With the autumn weather cooling down the coastal waters, the world-famous greatest shoal on earth (#GreatestShoalonEarth) has been spotted along the East Coast.
This is a highlight for the KZN South Coast, in particular, as beach goers can enjoy the mild winter weather whilst awaiting this marine spectacle. This year, in fact, the region is doubly happy as the many hospitality businesses that usually benefit from the Sardine Run were negatively impacted by last year’s lockdown restrictions.
“The incredible Sardine Run is one of our area’s biggest tourism attractions and sightings of this immense shoal have already been reported nearby in the Eastern Cape, so we’re optimistic this will be a good year for visitors to have front-row seats to the spectacle,” said CEO of Ugu South Coast Tourism, Phelisa Mangcu.
“Last year, we were fortunate enough to have several days of sardine sightings, although lockdown restrictions impacted visitor numbers which saw Ugu South Coast Tourism (USCT) sharing footage across social media platforms. While we will still be giving audiences the chance to experience the spectacle, virtually, from home, we’re encouraging visitors to take advantage of the easing of lockdown measures and come visit in person as all relevant Covid-19 safety measures are in in place,” she said.
EXPLAINING THE SARDINE RUN
This annual phenomenon, which is considered the planet’s greatest biomass migration, sees billions of silver sardines head northwards with the greatest viewing along the South Coast (#KZNSouthCoast) shoreline. The shoals are concentrated near the surface of the water close to the shore and attract a horde of marine predators from the land, skies and seas.
The feeding frenzy welcomes a variety of shark species such as the copper, dusky, blacktip and spinner, joined by big gamefish such as shad, garrick and geelbek. Dolphins, and even whales, can be seen feeding on the delicious silver fish, driving them towards the surface where, overhead, marine birds – cormorants, gulls and terns – plummet from the skies into the water.
Commercial fishermen flock to the beaches, using seine nets to encircle the fish. These are then dragged ashore and, from there, scooped into baskets. This social occasion also sees recreational anglers and other interested parties heading to the shores with baskets and nets to capture the fish, which are then used in meals or sold for bait.
MORE THAN A SARDINE SIGHTING
Tourists visiting this winter spectacle are invited to either watch from the shores of the #KZNSouthCoast or embark on a deep-sea adventure with many tour operators chartering boats for a close-up viewing and some fantastic fishing.
For a real #SardineRun experience, visitors can immerse themselves in the coastal waters, scuba diving or freediving with tour operators amidst the sardine excitement.
The year-round sunny weather and temperate climate of the #KZNSouthCoast means that, even in the winter months, there’s so much to be enjoyed at the seaside. Divers can take advantage of two world-renowned sites – both of which happen to be Marine Protected Areas – Aliwal Shoal (off Umkomaas) and Protea Banks (off Shelly Beach).
However, if a more relaxed seaside experience is on the cards, then there are several golden sandy beaches waiting to be explored. Five of them – Marina, Trafalgar, Southport, Umzumbe and Hibberdene – have blue flag status. These provide tourists with world-class standards in terms of environmental, safety and quality. There are many rock pools to be explored with the South Coast being home to the most tidal pools in the province.
In addition to the deep-sea fishing opportunities, there’s also incredible shore angling with many rock-and-surf fishing spots along the shoreline.
Beyond angling, the unmatched conditions along these beaches make for great surfing, with international surfers attracted to Umzumbe, Shelly Beach, St Michael’s-on-Sea, Scottburgh, Southbroom, Margate, Port Edward and Lucien Beach.
Stand-up paddling, kayaking, windsurfing and snorkelling are also some of the other water-sports’ activities enjoyed here.
The annual #SardineRun also happens to coincide with the whale migration as the humpback and southern right whales head northwards towards Mozambique. These magnificent creatures can be spotted breaching from the seaside or from the many whale decks at Umtentweni Conservancy Whale Deck, Ramsgate Whale Deck, Impithi Beach Kiosk, and Umdoni Golf Club Whale Deck.
For more information about USCT, as well as events and activities on the #KZNSouthCoast, download the free ‘Explore KZN South Coast’ app from Google Play and Apple stores or #Visit www.visitkznsouthcoast.co.za. Follow the ‘South Coast Tourism’ Facebook page or @infosouthcoast on Twitter.