I drove down with Mike from Pisces divers and we joined up with Chris and Monique Fallows from Apex Expeditions at East London.
The 1st launch we went out of the harbour which is situated in the river mouth and it was such an easy launch which made it really great. Then we headed south down the coast looking for gannet and dolphin activity.
The big swell 4-6 meters was not an issue as we had almost no wind. Only the long ride on the rubber duck without any activity can be very boring. We stayed on the water for 8 hours and covered about 70km. I have learned that Common dolphins is the ones we wanted to see as they do hunt in organised groups forcing bait balls whereas the Bottlenose dolphins just goes in and hunt without proper technique.
We saw a pod bottle nose dolphins just outside of the harbour in dirty water and decided not to stay around. At some spots we had loads of dolphins swooshing past and now and then we jumped in with snorkel and camera to see if we can get something interesting on film. We knew there was no bait balls as the gannets were diving in at shallow angles and our Skipper Marcus said they are diving for Walla Walla. The fish is a bit longer than a sardine and the dolphins and gannets were really going at them.
At one spot we went in we got to see Humpback whale which was great and we got a couple of shaky shots. On our way back to the boat 3 biggish dusky sharks came to check us out which to me was scary as I was on Snorkel and not scuba.
The 1st day ended with no bait balls but some good viewing if animals I did not see before. Day 2 and 3 was blown out and Mike and me travelled down to Chintsa and stayed at Buccaneers Backpackers which were great. Mike and Chris also had a quick surf at Nahoon and at Buccaneers we were also in the water surfing. We also tried to go out on a sea kayak but gave up as were not able to get through the surf at all and got rolled a couple of times. With Mike losing his shades on one of the rolls trying to save the paddles. We ended kayaking in the river and did not fall over once.
Day 4 out to sea was much more successful, unfortunately the viz was about 5-8 meters with green water and loads of particles.
Scuba gear was on and off a couple of times and we saw, bait balls , sharks and more sharks(dusky and black tip reef), dolphins and then the black submarine shape of a Brydes Whale silently gliding past. WOW. That happened after we had a too friendly encounter with a dusky with Mike nudging him off with a strobe and me without the big strobes getting into the karate kit style underwater and my bicolour fins telling the guy to stay with the sardines.
Unfortunately we did not see any of the diving gannets but could hear them bombing into the water. This last big bait ball was incredible with fish forming up and going everywhere in unison. Dolphins diving through them and we back paddling trying not to get too deep into the action. At one time we had a big ball which looked like Cape Town Stadium encircling us which was daunting for me as minutes before we saw sharks and a Brydes whale.
Day 5 saw only walla walla action and a couple of encounters of breaching humpback whales and a big dusky swimming underneath the boat.
We also saw different type of albatrosses, petrels and other sea birds.
In the harbour we saw an American navy Swift craft which we were not allowed to pass close by. It was also interesting to see how many vehicles can come out of the belly of the big vehicle cargo ships . The East London river mouth harbour was really impressive and we even saw some dolphin swimming in it.
To summarise: The Sardine run was a great experience to have been witness too, even with low viz we could see a lot of action. But stating it nature has its own agenda so also be prepared that you are not going to see anything but still would end up paying as the skipper, boat and crew are on standby 24/7 and that cost need to be covered by the hopeful diver.
Things to remember is that you are on a boat for 6-9 hours covering about 70km every day, so sunscreen, hats, something warm, refreshments and perhaps seasick tablets need to taken along. Also remember the spare batteries for the cameras and binoculars.
Thanx to Mike from Pisces divers (www.piscesdivers.co.za) who invited me along on this awesome trip.