Tournament, Scottburgh Golf Club (14-16 Jun)
  • Mercury Ski-Boat Festival (12-15 Jul)

The Dezzi South Coast Raceway is celebrating Sardine Season with a packed line-up that includes the KZNRRC (20 May; 12 Aug); SuperDrift (26-27 May; 25-26 Aug); Show & Shine (3 Jun); KZN Drag Racing (17-18 Jun); KZNRRC (24 Jun); Soap Box Derby (2 Jul); the exciting Dezzi South Coast Invitational Challenge (7-9 July), which invites SA’s top drivers to race against the clock; SuperGp (14-15 Jul); and a 4-hour Endurance race (18-19 Aug). Another event for car enthusiasts is the Classic Car Show on 17 July in Scottburgh.

Rely on the South Coast Lions Show to provide a festive family fun fair during 14-16 July. Run by the Port Shepstone Lions Club for more than 30 years, all proceeds go back to local community service projects. This year sees the South Coast Lion Show put on a modern look with the popular family fun fair, trade show, Annual Lions’ Mountain Bike Race and music concerts returning and a new arts and crafts marquee launched to showcase local entrepreneurs’ talents. More family fun can be had at the Bethanien Lutheran Church Bazaar taking place on 24 June in Izotsha, near Shelly Beach.

Also during the Sardine Season, is the Ugu Jazz Festival in June, a diverse cultural entertainment show that has gained popularity both nationally and internationally among jazz aficionados.

In June there is the cultural Music and Dance Show in KwaNzimakwe and in July, the spectacular Maidens Ceremony in Ezingolweni, KwaNyuswa.


Apart from sardines, fishermen can catch sharks, shad, salmon, garrick, pompano, kob, bream, kingfish, grunter, crayfish, rockcod, tuna and many other fish during winter. There are as many tackle stores to assist with your needs as there are great fishing spots. And for those who prefer deep-sea fishing, skiboats or charters can easily be organised. Ensure you have the right licences, which can be obtained from post offices and Mpenjati Nature Reserve, and fish responsibly.    


Due to the Sardine Run, which attracts whales and dolphins in huge numbers, the South Coast is transformed into a whale and dolphin watching paradise.  These magnificent creatures scoop up the sardines like the rest of us, while on their journey north.  Humpback, Bryde’s, Minke, and Killer whales and dolphins can be watched from the shores or why not visit the Whale and Dolphin Viewing Deck in Ramsgate, which is also accessible to disabled visitors? Alternatively, whale decks are also available in the following beach destinations: Umtentweni, Margate, Southbroom and Pennington, where you can use binoculars at the Impithi Beach Kiosk.


Shark cage diving in the South Coast is unsurpassed. World-renowned Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks have designated areas for shark cage diving, where you can expect to see up to 12 different sharks and rays on the dives, including bull sharks, tiger sharks, oceanic black tip sharks, spinner sharks, greater and scallop hammer head sharks and copper sharks. This makes your personal triumph while achieving the ultimate bucket list item, so much more spectacular.


For a full Sardine Season calendar of events, please contact Zama Nkomo on or visit

To find out more about the Sardine Run and when it is likely to occur, please contact Mike Anderson-Reade, Head of Operations of the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board on

Photo credit: John Lamberti

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Issue 63


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