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Sardine Run trips with National Geographic host Ryan Johnson
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Sardine Run Expedition

Are you ready to join me on an expedition of discovery, diving and adventure? If the answer is yes, then you have to join me on our next Sardine Run expedition with my shark diving company – Blue Wilderness. Here you will open yourself to one of the world’s most challenging but rewarding SCUBA diving expeditions!

The Sardine Run in South Africa is recognized as one of the world’s most spectacular marine events. The run occurs annually between May and July. Vast shoals of sardines migrate from their temperate-water home off South Africa’s southern coast and travel north-east into the sub-tropical coastal waters of the Eastern Cape. Following these immense shoals are masses of marine predators including seabirds; sharks; game fish, dolphins and whales.


When the predators meet the prey, a feeding event of unmatched proportions kicksoff. Hundreds of common dolphins charge after the shoals, separating them into packed bait balls and driving them to the surface. Watched by the hovering Cape gannets, an aerial assault on the sardines occurs when thousands of gannets begin their spectacular plunge diving displays. Below the birds, the bait balls are easy pickings not only for dolphins, but also for shivers of bronze-whaler, dusky and blacktip sharks. The final player, is the behemoth Bryde’s whale. Its huge mouth can decimate an entire bait ball in a single lunge.


In the late 90′s, my company, Blue Wilderness pioneered diving expeditions to follow and film the Sardine Run. We were instrumental in epic productions such as the Emmy Award winning BBC film “The greatest shoal on Earth”. Today I guide our team on expeditions to track down the sardine shoals, we you can enjoy what is one of natures truly incredible events.

South Africa’s annual Sardine Run is an extravaganza of marine life. Some of the highlights of this expedition include these incredible species.

  • Sharks


    From around South Africa, sharks migrate to the sardine run. Black tips, bronze whalers and dusky sharks are some of the most abundant.

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  • Dolphins


    Common dolphins are brains of the sardine run, working together to shoal the sardines into tight baitballs.

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  • Sardines


    The sardine is the main bait player, but often the shoals are joined by numerous bait species including anchovies, red eye and mackerels.

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  • Whales


    Moving coastwards on their reproductive migration – 100’s of humpbacks are spotted on each sardine run expedition. When the baitball are good, the shy Bryde’s whale may make an incredible appearance.

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  • Cape Gannets

    Cape Gannets

    Cape gannets lead us to the massive bait-balls. From the sky’s they plummet into the ocean, diving, swimming and chasing down the darting baitfish.

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  • Cape fur seals

    Cape fur seals

    Always playful and curious, the Cape fur seals are acrobatic as they pull out their signature twists and turns to capture sardines.

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Video clips of the Sardine Run

My team on the Sardine Run expedition is guided by renowned marine biologists, naturalists and photographers. Each expedition is led by one of the below guides.

Ryan Johnson


R yan is a renowned shark scientist and specializes in conducting novel research on great white sharks and other shark species around coastal Africa. His research has led to a number of important scientific breakthroughs, including the documentation of Nicole, a 3.6m great white shark that was satellite tracked from South Africa to Australia and back. During his scientific career he has published over 30 scientific articles on sharks, including two publications in the journals ‘Nature’ and ‘Science’


As a documentary filmmaker, he has hosted, produced and filmed numerous shark and ocean documentaries for international broadcasters including National Geographic, Discovery Channel and the BBC. He is currently an active producer specializing in producing for National Geographic’s annual Sharkfest.


PLEASE NOTE. I am honoured to guide all expeditions I advertise on my site. Bookings and communications will still occur through my company website – ‘Blue Wilderness’ for this expedition. Please ensure you inquire about the expedition on the dates I will be guiding. 

Mark Dixon


M ark, a qualified marine biologist, has worked in environmental positions globally as CCAMLR Scientific Observer in the Ross Sea, Antarctica, and on a Jaguar Project with Conservation International in the Pantanal, Brazil.


An avid hiker, Mark has hiked in the USA and Canadian Rockies, the Chilean, Bolivian and Peruvian Andes, Nepalese Himalaya’s, New Zealand Alps as well as the Drakensberg, Swartberg and Outeniqua mountain ranges.


An astute naturalist and an active field researcher (ornithologist, marine biologist and ichnologist), Mark offers a treasure drove of knowledge to our Sardine Run guests with a mixture of scientific information and personal observations of this great event.

Fiona Ayerst


F iona Ayerst is a underwater and wildlife photographer based in South Africa notable for. She has swum with many species of shark, photographed them, including the Great white shark, Tiger shark and the massive but tamer whale shark. Her images have won awards in numerous photo competitions. She writes for several magazines, and works as an editor for Beyond Blue magazine.


Fiona is a proponent of protecting sharks and ocean environments. Her images have appeared in magazines and newspapers worldwide, such as Time magazine, as well as on magazine covers and Coffee table books featuring wildlife photography. She won South Africa’s 2003 Wildlife Photographer of the Year. She gave a TED talk in 2012 titled My journey into water.

We are proud to allow the team of Crawford’s lodge to treat our guests to warm, comfortable and welcoming lodging during each Sardine Run expedition. Wake up to spectacular sea views and magnificent surroundings in rooms that offer you everything you expect from a luxurious beach resort. Crawford’s range of rooms and suites ensures all our Sardine Run guests can relax and enjoy luxurious private rooms during the Sardine Run expedition. Rooms are all fitted with the following amenities to enjoy:


    • Sea view and private deck (majority of rooms)
    • Air Conditioning or Fan
    • Satellite TV
    • En-Suite Bathroom
    • King or queen sized beds (split if required)
    • Inroom safes
    • Fridge
    • Coffee and tea stations
    • Moderate speed internet

My Sardine Run expeditions run out of the small coastal town of Chintsa, located on South Africa’s wild coast. This location offers one of the region’s safest beach launches, as well as a quiet, secluded beach town with an incredible sandy beach and lagoon to explore.


Chintsa is located at the lower (western) end of the Sardine Run and wild coast. As such expeditions from this location experience the massive bait balls earlier in the season and are typically larger, as the predators and fishing fleets have not yet had the opportunity to decimate the shoals.

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What are the dates?

Blue Wilderness’s schedule for the Sardine Run is featured below. If none of these dates suit your expedition, please send us and email to discuss alternative possibilities Sardine Run 1: 12 May – 19 May Sardine Run 2: 19 May – 26 May Sardine Run 3: 26 May – 2 June Sardine Run 4: 2 June – 9 June Sardine Run 5: 9 June – 16 June Sardine Run 6: 16 June – 23 June

Are bait-balls guaranteed

It is vital that all adventurers considering joining us on the sardine run understand the realities of this expedition. Blue Wilderness cannot and will not offer any guarantee of sightings. We are meeting nature entirely on its own terms, we are not chumming, interfering or manufacturing the sardine run, but watching, waiting and hoping to witness this spectacular event! Our past record (over 15 years) suggests that 40 to 60% of divers will experience a bait ball (sardines, anchovy or red eye) with predators. 100% of expeditions have resulted in sightings of marine predators.

What if I get seasick?

On the sardine run we are out in the ocean wild! Whilst near to shore, the only launch site that can be easily utilised is our initial beachsite at Cintsa. Often we are a two hour boat ride away from this site, thus cannot return back to land for sea sickness. If you are prone to sea sickness, it is best to take as many precautions as possible to control it prior to launching.

What happens with bad weather?

Bad weather is an unfortunate reality on the Sardine Run. The wild coast of South Africa got its name for being, well, a little wild (weather wise)! Thus it is likely that we will lose a day or two (or three) on each expedition to bad weather. We keep a ‘floating’ reserve day for any bad weather days, and spend such as day enjoying a quad bike in a local nature reserve. If there are more than one bad weather days, then it is up to you to decide what alternative activities you would like to do. Unfortunately, Blue Wilderness is not able to offer refunds on additional bad weather days for this expedition.

How does catering work?

Nothing beats great grub before , during and after a hard day on the sardine run! Crawfords lodge caters for all our eating requirements, and ensures we are well fed and happy at all times. The food is homemade, with buffet style dinners and breakfasts. Meals are a fun social event around a communal table and open fire. On the water, a assortment of high energy snacks and drinks will keep our energy up throughout the day!

Can I bring large DSLR or video cameras?

Yes of course! The sardine run does involve a lot of jumping in and out of our boats, and for this a smaller camera like a ‘gopro’ is ideal! But when that big stable bait ball arrives, then nothing quite gets the incredible photos like a good underwater DSLR or mirrorless camera!

Can I come for shorter trips?

From our experience running sardine run expeditions, we know that this duration of expedition will maximize the probability of success. Coming for a shorter period exponentially increases the probability that you will not experience the incredible sights that the sardine run has to offer, due to the difficulty of locating great bait balls and the possibility of bad weather spells. Thus to ensure that we feel morally comfortable that we can deliver the promised service, we do recommend that guests join us for an entire expedition.

Do I need a SCUBA qualification?

We highly recommend that sardine run adventurers are SCUBA qualified. However, we do welcome guests who are not qualified or prefer to free dive. For free-divers, we do insist that you do not move onto a bait ball as this does interfere negatively with aerial predators such as the Cape gannet.

How tough is the Sardine Run really...?

The Sardine Run is tough, and anybody joining us on an expedition should have a relatively good level of fitness and be used to spending time on the ocean. Spending 8 hours a day on a small boat is challenging for even experienced ‘seadogs’.

What if I cancel?

Deposits are non-refundable, however, can be redirected to subsequent years expeditions in case of forced cancellation – such as travel bans. During the Sardine Run, 1 reserve day is built in during which we go on a terrestrial quadbike adventure in a local reserve. In case of additional bad weather days, additional activities can be organized at on guests account (e.g. golf, snake parks, horse riding), but Blue Wilderness does not offer bad weather refunds.

Can I get special meals?

Our buffet style dinners and breakfasts can cater for most eating preferences. If you do have special eating or dietary requirements, simply let us know in advance, and we will arrange suitable catering for you.

How do I book?

to book, simply connect with one of my team and inquire about joining the Sardine Run. When you are happy with what expedition you can join, then our team member will send you a specific link that will take you to an online booking portal. Here you can follow the standard online shop prompts to finalise your booking.

Like what you see? Find out how to join our Sardine Run expeditions here
Like what you see? Find out how to join our Sardine Run expeditions here