by Tamlin Wightman on June 15, 2011
2 min read

The migration of animals is one of the most humbling of phenomena to encounter. David Attenborough has been showing us that for years and we at Rhino Africa have been taking people on various trips to marvel at such wonders up close for years too. The extraordinary annual Great Migration of wildebeest and other grazing herbivores across the Serengeti in Tanzania is definitely one of the most popular, but, on a smaller but still marvel-worthy scale, is the migration of the sardines of southern Africa – known as the Sardine Run.

Considered the world’s greatest marine migration, the Sardine Run occurs between around May and July when billions of these tiny fish – know more specifically as the Southern African pilchard (Sardinops Sagax), spawn in the cool waters of the Agulhas Bank and migrate northward up the KwaZulu Natal coast on South Africa’s east coast toward Mozambique, where they divert and head further east into the Indian Ocean. This year the Sardine Run Festival will take place from 4 June to 28 August, so you should spot the throng during these dates.

It’s like a fast-paced Hollywood Action Blockbuster taking place right in our waters. Whale watchers, anglers, tourists, birders, underwater photographers and videographers, scuba drivers and snorkelers go wild this time of year, as newspaper headlines show, heading into the deep blue with the fish or watching the mass from boats or the shore. A feeding frenzy erupts as sharks, dolphins, Cape Gannets, cormorants, seals, Orcas, albatross and penguins swim after the sardines for thousands of kilometres from the southern ocean in the hope of getting a bite.

It’s a beautiful sight to behold and a big attraction, particularly with the annual Sardine Festival held on the South Coast to celebrate it. There are a host of activities and events to keep you busy as you anticipate the first sightings.

You’ve probably already added the Serengeti Migration to your Bucket List but be sure to include the Sardine Run too. Particularly since, in terms of biomass, researchers say it could rival the wildebeest migration anyway…

The Sardine run off the coast of Durban

Some Interesting Sardine Run Facts:


More than –

  • 100 000 people head to the South Coast during June and July
  • 10 000 000 Sardines – more accurately known as the Southern African Pilchard
  • 500 Whales; 23 000 Dolphins; 100 000 Gannets; 1 000 Sharks
  • Shoals are often more than 7 kilometres long, 1,5 kilometres wide and 30 meters deep and are clearly visible from the surface


The Sardine Run: website

The South Coast Tourism Head Office:

Tel: 039 682 7944


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