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The South Africa Sardine Run Expedition

Join expedition leader Mark Graham


mark graham - Sardine Run Expedition Guide
Safety Conscious
Mark Graham

Underwater filmmaker

Specialist shark videographer and guide Mark Graham is the filmmaker behind the popular shark YouTube channel – White Shark Ocean. On the Sardine Run, Mark is dedicated to guiding and positioning our expedition team to ensure the collection of incredible video and photographic content.

Join us on an unforgettable journey into the heart of marine wonder with our exclusive 7-night Sardine Run expedition, happening in the pristine waters of South Africa in 2024. Experience one of nature’s most breathtaking spectacles while immersing yourself in the rich biodiversity of the ocean. We base our expedition in the picturesque coastal town of Chintsa, nestled along the rugged Wild Coast of South Africa, renowned for its unspoiled beauty and abundant marine life. It serves as the perfect launching point for our exploration of the legendary Sardine Run. The Sardine Run draws millions of sardines as they migrate along the South African coastline, creating a thrilling spectacle where predators like dolphins, sharks, and seabirds converge in a feeding frenzy.

Led by expert guide and filmmaker Mark Graham, you’ll witness this extraordinary event up close, from the comfort of our specially equipped boats. In addition to the Sardine Run, encounter a diverse array of marine life, including humpback whales, seals, and sharks. Whether snorkelling, diving, or observing from the surface, each day brings new opportunities for unforgettable wildlife encounters. Stay at Crawfords Lodge, nestled within lush gardens overlooking the ocean, providing the perfect sanctuary for relaxation after a day of adventure. Enjoy delicious buffet-style meals crafted from locally sourced ingredients, showcasing South Africa’s vibrant culinary scene. Guests do not need to be SCUBA-certified to participate (although non-divers will be limited to snorkelling). All necessary SCUBA and freediving equipment will be provided, ensuring ease and comfort underwater. Our experienced guides offer comprehensive briefings and support throughout the expedition for the safety and enjoyment of all participants.

Join us for an unforgettable adventure into the heart of marine marvels, exploring the wonders of the Sardine Run in South Africa. From thrilling encounters with apex predators to serene moments of underwater tranquillity, this expedition promises an enriching journey leaving a lasting impression. Come and be a part of nature’s grand spectacle, and experience the magic of the Sardine Run firsthand.

YouTube player
What is the Sardine Run?

The annual migration of sardines up the eastern coast of South Africa is an event no one wants to miss. From May through July, shoals of sardines follow cold, nutrient-rich currents that sweep in-shore up the east coast due to changes in weather patterns. Along with these sardines comes a vast array of hungry marine predators such as Cape Gannets, superpods of Common dolphins, Bryde’s whales, and several shark species (Dusky sharks, Copper sharks, Blacktip sharks, Ragged-tooth sharks, Bull sharks, and more). Aside from the incredible shoals of sardines, there is also the annual migration of Humpback whales travelling north where they will give birth. They can be seen daily in small family groups. The Sardine Run is unpredictable – making it the most exciting way to spend a day at sea. You just never know what you will witness next. BBC recognizes this event as ‘The greatest shoal on Earth’, and we couldn’t agree more. Whether you are a certified diver or a non-diver, this experience is for you. All ocean lovers and conservationists will thoroughly enjoy this spectacular marine event.

Where will I stay during my trip?

During the Sardine Run expedition, adventurers find respite at the idyllic beachside Crawfords Lodge. Here, we are extended a gracious welcome, provided with inviting accommodations and incredible buffet meals that embody the essence of coastal luxury. Awaken each morning to the breathtaking panorama of the sea and the stunning vistas that surround you. Our well-appointed rooms ensure a comfortable stay, offering all the amenities one would anticipate from a premium beach resort experience. Expedition explorers have the option of shared accommodation (with one of explorer) or single rooms. Rooms include

  • 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)
  • In-room safes
  • Coffee and tea stations
What activates are included in expedition?
  • Maximum five full-day (up to 7 hours) expeditions to experience the Sardine Run (weather dependent)
  • Reserve day game drive or quad bike on a nature reserve
Where is the point of departure that I must travel to?

King Phalo Airport – East London. The closest international and domestic airport is King Phalo Airport. Explorers must arrive at the airport from where a shuttle will be waiting. Alternatively driving explorers can arrive at Crawfords Lodge, Chintsa.

What specialized equipment should I bring?

Cameras (video and still) – All cameras, topside and underwater are suitable for the sardine run! However, the sardine run does involve a lot of jumping in and out of our boats, and for this smaller cameras like a ‘GoPro’ or mirrorless are ideal! Topside photography and videography are great, but boat conditions are often wet. So ensure that any ‘non-housed’ cameras are kept in a waterproof container/bag and only brought out in calm and stable conditions.

SCUBA / Snorkel equipment – Many explorers choose to bring their facemask and other small SCUBA/freediving equipment. In addition, if your body size does not conform to standard wetsuit sizes (chat with the expedition leader), then we recommend bringing a personal wetsuit. The expedition does not supply dive computers, and thus you should bring your own if choosing to SCUBA dive.

What available add-ons / optional are not included in package?

At the resorts, explorers can enjoy massages and beauty therapies, hire surfboards, and relax at the lodges bars and restaurants. If bad weather cancels more than one day, explorers have several optional activities to participate in, including golf, game drives, wine tasting and more.

Are sightings / encounters on the trip likely?

All adventurers considering joining us on the sardine must run understand the realities of this expedition. The expedition cannot offer any guarantee of sightings. We are meeting nature entirely on its terms, we are not chumming, interfering, or manufacturing the sardine run, but watching, waiting, and hoping to witness this spectacular event!

From past experience, the likelihood of diving / snorkelling on a bait ball is in the region of 50-60%, whilst the likelihood of observing whales, dolphins, gannets and other associated predators is 100%

Do I need to be SCUBA certified?

No. Most of the action happens at the surface so 90% of your time will be spent on snorkel. You will not miss out on any baitball or sardine run action if you only snorkel or freedive.

What happens 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 beach site at Chintsa. Often, we are a two-hour boat ride away from this site, and thus cannot return to land for sea sickness. If you are prone to seasickness, it is best to take as many precautions as possible to control it before launching.

Expedition Dates
  • Expedition 1: 12 May – 19 May 2024
  • Expedition 2: 19 May – 26 May 2024
  • Expedition 3: 26 May – 2 June 2024
  • Expedition 4: 2 June – 9 June 2024
  • Expedition 5: 9 June – 16 June 2024
  • Expedition 6: 16 June – 23 June 2024
How does the catering work?

Crawfords Beach Lodge caters for all our meals 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, an assortment of high-energy snacks and drinks will keep our energy up throughout the day! Crawfords 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.

Whilst filter coffee, tea, juice and water are included in the package, alcoholic and bar beverages will be for explorers’ accounts.

What qualifications / fitness / skills are required?

The Sardine Run is physically 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 and climbing on and off small dive boats. Spending 8 hours a day on a small boat is challenging for even experienced ‘seadogs’.

Are special permit or visa's required?
If SCUBA diving, an MPA (Marine Protected Area) diving permit is required for each explorer. This will be acquired by the expedition leader and the cost is included in the package. Some information (dive certification, passport number etc.) will be required from you before the expedition for administration of this SCUBA permit.
Please personally check if travel from your country requires a special visitors VISA.
Is specialized equipment included in the expedition?

All SCUBA and Freediving equipment (excluding dive computers) are provided to explorers on the expedition. If you prefer personal diving equipment, you are welcome to bring it with you.

Is transportation provided during expedition?

Airport transfers trips to game drives and other activities are included. Explorers are welcome to walk around the small town of Chintsa and the beach.

How do bookings / cancellations work?

Bookings are made directly with the expedition leader. To confirm your place on the expedition a 20% deposit is required and a balance of payment is within a month of the expedition launch date.

Deposits are non-refundable, however, can be redirected to subsequent years’ expeditions in case of forced cancellation – such as travel bans. In case of additional bad weather days following our one reserve day, additional activities can be organized on guests’ accounts (e.g. golf, snake parks, horse riding), but we do not offer bad weather refunds.

Can I come for a shorter trip?

Possible – From our experience with sardine-run expeditions, we know that this duration of the expedition (7 nights) 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. Closer to the launch date, the expedition leader may allow shorter trips if space on boats permits. Please contact the expedition leader about this possibility.

What cameras should I bring?

All cameras, topside and underwater are suitable for the sardine run! However, the sardine run does involve a lot of jumping in and out of our boats, and for this smaller cameras like a ‘GoPro’ or mirrorless are ideal! Topside photography and videography are great, but boat conditions are often wet. So ensure that any ‘non-housed’ cameras are kept in a waterproof container and only brought out in calm and stable conditions.

  • 5 Sardine Run boat days (max)
  • 1 Game Drive / Quad Bike (reserve day)
  • Expedition leader/dive master & skipper
  • 7N accommodation
  • Activity fees
  • Airport transfers
  • Full catering
  • Expedition transport
  • Entrance fees
  • Equipment (SCUBA)
  • Permits & Licensing
  • Pre-departure orientation
  • Wifi connection
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Emergency assistance
  • International transport
  • Laundry
  • Tips & gratuities
  • Visa fees
  • DAN Insurance / Travel Insurance
  • Medical Insurance
Expedition from

$2400 / 7 nights

Connect with Expedition Leader

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