By Josie  February 23rd, 2023

The SArdine run

Let's see what it's all about

The Sardine Run along the South African coast is one of the largest marine-life migrations on earth.

Yellow Wavy Line
Yellow Wavy Line


A recent interpretation is that the Sardine Run is a seasonal reproductive migration of a genetically distinct population of sardine.

Their passage has to do with the cold currents that stretch along the coast of South Africa, for these currents produce a great deal of plankton

Sardines mate and spawn on the Agulhas banks off the southern Cape coast and their fertilised eggs are left to float on the waters of the open sea, where they are carried north west.

Where does the Sardine Run occur?


To minimise their risk of being eaten the sardines converge and travel in huge shoals.

The sardine shoals are often more than 4,5 miles long and one mile wide.

The large shoals become targets for a whole group of predators.


Birds, larger fish, sharks, whales and dolphins – all join in the feeding frenzy.

Let's look closer at these animals:

Yellow Wavy Line

1. Common Dolphin

The dolphins are thought to be critical players in the run because they do most of the hard work by herding the fish.

They nest on open ground and the cliffs of offshore islands.

The Cape gannet is listed as vulnerable since it has a very small breeding range on just six islands.

2. Cape Gannet

Yellow Wavy Line
Yellow Wavy Line

This species is an inquisitive and friendly animal when in the water and will often accompany scuba divers.

On land, they are far less relaxed and tend to panic when people come near them.

3. Cape Fur Seal

They are swift and energetic sharks – known to leap out of the water and spin three or four times about its axis before landing

4. Blacktip Shark

The blacktip shark is a species of requiem shark.

Yellow Wavy Line

5.  Dusk Shark

They are extremely long-lived and may survive up to half a century, but they are slow to grow and to reproduce.

This, along with their territorial pride, results in small, isolated communities.

Yellow Wavy Line
Yellow Wavy Line

This is the only whale that can be observed feeding on the sardine bait balls of South Africa’s annual sardine run.

Shallow bait balls will often be engulfed in their entirety by these baleens.

6. Bryde's Whale

7. Humpback Whale

These frequent sightings lead many visitors to incorrectly believe that their presence is related to the Sardine Run, but they are just there at the right time during their migration.

Yellow Wavy Line
Yellow Wavy Line

Swipe up for the full story

Head to our website to find tour-operators if you want to witness this phenomenon in real life!

Want to uncover more marine life?