The Wild Coast of South Africa: Transkei – Where the Sardine Run Happens

The Wild Coast of South Africa: Transkei – Where the Sardine Run HappensIn the wild wild East of Africa is a yearly phenomenon that attracts hundreds of divers to the small town of Pt. Saint John and Mbotyi in the Transkei. All the action takes place in one location: The Wild Coast. After launching from the Umzimvubu river and driving up and down along the coastline, no soul on earth would disagree its name.

Did we think for a couple of years ago, these birds must be really clueless, flying up and down, now we all know better. The Cape Genets are genius spotters of the red eyes, mackerel and the famous sardines running along the coastal waters of Africa.
No one exactly knows when the millions of small silvery fish come and the understanding of these little creatures is poor. All the knowledge we gain is by waiting and watching for hours and hours and hours.

Thé location to play the waiting game is most likely the ocean. With a boat full of excited and paying customers, tired from their overseas travel, you as a dive guide and skipper feel the need to show the best that The Wild Coast has to offer. And then nothing happens. You fill the time with eating your sandwich, drinking your juice and talking to the people on the boat. This is definitely not the reason why they travelled long hours on a plane, woke up at 6 in the morning and stepped into their half wet dive suit.

The Wild Coast of South Africa: Transkei – Where the Sardine Run HappensLike a real strategist the ocean comes up with it first move. Far in the distance is a huge breaching whale. We all get excited and as the skipper slowly drives closer and the humpback whale continues his action, we all agree, this is phenomenal and worth to shoot on camera. The most expensive camera's hidden in cheap plastic bags come out and every single person wants to get that right shot.


Still not sure what the plan of action is, we all quickly have to put our camera's away. With full speed we drive towards the stars of the sardine run, the cape genets. With no less than a 100 km an hour in a perpendicular angle these birds are diving, sometimes they reach a depth many free divers would dream of. The setting becomes surreal and as we are watching from the boat, we know this is the moment to put as fast as we can our scuba gear on. Being in a trance, watching the spectacle, we all slide in the water and descent to a depth no deeper than 15 meters.


The Wild Coast of South Africa: Transkei – Where the Sardine Run HappensThe sounds of the Transkei will follow you into the bedroom. The cape genets hitting the water is like fireworks on New Year’s evening. Everywhere you hear the clicking of the dolphins, in the distance we all can hear the singing of the whales. As peaceful as the ocean was, now it turns into a perfect decor for one of the greatest marine migrations on earth.


My name is Judith and I travel all around the world working as a scuba-instructor. A month ago I met Szilvia Gogh in a small South African dive town called Umkomaas. She gave me the opportunity to share my South African Dive Experience. Read and enjoy! Read more at my page


Written by Judith van Ouwerkerk, Umkomaas, South Africa.