Tag Archives: Diving

A Day on the Sardine Run

A typical day on the sardine run involves getting up early in the morning, sitting on the boat as you cruise down to the river mouth as the sun rises then battle the surf to get out to the ocean. You look for gannets and as soon as they move you move with them. As the gannets dive you get ready to jump in after them. Nothing prepares you for the first time you get in the water. The organised chaos that is happening below the surface is unbelievable, hundreds of sharks and dolphins go after the sardines, anchovies and red eyes until none remain. You spend a lot of the time on the water searching for bait balls. There are thousands of dolphins and whales that keep you occupied while searching for sardines. We spent a lot of time snorkeling with the dolphins and occasionally a whale would show up. On a few occasions we chased freighters in the hope of photographing dolphins leaping in front of the bow of the huge ships. All in all it was one of the best wildlife experiences I have ever experienced and I’ll be going back next year.

Video footage by:
Christine and Dudley Kelbe (kelbephotography.co.za/)
Trevor Evans and myself

Everything else was organised by the very talented diver and underwater photographer Greg De Valle and his team, sodwanadiving.co.za/

Video was shot with the following cameras:Canon 5D MKII with seacam housing, GoPro HD Hero 2 with underwater housing, Canon XA10, Nikon D4.

Music: “Collapsing Time” and “From Truth” by Dexter Britain (dexterbritain.co.uk)

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Here’s another photo taken by Greg De Valle of the Sodwana Bay Lodge Dive Centre.

Sharks are amazing creatures, they must be one of the most graceful animals I have ever had the pleasure of seeing in their natural habitat. Even on the frenzied Sardine run they maintain this natural beauty even when they get a little too close for your own personal comfort, if you think people get a little too close for comfort wait till a shark decides to come and have a sniff, if you’re like me it will be one of the most discomforting and frightening things you experience. All will be revealed in a short video that I should have completed soon.


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Chasing Gannets

Here’s another shot from the sardine run, from fellow photographer Dudley Kelbe.

The Gannets are the ones that show the divers where to go, the boats charge across the rough seas in the same direction as the Gannets all hoping to be the first to the scene.

They are amazing creatures, when they start diving into the water en masse, it’s like watching a rolling wave pound the water over and over again. In the water they can go as deep as 10 metres, they don’t necessarily get fish as they hit the water, they also swim around after them, it’s a slightly less graceful look, and get called swimming chickens cause of it.

When diving with the gannets for the first time you get a bit of shock, the noise they make as they hit the water is like a shotgun going off not too far away. It’s even more impressive when they are hitting the water in big numbers it’s like a warzone, the whole experience of diving a bait ball is a bit like that actually.

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Humpback Whale

While hunting for Sardine bait balls you spend a lot of time sitting on the boat, luckily enough there are plenty of whales and dolphins to keep you entertained.

Humpback whales migrate up the coast between May and July, we saw at least a dozen a day, they don’t breach the surface that regularly and are quite shy creatures, we tried snorkeling with them, but it’s hard to pinpoint where they’ll surface again, we did get lucky a couple of times. On one occasion we were lucky enough to have a couple that were playing and breaching quite a lot, it was a good test for the D4, you don’t know where they’re going to breach. So you sit on the boat with the camera ready, waiting to point your camera in the direction of where the whale exits the water, at this point you just hope the autofocus hits it’s mark, the D4 with a 70-200 worked really well, it’s light enough to handhold especially in the swell, , the autofocus was nearly instant, the only issue is as you go up and down in the swell, waves can get in front and the focus is that quick that it will switch to the wave, at times the swell is big enough to hide one of the whale breaches.

It was a great experience and a good chance to practice different types of photography, I did some timelapse photography, quite a bit of night time photography and other video work, it will take some time before I put a short clip together, but I will be doing more video.

In the meantime, here is one of the better shots of the breaching Humpback.

Humpback breaching

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Sardine Run

Well diving with a couple hundred sharks, dolphins and gannets was a very new experience to me.

I have spent the last week diving in South Africa out of Port St Johns, chasing gannets to find these famous bait balls, it’s not for the faint hearted, on our first dive, I thought a shark was going to bite my head off, needless to say I didn’t get back in the water that day. A few days later we came across a much larger bait ball with hundreds of gannets pouring into the ocean, we followed them down and were met underwater by a flurry of sharks and dolphins charging into a tightly knit group of small fish. It is probably one of the most amazing wildlife spectacles I have ever seen, the whole week was. Common and bottle nose dolphins everywhere, Humpback whales cruise past on their migration north, gannets suddenly picking up off the ocean and all charging in the same direction, no ones knows how they know where the fish are, but where the gannets go the boats follow.

I think I’ll be back again next year. Anyone interested?

I have a ton of photos and video that I will be putting together over the next weeks, this was very much a team effort all underwater photography was done by Dudley and Christine Kelbe, and Greg De Valle of the Sodwana Bay Lodge Scuba Centre. We had a couple of GoPro 2s and a 5D Mk II doing underwater video, as well as a couple of SLRs in huge housing taking stills. I finally got to run my D4 through it’s paces, trying to capture whales breaching the surface, and dolphins jumping out the front of large container ships

This image was taken by Greg.

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