Sardine run: South Coast pushes the boat out

2011-05-31 00:00

SOUTH Coast Tourism hosted the media at a dinner at uShaka Marine World Aquarium on Friday, where it showcased upcoming events while enlightening the audience about the annual sardine run as a unique natural phenomenon.

Marketing manager Hilda Gabriel said the media launch, which attracted wide coverage from various daily, Sunday and community newspapers as well as radio, was aimed at creating awareness about the South Coast as a winter destination for sport and fishing enthusiasts.

“It was so appropriate to host the event in an aquarium and we were very happy with the turnout,” she said.

“We really want as many people to spend their winter holidays with us, because we feel we have the best entertainment to offer both local and international tourists.”

Dr Sheldon Dudley of the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board and Dr Mark Penning of the South African Association for Marine Biological Research, the scientific wing of uShaka Marine World, spoke passionately about the topic of sardines, explaining how the species affects so much within the sea.

“It’s much more than just about numerous glistening shoals of sardines moving up the coast,” said Dudley. “The sardine run involves and affects many marine animals.

“It can be witnessed from the shore, the sea or the air, and from above or below the clean waters of the Indian Ocean.”

“The shoals can get up to 20-30 kilometres long,” he added. “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 and hundreds of sharks join in pursuit,” said Dr Dudley.

The South Coast offers several vantage points along its magnificent 120-kilometre-long coastline for visitors to observe the run from the comfort of their deck chairs.

This natural spectacle has been made even more entertaining with the many events organised during the Sardine Festival, which runs from June 4 to August 25 from Port Edward to Scottburgh.

Ugu South Coast Tourism CEO Michael Bertram said that diving with sardines is a great opportunity for tourists to see the fish, as well as the various reefs, wrecks and sharks at Aliwal Shoal, Protea Banks and Rocky Bay.

“As the sardines migrate northwards along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline, divers will be able to witness ragged-tooth sharks congregate to mate during this period,” he said.

“This is an exquisite diving opportunity for our tourists to experience our huge brindle bass, moray eels, rays, turtles, schools of pelagic fish, whales, dolphins, and many more marine species.”

Marine charters operate out of Port Edward, Ramsgate and Shelly Beach.

Margate Airport has an active flying club and charters flights for tourists who come to see the sardine run.

For more information about the sardine run and to find out when the sardines are in your coastal area, call the KZN Sharks Board’s sardine run hotline at 083 913 9495.

Sardine Run events

Some of the events around the sardine run which will delight locals and visitors alike are:

• Quattro Go Fishing King of the Sea at Pumla Beach Hotel on June 4 and 5

• Ugu Jazz Festival at the Ugu Sports & Leisure Centre; Mallards Ski Boat Festival in St Michael’s from July 5 to 9

• Lions Show in Port Shepstone from July 15 to 17

• Umtamvuna Portuguese Food and Wine Mariner’s Festival in Port Edward on July 30

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