The Great South African Sardine Run

Scuba Diving Adventure Tours in South Africa

It is, perhaps, the most spectacular migration on earth. Rivalling the East Africa wildebeest migration in terms of biomass but totally eclipsing it in terms of predator numbers. And this is your opportunity to experience one of the greatest natural phenomena of the world off the pristine coast of South Africa.

Every May through to July sees billions of Southern African pilchards spawn and move northwards off the east coast of South Africa. The sheer number of sardines that spawn and migrate attract a variety of apex predators to the area in a sardine feeding frenzy that is both grisly, gorgeous and fascinating to watch; a once in a lifetime visual spectacular.

Join us with our experienced ex pat South African diving instructor and tour leader Gerry on a fully escorted diving tour. And if time allows, take advantage of being in this adventure filled region of the world by signing up for one of our optional side trips.


Where: Port St John’s, South Africa

Tour start: Durban, South Africa.

When: July 10-17 2020 (diving component only) and annually each July

Duration: 8 days & 7 nights (6 days of diving)

Costs: The optional tours that are offered in conjunction with the diving will be costed separately.

Diving skill level: Open water diver (max 18m).

Recommended training: PADI Advanced Open Water, PADI Drift Diver, PADI Deep diver.

Fitness level: Reasonable level of fitness required. Some fast moving is required to keep up with the marine life. Must be able to climb in and out of boats with reasonable ease.

Not a diver?: Non diving partner price available on request.

The ultimate marine migration experience, the Sardine Run, can now be readily had at Port St John’s on the South African south east coast. This is truely an unforgettable experience that not many people get to partake in. Not only fascinating, the Sardine Run is actually a lot of fun to be amongst. In addition to sardines you are likely to see dolphin super-pods, hump back whales and numerous shark species.

Trip Itinerary

Day 1
Arrival into King Shaka International Airport and transfer to Umkomaas. After checking into your accommodation, we will sort, double check and distribute the equipment and be briefed on the program and procedures for the following days. We will also get a brief on the expected weather, sea conditions and marine life movements for the diving on the following day as well as the projection for the rest of the week. After dinner, relax and rest up to be ready for an early start in the morning.
Day 1
Day 2
Our first dives. Today we will do a double reef/shark dive at the incredible Aliwal Shoal, which is one the world’s top destinations for diving with sharks. Some of the exciting shark species that we could encounter include Oceanic black tips, White tips, Grey Reef sharks, Silky sharks, Dusky sharks, Bull sharks, Tiger sharks, Ragged Tooth or Grey Nurse sharks, Hammerhead sharks, Great White sharks and Whale sharks.

There is also an abundance of other marine life including potato bass, groupers, dolphins, manta rays, turtles, sting rays, pineapple fish, painted frog fish, harlequin shrimps and much more. It’s an early morning start with a detailed update on the current marine life activity followed by a boat ride to the dive site for our two dives.

After the morning’s diving we will return to the guesthouse for a full breakfast before packing up and preparing for our transfer to Port St John’s. On arrival at Port St John’s we will check into our accommodation, which is ideally situated on the banks of the Umzimvubu River, and then attend a briefing on the procedures, conditions and routine for the following days similar to that of Day 1.
Day 2
Day 3 to 7
Mornings start pretty early with an updated briefing on marine life activity, which will determine the dive locations for the day. Travel to the action site via boat. Conditions permitting you will be continuously in and out of the water on snorkel following the marine life. You need to be physically fit in order to keep up, as the fish move pretty fast. Should a static bait ball form, you will be able to get into the water on SCUBA to see this phenomenon from underwater.

After the morning’s dive we will return to the lodge for a buffet breakfast. After a day spent on the Sardine Run, you will have time to relax at the lodge or enjoy a local excursion. Excursions may vary due to season and conditions but may include what watching, birdwatching, a half day trip to Magawa Falls, Isinuka Sulphur Springs or even a visit to the Sangomas (witch doctors/healers) (additional costs may apply to some tours). Or just relax by the sparkling heated pool overlooking lush lawns and the river meandering to the ocean.

Each evening we will enjoy dinner at the lodge’s fully licensed restaurant. Over dinner we will discuss the day’s diving and the plans and conditions for the follow day’s action. Relax, take the opportunity to stargaze the spectacular skies and rest up for the next day spent amidst the excitement of the Sardine Run.
Day 3 to 7
Day 8
Check out, transfer to King Shaka International and fly back home. OR sign up for one of our optional 4-6 day tours. See below for more information to extend your stay and experiences in South Africa. Contact us for more information or to discuss your own ideas.
Day 8


Want to take advantage of being in this incredible part of the world? Then sign up for one of our optional tours led by our Ex-pat South African diving guide. Let Gerry take you to some of his favourite spots in his homeland.

Options include adding a few days extra in Sodwana Bay for some incredible coral reef diving, the Kruger National Park to go on safari and search for the big 5 animals, the Drakensberg Mountains for breath-taking scenery and hiking, Cape Town for the best food and wine that South Africa has to offer or even Mozambique for a slice of the African tropics. See below for more ideas to extend your stay and experiences in South Africa.

Minimum numbers apply. The destination is decided by the first group to book, so get in early.

Contact us for more information or to discuss your own ideas.

Additional 5 days & 4 nights

This is one of our favourite places in South Africa and Gerry knows the place like the back of his hand. As far as seeing wildlife, Gerry reckons this to be amongst the best on the continent. It’s also accessible and comfortable, so you don’t have to pack anything special or go roughing it.

It is a one day drive from Durban to the Crocodile Bridge gate. We will stay and have dinner at the Crocodile Bridge. In the morning we will drive from Crocodile Bridge to Lower Sabie for 2 nights. Drive from Lower Sabie we will travel to Skukuza for 1 night. In both these areas we will do various excursions at different times of the day as we look for the Big 5 of the famous African animals.

At this point we can either return to Johannesburg International airport for onward travel or extend our tour by another 2 nights and travel to Satara – one of the best places in Kruger National Park for lions (although you are likely to also see lions Lower Sabie. This optional additional 2 nights will make the total tour 7 days and 6 nights.

Winter time is the best time to go to Kruger. However, the park and accommodation is booked out WAAAY in advance so you will need to book early for this tour.

Not a diver?

No problem! Most of the action happens on the surface and so most of this experience involves jumping in and out of the water with your snorkel and fins. Or you can just be on the boat watching it from the surface.

Don’t have your PADI diving certificate?

We are PADI certified and can put you through our course in Adelaide or you can do a course at your local dive school. Alternatively you could head on down to Umkomaas a couple of days earlier and do your course on the renowned Aliwal Shoal.

Fully escorted.

We have indicated that the tour starts in Durban. This is for simplicity to cater for people joining us who are already in South Africa, who are joining us from countries other than Australia, or prefer to travel to South Africa via an alternate route or airline. If you wish to join our tour leader Gerry at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport we will give you the departure date and flight details so you can book the same flight.

Itinerary Changes.

Within the itinerary we may change the order of dives and activities to take advantage of local marine activities or in response to weather and sea conditions. When the sea condition makes diving impossible we will endeavour to organise an alternate activity. We will discuss these changes with you at our regular evening briefings.

If the itinerary specified restaurant or activity is closed on our scheduled day then we will always have a Plan B. Generally we will know at the time of your booking if your tour will overlap a scheduled closed day.

Upcoming International Tours

The Great South African Sardine Run

July 10th – 18th 2020

Japanese Temple, Mountain Forest & Food Tour

October 27th – November 2nd 2020

Upcoming Tours

april, 2024

All Australian tours are “on demand” tours but look for our specials on our blog page.

Have any questions?

Feel free to reach out and we're happy to answer any questions you may have.


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