The Sardine Run and Whales
The Sardine Run is much more than numerous glistening shoals of sardines moving up the coast. It involves and affects many marine animals and can be witnessed from the shore, the sea or the air, and from above or below the clean waters of the Indian Ocean. Great White Sharks, Copper Sharks, Common Dolphins, and Cape Gannets are four key predators that pursue the shoals northwards along the east coast of South Africa.
The shoals can get up to 20-30km long and the feeding displays that result are spectacular. Sharks and dolphins round up the sardines into huge “bait balls”, only to be consumed by the predators. White clouds of Cape Gannets plunge into the water like jet fighter planes, pods of common dolphins join together to herd the sardines through “super pods” several thousand strong, and hundreds of sharks join in pursuit. The South Coast offers several vantage points along its magnificent 120km long coastline for you to take full advantage of the experience from the comfort of a deck-chair.
Marine charters operate out of Port Edward, Ramsgate and Shelly Beach and Margate Airport boasts an active flying club and charters that follow the run to your hearts desire.
You can also dive with the sardines (including the reefs, wrecks and sharks) at Aliwal Shoal, Protea Banks and Rocky Bay as they migrate northwards along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline. An added bonus is that Ragged Tooth sharks congregate to mate during this period and you are sure to have exquisite dives and also experience our huge brindle bass, moray eels, rays, turtles, schools of pelagic fish, whales, dolphins, and many more marine species.
The South Coast has two world-class dive sites and none other than Jacques Cousteau himself rated Aliwal Shoal as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. The Natal Sharks Board have reliably estimated that over 20,000 dolphins follow the annual sardine run and marine biologists have gathered much information through exploration of the oceans that they have now put paid to many of the myths that previously surrounded these creatures of the deep.
During the Sardine Run, you will find the presence of Humpback Whales and Southern Right Whales. This is merely coincidental as they have not been observed feeding on sardines. These whales migrate north to give birth and they mate off the KwaZulu-Natal coast. Whales during their migration, they may travel up to 8,000 km in what is probably the longest mammal migration known to man.
Sardines are typically found in water between 14 °C and 20 °C.
During the winter months of June to August, the penetration of cooler water eastwards along the Eastern Cape coast towards Port St Johns, effectively expands the suitable habitat available for sardines. From the Port St Johns region northwards, it is likely that a cool northerly-flowing counter-current, flowing inshore off the warm southerly flowing Agulhas current, may be one of the factors responsible for the ‘leakage’ of large shoals of sardines further north in what has traditionally been known as the ‘sardine run’.
An up-welling of cool water along this section of coast is caused by north easterly winds which may also assist in the movement of large shoals of sardines northwards. The cool band of water inshore is critical to the run. If the water is too warm (over 20 °C) the sardines will remain in the cooler water further south or move northwards further offshore and at greater depths where the water is cooler. These conditions make the sardines unavailable to the seine-net fisherman, and many of the predators associated with them, as was the case in 2003 when un-seasonal warm sea surface temperatures (21 – 23 °C) were recorded off the southern KwaZulu-Natal coast during the months of June to August.
Sardines have a short life cycle and only live to 2-3 years of age. Spawning takes place in the spring and summer months off the Southern Cape on the Agulhas Banks. Scientists have established that each female releases tens of thousands of eggs into water, which are then fertilized by the males. These eggs drift with the current in westerly and northerly directions into the nutrient rich up-welled waters off the west coast. Here the larva mature and develop into juvenile fish which once strong enough, aggregate into dense shoals and migrate southwards, returning to the Agulhas Banks in order to complete their life cycle.
Southbroom has over 275 species of birds identified and there are highly trained Bird Rangers available to take you out in the early morning to spot as many as you can.
In addition there are three areas close to Southbroom which have excellent birding opportunities
The Uvongo River Nature Reserve
Measuring just 28-hectare in extent, this important reserve protects the riparian strip along both sides of Uvongo’s ‘Vungu’ River, so named by the Zulus for the sound of the winds rushing through its steep-sided gorges. Walking trails through the lush riverine forest provide easy access to numerous species, including the Green-backed Heron, African Finfoot, African Black Duck, Wahlberg’s Eagle, African Crowned Eagle, African Wood Owl, Tambourine Dove, Spotted Ground-Thrush, Brown Scrub-Robin, Grey Sunbird, Purple-banded Sunbird, Grey Waxbill and Buff-spotted Flufftail. No special arrangements are necessary, so come as and when you like.
Mpenjati Public Resort Nature Reserve
Encompassing the Mpenjati River Estuary and surrounding area, this 66-hectare reserve links the coastal dune forest to the lagoon and beach. Among the resident species you can find the Half-collared Kingfisher, Water Thick-knee, Osprey, Swift Tern, African Black Oystercatcher, Kittlitz’s Plover, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Brown Scrub-Robin, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Black-backed Puffback, Green Twinspot, Black-crowned Tchagra, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike and Grey-headed Bush-Shrike..
Umtamvuna Nature Reserve
Situated near Port Edward and bordering the Eastern Cape, this is KZN’s most southerly reserve. Flanking the mighty Umtamvuna River - Zulu for “the reaper of mouthfuls” – this 3247-hectare reserve starts just 3km from the coast and stretches over 20km inland. Crisscrossed by streams, that through time have formed magnificent gorges, the terrain provides some really breathtaking views. Here you are likely to find Wing-snapping and Pale-crowned Cisticolas, Croaking, African Crowned Eagle, Green Twinspot, Grey Waxbill, Grey Sunbird, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Golden-tailed Woodpecker and the Common Cuckoo.
Golf on the Golf Coast
GOLF ON THE GOLF COAST
• Golf doesn’t come much better than on the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal, with a choice of Nine 18 hole course and two nine hole courses, with Southbroom as the epicentre.
Starting from the south and going north
• The Wild Coast - Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. only about a 15 minute drive south, this is a Championship course, pretty blowy there, fascinating and challenging – not least with its unusual six Par 3's. Recently rated at No. 4 of the 10 hardest courses in S Africa.
• Port Edward - Famous for its friendly 19th hole, this nine hole course has duplicate tees, it is a fairly hilly course, but you'll be sure of a very friendly welcome.
• San Lameer Country Club - A Peter Matkovitch designed 18 hole Championship course, not a course for the faint hearted, with water coming into play on 12 of the 18 holes. Also rated in the top 10 hardest courses in S Africa.
• Southbroom – Has variously been called the favourite of the South Coast; friendliest Pro Shop and staff, as well as having excellent Club Stewards and stunning views throughout and always in wonderful condition. You’ll always receive a warm welcome at Southbroom.
Margate Country Club - A very popular family golf course, not the most difficult of courses, but no pushover. There most unusual feature being the St Andrews style double green on the par five ninth and eighteenth holes.
• Port Shepstone Country Club - 90 years old, this course is one of the oldest on the South Coast. The course is famous for its two distinctly different nines. The front nine is challenging and affords golfers a truly wonderful nature experience, whilst the back nine in contras, is far more open, with 'Links' characteristics.
• Selbourne Country Club - This parkland course is a challenge equally to both high and low handicappers. Longer than most courses on the 'Golf Coast', Selbourne is very much an 'Effort and reward' course.
• Umdoni - Regarded as a bit of a hidden treasure, this course has magnificent sea views, set amongst the abundance of unique fauna and flora. The traditional style clubhouse, epitomises the old world charm of the Golf Coast. Particularly famous for its bird life, in that it is home to many of the 386 bird species found on the South Coast.
• Scottburgh - This undulating course has a most attractive setting within sight and sound of the Indian Ocean. Their 'White knuckle' par 4 third hole has destroyed many a fine round of golf with the out of bounds and coastal forest coming into play.
• Umkomaas - Almost an hour from Southbroom, this is the third oldest course in Kwa-Zulu Natal – it is here that Tim Clark has cut his golfing teeth. Whilst having no water features, it is heavily wooded and a liberal sprinkling of bunkers to keep golfers on their toes.