The cooler winter weather on the KZN South Coast is synonymous with the annual Sardine Run – a massive shoal of silver fish that move northwards, bringing predatory birds and fish close to shore.
This year has been a bumper season, with seine netters dodging hungry sharks to bring home the big catches.
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“We are very excited that, for a second year running, the KZN South Coast is experiencing a great Sardine Run, with anglers and visitors getting to experience all the action,”
said Ugu South Coast Tourism (USCT) CEO, Phelisa Mangcu.
“With the country in hard lockdown last year, few were able to get to the beaches to experience the Sardine Run. It’s great that lowered restrictions this year will allow more visitors to come and witness this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle. We encourage everyone to follow all relevant Covid-19 safety protocols while enjoying everything the KZN South Coast has to offer.”
Known as the #GreatestShoalOnEarth, the annual Sardine Run is one of the planet’s greatest biomass migrations.
The massive sardine shoal is accompanied by a variety of ocean predators including sharks, whales, dolphins and big game fish, while overhead gannets and other sea birds dive into the ocean getting their share. Commercial fishermen flock to the beaches, using seine nets to encircle the fish that which 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.
The 2021 Sardine Run got underway along the KZN South Coast on 31 May at Port Edward. Following the action closely is Dr Ryan Daly of the Oceanographic Research Institute in Durban, South Africa, and the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity.
“Starting in late May, early June we had some Sardine Run activity with a big pocket coming through to the KZN South Coast. It’s been a good year so far. There’s been a lot of action on the lower South Coast with a lot of netting at Pumula area and Scottburgh,”
The KZN Sharks Board (KZNSB) monitors sardine activity and removes or replaces KZNSB gear as required, ensuring safe bathing conditions throughout the season. Greg Thompson Acting HOD/Operations said that, like the previous three years, 2021 was a turning out to be a great Sardine Run.
“The 2021 Sardine Run has possibly been one of the best runs in the last 20 years from a sardine bio-mass and netting point of view, with approximately 140 successful nettings to date,”
“This year the consistent waves of sardines entering KZN was most impressive, starting in the last week of May and continuing filtering through to the end of July.”
As a point of comparison, Thompson said the approximate number of nets taken in 2018 was 122, in 2019 it was 95, in 2020 it was 117 nets and this year it was 140 nets in total. He said there were reports of sardines in the Scottburgh and Pennington area over the long weekend, and while the biggest concentration seems to have moved on, there’s always a possibility of odd netting still taking place.
#WozaForWinter to the KZN South Coast
Winter is one of the best times to visit the scenic KZN South Coast with its sunny skies, mild temperatures and great surf. The Sardine Run spectacle can be enjoyed from the coastal shores, or out to sea by chartering a boat through one of the many tour operators. Visitors can also get up-close to the action by scuba diving or free diving, with Aliwal Shoal (off Umkomaas) and Protea Banks (off Shelly Beach) considered two of the world’s best dive sites.
The Sardine Run is accompanied by the annual 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.
Those looking to enjoy a day at the beach can head to one of the many golden sandy beaches along the KZN South Coast – five of which are Blue Flag beaches at Marina, Trafalgar, Southport, Umzumbe and Hibberdene. There are numerous rock pools to be explored, and the KZN South Coast is home to the most tidal pools in the province, offering protected bathing conditions.
In addition to the deep-see fishing opportunities, there’s great shore angling found here, with many rock-and-surf fishing spots along the shoreline. But 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.
Away from the ocean, visitors can experience the ‘Golf Coast’s’ 11 incredible courses at Umkomaas, Scottburgh, Selborne Park, Umdoni, Port Shepstone, Harding, Margate, Southbroom, San La Meer, Port Edward and the Wild Coast Sun. There are reserves and farmlands which are great for trail hiking, running, 4x4 adventures and day visits, such as the popular KwaNzimakwe Multi-Trails.
For extreme adventures, there’s a gorge swing - the highest swing of its kind in the world – ziplining, white-water rafting and paintball. And there are many cultural sites to explore such as the KwaXolo Caves Adventures, Ntelezi Msani Heritage Centre and various museums.
Covid-19 safety protocols
Because of the many outdoor activities offered on the #KZNSouthCoast, visitors benefit from reduced Covid-19 risk at these open-air venues and sites. In addition to this, USCT has been communicating up-to-date Covid-19 information with all tourism establishments via the website’s dedicated Covid-19 portal, as well as the many social media platforms.
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