Experience the Blue Serengeti
July 5 – 15, 2017
June 15 – 25, 2018
Come with us to South Africa and witness the unforgettable wildlife spectacle that is the Sardine Run, the greatest show on earth.
- SARDINE RUN EXPERIENCE: 12 years
- WHERE: Wild Coast, South Africa
- DURATION: 10 nights, 9 days at sea
- MAX # of GUESTS: 6-8
- PRICING: $6,800 per person based on double occupancy
- ACCOMMODATION: Mbotyi River Lodge–land base
- ACTIVITIES: Relaxed at times, while searching for the Run…but can be quite strenuous once the action starts, diving into the moving baitball, chased by raining birds, dolphins (Common & Bottlenose), sharks (Copper, dusky, Black tip, Spotted Ragged Tooth) and Brydes Whales. We follow the Humpback whale migration as they breach and if possible even dive with them.
Water: 54-62°F (12-16°C) Air: 60-72°F (16-22°C)
Days 2 – 10 – Commence on your 9 days adventure in search of Sardines. The aim is to locate shoals of sardines to view the feeding activity of dolphins, seals sharks and migrating humpback whales. The launch is approx. 06h30 to 07h30 (depending on the light and breakfast). you will return every afternoon to your accommodation for a hot shower, dinner and to share some photos and storytelling of the day’s action.
Day 11 – Transfer back to durban international airport after breakfast.
The greatest show on Earth. The stage is the sub-tropical seas of South Africa’s Wild Coast. The plot highlights the clas- sic struggle for balance between those at the top of the food chain, and those at the bottom. The major players are sharks, dolphins, whales, game fish, and seabirds. But the real stars of the show are the sardines.
These little baitfish gather in huge numbers each year in may, June, and July as they migrate from temperate seas to the warmer waters surrounding the rugged coastline of southern KwaZulu natal province along the eastern edge of South Africa. This grandiose level of swimming biomass draws in much bigger creatures of the air and the sea looking to gorge them- selves on this monumental aquatic expression of nature’s bounty.
Come with us to South Africa and witness the unforgettable wildlife spectacle that is the Sardine Run. The seas here are often tough and unpredictable, with unforgiving waves that dare you to get into the water. of nine potential days to capture the action underwater, there will undoubtedly be at least a few where the conditions are too diﬃcult to launch. Here is a teaser of what you might experience on the Wild Coast. Run adventure was full of anticipation and expectations.
The Rib launched around 7am, cutting through choppy waves in search of seabirds clustering above the ocean, a telltale sign of schooling baitfish below. We did manage to locate some small aggregations of hovering birds and their prey, but the visibility was less than ideal and there weren’t enough fish in the water to create much excitement. Conditions worsened throughout the day and by the time we returned through the battering ram of whitecaps, we felt as if we’d been physically beaten by the sea.
After walking down to the water the next morning, it was obvious that the ocean was in no mood for our company, sights and dramatic waterfalls that gave us plenty to admire on land. But the morning of the fourth day, it was as if the ocean had shed all its anger and was finally ready to let us in. We geared up and hopped into the Rib, reinvigorated by our skipper Walter’s vivid tales of Sardine Runs passed. Walter Bernardis is a shark expert and dive guide who has spent countless hours on and in the water guiding people in search of sardines. Less than an hour into the day, the show began. in the distance, Walter spotted a growing frenzy of seabirds that began dive- bombing the surface of the water as we picked up the pace to reach them as quickly as possible.
By the time we were assembled and ready to get into the water, there was a frenzy of wings and beaks falling through the sky for a chance to grab a nutritious, oily meal of sardine. We back-rolled into the water that was practically boiling with fish, and dropped in right next to a ball of fish so big and dense it completely blocked out the sun. This writhing, churning sphere of marine life was being attacked from every angle.
Below and around the ball, dolphins aggressively herded the sardines, constantly picking oﬀ the unlucky ones that made up the shrinking perimeter. Petrels grabbed the fish oﬀ the surface as they tried to escape upwards, and gannets dived straight down through the bait ball. Black tip and dusky sharks shot right through the center of the sardine ball, creating a momentary void of fish as they gulped down these tasty morsels without even chewing.
The action was constant, overwhelming, and seemed to be occurring at hyper speed. Frenetic movement surrounded us and it was then that we fully realized the necessity of setting our cameras to continuous shooting mode. Suddenly, the entire massive ball of sardines turned towards us and began furiously swimming our direction as if pulled there by an invisible magnet. The dolphins and sharks scattered. Then a huge shadow appeared in the water behind the sardines. it grew larger and clearer and then in an instant we realized what it was.
A gigantic Brydes whale was swimming full throttle directly at the bait ball in an eﬀort to scoop up as many fish as possible in its cavernous mouth. With just enough time to dart a few meters to the left, the whale’s mouth burst through the bait ball, engulf- ing what seemed like millions of sardines right in front of our amazed faces and missing us by a couple body lengths. Once the sardines dispersed and the predators had eaten their fill, we climbed back into the Rib, exhausted, satisfied, and in total awe of the amazing performance nature had just graced us with.
The adventure could have ended right there and it would have been enough, but we still had five more days of this wildlife spectacular left to go. it is important to keep in mind that we are always subject to nature’s will and there is no guarantee what kind of experience you will have. Sardine populations are cyclical and are influenced by many factors including but not limited to weather, water temperature, food availability, and fishing pressure. Some years the sardine numbers are sparse, and other years they arrive in the millions.
The only pre- dictable thing about an adventure is unpre- dictability, but this it what can make the Sardine Run the trip of a lifetime. if reading this makes your heart skip a beat or two while imagining an epic story of predator against prey, then come join BigAnimals Expeditions for the Sardine Run, and become a moving, breathing, and often breathless part of the greatest show on Earth.
• Nine days search and diving
• Ten nights at mboyti River lodge
• All meals • Round trip transfers to durban
• Leadership by experienced expedition team, Walter Bernardis, Amos and Lesley
• All miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program
TOUR PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE
• All airfare
• Overnight in Joberg or durban
• Passport and visa expenses
• Government arrival and departure taxes
• Baggage, cancellation, medical and personal insurance (required)
• Excess baggage charges on all flights
• All items of a personal nature such as beverages and telecommunication
• Customary gratuity • Unused portion of the itinerary
• Costs incurred due to independent travel arrangements
PAYMENT & DEPOSIT POLICY
When we receive your deposit, we will send you a comprehensive and detailed Trip Preparation Bulletin about the experience and the destination. All trip costs are subject to change without prior notice until your reservation is confirmed.
- A deposit of 33% of the total trip price is required to secure space on the trip.
- Full payment is due no later than 90 days before departure.
- We reserve the right to sell any space that is not paid in full by 60 days before departure.
- Cancellation Policy
- Must be made in writing.
- More than 90 days before trip: Deposit will be refunded in full.
- 90 days or less before trip: Deposit will be refunded if space is sold, less unrecoverable costs of sales, and administration costs.
- No refund is made for unused part of the itinerary.
- The following are subject to change:
- Cost of services which are not included in the expedition price
- Flight time and schedule
- Weather, water temperature, and animal behavior
-Please note: Bait-Balls are rare and we cannot expect to dive on these every day. Insurance: you MUST provide proof of travel and diving insurance
Amos has 30 years experience diving with Great White Sharks off Long Island New York, Australia, South Africa, and off the Farallon Islands, San Francisco.
Amos is also a very accomplished professional photographer who was the BBC wildlife photographer of the year in 2007 and 2008.
Throughout your trip Amos will be available to provide you with expert coaching on various aspects of photographing the sharks and their environment, with special attention paid to how to get the best performance from your equipment using both strobes and ambient-light photography.