Fishy frenzy in KwaZulu-Natal

If you are one of those people who will only touch a fish if it is deep fried with a sprig of parsley on top, you would not be interested in KwaZulu-Natal’s sardine run, which has just begun.

The shoals have been sighted off the Wild Coast and are expected to hit the province’s shores in June. The sardine run, for those who don’t know, is a yearly phenomenon when gazillions of sardines in huge shoals take advantage of the colder winter water along the South Coast to migrate northwards.
They are followed by thousands of dolphins, whales, sharks, seabirds and people with plastic washing baskets.

Sardine shoals of this size are common, but nowhere else in the world do they come close enough to shore to become a spectacle for human beings.

The shoals often come close to shore to escape predators and the panicked silvery masses may even be forced up on the beach. During this yearly feeding frenzy, onlookers have unequalled views of marine animals from land, from boats and from special platforms.

For decades this phenomenon has played out without the assistance of humankind, but now the municipalities of the South Coast have decided to pour funds into promoting this event around the world. Overseas visitors will be persuaded that dashing after the sardines is the marine equivalent of running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

It’s quite a spectacle. The shoals are pursued not only by birds, predatory game fish, cetaceans and sharks, but also humans, who lose all social inhibitions amid the wriggling bounty.

To make it easier for visitors, a hotline has been established that tells the caller everything there is to know about the sardines, though most visitors are concerned only with the shoals’ whereabouts. The hotline also details sardine-related activities, non-sardine-related activities and accommodation throughout the area.

The municipalities and the tourism authorities plan to create other attractions during the sardine run, so even if the fish lay low there will be other experiences to keep visitors happy.

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