WATCH | 'Banging start' to 2023 sardine run off the Wild Coast as huge shoal makes trek to KZN
The sardine run is a fascinating event for diving experts and observers and this year's promises to continue to enthral — if the amazing shots doing the rounds on social media this month are anything to go by.
Every winter‚ most often between June and July‚ millions of sardines leave the cold waters off Cape Point and make their way up the coast to KwaZulu-Natal. Each year residents and holidaymakers flock to the beaches in a bid to snap up sards, and catch a glimpse of the spectacle dubbed the Greatest Shoal on Earth, which includes sharks‚ birds and dolphins in a feeding frenzy as they prey on the fish.
Science teacher and videographer Sergio Lucas made waves this week when the stunning shots he took of a shark jumping out of the water hunting for its lunch went viral on social media.
Lucas, born in Bolivia, raised in Spain, and now teaching in China, spoke to TimesLIVE about his week in Port St Johns as part of shark diving expert Walter Bernardis's group and explained how he shot some incredible imagery.
“It was on my first day. We went out onto the blue; they were telling me that on the best days, they saw good action.
“We arrived there and there was a huge baitball, one of the biggest seen in more than 30 years, and it was breathtaking to see from above and underneath.
“As a videographer, I was not sure what camera to use. Then it just happened pretty quick, we were on the boat, mesmerised by the experience.
“A couple of sharks were jumping and when I was just like 'let me see,' the shark jumped. And then we had that massive jump coming out of nowhere.
“There were about three boats but I was the only one, just that moment, with the camera on — not shaking or anything. So it was a hell of an experience.”
Lucas and his diving group shared images and posted them on social media.
He was excited by the praise he was receiving as his images are being widely shared.
“It's like a dream come true and I guess this will open up a lot of possibilities for me in the future,” he said.
“I also want to educate my children in China [he has taught there for seven years] on the good side to sharks and show them that it's an animal to respect. Also to stop eating them — that's my only goal in being here, you know,” he said.
Offshore Africa also shared its videos. The sardine-run specialist operator, in one video, managed to capture a tagged great white shark being tracked by researcher Dr Alison Towner, which she recognised as having been tagged in 2020 and again in early June.
Master scuba diver trainer and shark-awareness instructor Debbie Smith, who runs Offshore Africa with PADI divemaster and commercial skipper Rob Nettleton, shared their first week's experience of this year's run.
“We've had an interesting sardine run. It started with a bang ... and we've had really, really massive shoals coming through. No birds or dolphins but a lot of sharks on them.
“It's been phenomenal, it's really been a massive shoal and for us the season has started off really well. Some of the key ingredients are not here yet but the sharks are here ... We've been taking aerial shots of it and it's been 2km long and then our divers have been diving and it's been 15m in depth. It's been a massive shoal,” she said.
Smith said that while the sardine run usually ran from June to July, each season was different and it was difficult to predict how busy it would get or which dates would be best to take part.
“Nature is nature, we just work with what we've got. But for now, it's looking to be a good season and the dates are good,” she said.
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