top of page

Sardine Safari 2023: Trip Review

Welcome, fellow adventure seekers, to the ultimate aquatic adventure along the South African coast! Today, we're recapping the unforgettable 2023 season! So, strap on your snorkels, don your fins, & let's get ready for adventure!

The Arrival

Our expedition began with great excitement as our first guests landed in South Africa, a country renowned for its diverse marine life. After reaching our base in Umkomaas, we eagerly prepared for the adventure that awaited us. The anticipation was palpable as we gathered & fitted scuba gear in preparation for the days ahead. We had an amazing home cooked curry prepared by “Admiral” Mike Knuyt & had great fun around the dinner table teaching the foreigners about Mrs. Balls Chutney & getting to know each other over a few beers & cocktails.

Into the Blue on Aliwal Shoal

When you think of sharks, South Africa's famous great whites often come to mind. But during the winter months Aliwal Shoal attracts the infamous raggie sharks as it marks the beginning of their gestation period. Popular sites like Raggies Cave & Cathedral are almost always guaranteed to offer up shark spotting.

But along the way you’re also introduced to the delightful potato bass of Aliwal Shoal! With its charismatic personality & endearing appearance, this underwater resident has captured the hearts of divers & marine enthusiasts alike. Despite their imposing size, potato bass are known for their amiable nature, often approaching divers with curiosity rather than caution. These gentle giants are interactive creatures, making eye contact & even accepting a gentle stroke from a lucky diver. Their friendly behaviour has earned them the reputation of being underwater companions, inspiring many to return to Aliwal Shoal in hopes of encountering their familiar potato-shaped friend.

Content credit to Aldo de Kock, Deon Loubser, and Karyn Knuyt

Beyond the sharks & potato bass, we were treated to a stunning array of marine life. Colourful reefs, turtles, & an incredible variety of fish species captivated our senses. Every dive felt like plunging into an underwater wonderland. Such fun was had scuba diving in the captivating world of these underwater giants & creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Each evening in Umkomaas the “Big Boss” Rina Loubser spoilt us with proper South African home cooking, while the “The Boss” Deon Loubser was full of stories & jokes that had everyone in stitches the whole way through. A true delight each night… recounting each day’s tales.

No story about Buddy Scuba Dive Adventures would be complete, without mentioning Rina’s FAMOUS toasted sandwiches! Each day when you return from a dive, there’s a massive platter filled with these tasty little titbits, so lovingly made, & each one boasting a different filling.

Dancing with Dolphins & frolicking with Whales.

The second part of the trip took us to the small coastal town of Port Edward. On arrival we settled everyone in & headed to the Marlin Ski Boat Club for amazing dinners & drinks. The local community being truly supportive, & in awe of this adventure, with the odd landlubber questioning our sanity, wondering why on earth anyone would jump into the water with ocean giants.

As the sun peeked over the horizon the following morning, we hit the beach, & surf launched our way into the blue. Our DM & guide Dale Christelis & expert skipper Aldo de Kock briefed us on what to expect & how to stay safe during this exhilarating experience. The boat rides each day in itself was an adventure, with the wind in our hair & the salty ocean spray rejuvenating our spirits.

Dolphins are known for their playful nature, & on multiple days they decided to put on a show. We swam alongside them, marvelling at their acrobatics & infectious joy. Their sleek bodies darting through the water.

Photo and video credits to Karyn Knuyt, Kerry-leigh Moriarty, Mirella Gerner, and Dale Christelis

Winter months also sees lots of whale action along this rugged coastline. It provides an ideal environment for these magnificent creatures, offering sheltered bays & nutrient-rich waters. It's a breathtaking sight to witness these massive creatures breach the surface, their colossal bodies propelled by sheer power & grace. Their hauntingly beautiful songs reverberate through the water, enchanting all who are fortunate enough to hear them.

Photo and video credits to Mia Wildman, Aldo de Kock, and Karyn Knuyt

Sardine Sightings?

Ahhh… but what about the sardines you ask? As with all things mother nature, it’s unpredictable, & never a guaranteed sighting. On arrival a few days back in Umkomaas the entire southern coastline had astronomical rainfall, causing all the rivers to wash into the ocean turning it into something resembling chocolate milkshake.

The disappearance of sardines after heavy rains along the coast is often attributed to various factors related to the ecological dynamics of the ocean & the behaviour of the sardines themselves. While it's important to note that the specific causes can vary from year to year, here are a few potential explanations:

  • Heavy rains can cause a sudden influx of freshwater into the ocean, leading to a decrease in seawater salinity.

  • Heavy rains can lead to increased turbidity & sediment runoff, altering the water's clarity & reducing the availability of plankton. This scarcity of food can prompt the sardines to move to areas with higher plankton concentrations.

  • Heavy rainfall can affect ocean currents & create localized disruptions in the normal flow patterns.

  • Sardines form large schools as a defence mechanism against predators. However, heavy rains can disrupt this protective behaviour.

It is worth noting that the disappearance of sardines after heavy rains is not a consistent occurrence, & there can be other contributing factors that influence their movements. The complex interplay of environmental conditions, oceanographic factors, & the behaviour of sardines makes it a multifaceted phenomenon that continues to be studied & understood further by scientists & researchers in the field of marine biology.

That’s a wrap!

The Sardine Safari adventure was an experience of a lifetime. It was a thrilling immersion into the wonders of the ocean, where we encountered an astonishing diversity of marine life. From the playful dolphins, majestic whales & the awe-inspiring sharks, every moment was a sensory overload.

But it's not just about the marine life & picturesque landscapes; it's the sense of camaraderie & the shared excitement of all the fellow adventurers who have gathered. New friendships were forged, stories were told & memories made that will last a lifetime. After all, there's nothing quite like bonding around a fire, beers in hand, & Mrs. Balls Chutney Simba chips (a new favourite for a few in our group!).

The mixture of far-flung travellers, & local South African’s became a melting pot of excitement, all with common interest & love for the ocean! We are truly thankful to every single person who joined us for Sardine Safari 2023.

If you're a nature enthusiast or an adrenaline junkie seeking an adventure that pushes the boundaries, the Sardine Safari in South Africa is an absolute must-do. It's an opportunity to witness the raw power & beauty of the ocean while gaining a deeper appreciation for the delicate ecosystem that exists beneath the waves.

So, pack your bags, embark on this unforgettable journey, & prepare to be swept away by the sheer magnificence of the Sardine Run. Trust us, it'll be a trip you'll cherish for a lifetime!

See you in 2024!

The Sardine Safari Team

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page