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Sardine Run Photographic Experience

Experience the Sardine Run on the Wild Coast, an event of spectacular proportions during winter on the South African coastline. A real African experience, with our personal touches and local knowledge. But joining us you will escape the tourist route and join us for a wonderful experience. This time of year is right in the middle of two migrations; shoals of sardines and pods of humpback whales. Tonnes of sardines, and other baitfish, are moving north to spawn, closely followed by their predators. At the same time, pods of humpback whales are migrating north to warmer waters to give birth. Nature and wildlife enthusiasts as well as photographers will get a chance to capture ocean wildlife as never imagined.

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Dates and Rates Sardine Run 2025
Sardine Run – R39 500 (shared room) | R43 500 (private room)
*add SCUBA R4000
*add YOGA 29 June - 6 July only - R5000
*add shuttle from East London to Mdumbi return - R3000
*Private shuttle options available 
Expedition 1 – arrive 21 June – depart 28 June

  • Sardine Run –  Fully booked 

  • Sardine Run – 8 places available 

Expedition 2 – Evening YOGA - arrive 29 June – depart 6 July 

  • Sardine Run – 8 places available 

  • Sardine Run – 8 places available

Expedition 3 – arrive 7 July – depart 14 July

  • Sardine Run – 8 places available

  • Sardine Run – Fully booked

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What is included:​​
  • Yoga daily (29 June to 6 July only)

  • Yoga props excluding mat

  • All meals (including oysters and lobster when available)

  • 2 Marine guides per vessel

  • Photographic table on the boat

  • Accommodation

  • Basic Wifi. Good for emails and WhatsApp

  • Weights and weight belts

  • 1x 10l steel din SCUBA tank on SCUBA option

Not included:
  • Flights to East London, South Africa.

  • SCUBA supplement

  • Snorkeling equipment  - small extra fee for a complete or partial set

  • SCUBA equipment hire - BCD and Regulator.

  • Transport to Mdumbi, arranged on request.

  • Yoga mat

  • Gratuities

  • Alcohol

What is available to buy in Mdumbi? 

  • Massages with Lindeka

  • Oysters from the mamas

  • East Coast rock lobster from the fishermen

  • Milkshakes, Coffee, and Tea

  • A selection of beer and spirits available nearby

  • Animal Ocean will have a range of wines available at cost price.

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Iyengar Yoga with Monique

Yoga is available in the evenings on our 2025 trip - 29 June - 6 July 2025. Monique LOVES Iyengar yoga. She has practiced for the past 15 years and has been teaching for 9. She began yoga with the simple intention of wanting to become more supple, but soon realised the immense healing properties yoga provides. After one year of yoga her scoliosis-related pain and migraines disappeared, and in the years since yoga has transformed every part of her life from the inside out. In 2015, Monique left her career in architecture to teach and practice yoga full time. Her teaching focuses on alignment, because she believes that it is with alignment that one finds true freedom in yoga, and that alignment can help one go much deeper into one’s yoga practice. Find out more about her and regular classes at Ayama Yoga in Cape Town. Come on this trip and share classes with her every evening.

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Wildlife Photography with Steve

Steve is an ocean and photography addict and has built his life around the ocean since 2009. He has led sardine run trips for the last 15 years; a passion project he loves to share each year. Steve has advised, facilitated, and assisted on expeditions with National Geographic magazine and the BBC’s Blue Planet II. He loves creating wild ocean experiences and rare photographic opportunities for clients. Join him on the Sardine Run for an action-packed adventure that you won’t forget! See more of his photography on Instagram.

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Mdumbi is the best place to experience the marine life on the Sardine Run. The rolling hills of Mdumbi Backpackers overlook the estuary and the ocean. A quick walk down the hill each morning is where we will launch the boat. With only 7 places available, this trip offers adventure for those who want to escape the masses and find something unique. See more here

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The Daily Routine

We start the day early at 6:30 am. A basic cold breakfast will be waiting at 6:30am, after which we will kit up and go. From 7:30am we are on the water with the whales, dolphins, and sardines. The afternoon from 4-6 pm is yours to relax, before dinner at 6 pm. Each day promises to be an adventurous wildlife and yoga experience. 

What to expect/What to bring
Ocean Conditions

Encountering the ocean in this unique way means being exposed to the water, wind, and sun for the day on the boat (8 hours). Ocean conditions can vary, so those prone to seasickness should bring the necessary preventive medicine. Bring sunscreen, a windbreaker, a hat, sunglasses, and a buff. Mdumbi is a rural village, with no shops or facilities. Bring all your essential items for this time. The evenings can be chilly, and we will be there in the mild South African winter month of June. Temperatures, on land, range from 14-21C in this season. Bring warm clothes for the evenings.

The water temperature ranges from 16C – 22C. We recommend at least a 5mm wetsuit with a hood. Long-blade freediving fins are highly recommended as the action is fast moving and you need to fin to keep up. We provide weights and weight belts with other equipment available to rent if requested. 

SCUBA diving is an available option BUT divers must be well trained and comfortable in the water. The conditions are difficult with often poor vis, fast-moving action, big sharks, and open water. We advise that freediving or snorkeling is the better way to experience the Sardine Run as a whole but for some scuba divers, you may want the SCUBA option for photographic purposes. We provide weights, belts and 1 x 10l steel tank. Other equipment can be rented from us if needed. 

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The rooms you will be staying in are basic Xhosa-style round houses, called Rondavels. These are traditional African huts with no en-suit bathrooms. There is electricity in the rooms, but shower and toilet facilities are all located in a central building a short walk away. You can connect to Wifi from most of the rooms, but not all. Wifi is always available in the central dining and reception.


All yoga sessions will be held 3-5minutes walk away beneath a casuarina grove, on a tented deck overlooking the bay. These sunrise and sunset yoga sessions will be open to the natural elements, although protected from any rain we may have. Bring warm clothes for the final resting pose of each session. Mats and essential props will be provided. Water bottles and sweat towels won’t be necessary.

Getting to Mdumbi

The best way to join us is to fly to East London airport. East London is 6 hour drive away from Mdumbi. Self-drivers must depart East London by 12:00 to arrive on time.

Email us at to get on board and experience the ocean as you have never before!

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Animal Encounters - Species List

The Sardine Run is more than just looking for bait balls, it’s about a complete marine safari. Each day we need to read the ocean conditions, understand the animal behaviors and follow our intuition to find great opportunities to observe and photograph the ocean life. Below is a list of all the creatures we have encountered on our Sardine Run expeditions.

They are grouped into the likelihood of sighting in a normal 6-day trip. Creatures that I’m sure all our guests will see on a normal trip are listed as common. Some creatures we only see 1- 2 times in a season of running 6 normal trips and are listed as Uncommon. There are some creatures that I’ve only seen a few times in all the years on the water on the Transkei coastline, and they are listed as rare.

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Marine Sightings
Common Sightings (90-100% chance of seeing)
  • Common Dolphin

  • Brydes Whale

  • Humpback whale

  • Bottlenose Dolphin

  • Dusky Shark

  • Ragged tooth shark

  • Cape Gannet

  • Cape Cormorant

  • Subantarctic Skua

  • Kelp gull

  • Sooty shearwater

  • White-chinned petrel

  • Indian yellow-nosed albatross

  • Black-browed albatross

  • Eastern little tuna

  • Loggerhead turtle

Uncommon Sightings (30% chance of seeing)
  • Pantropical-spotted dolphin

  • Southern Right whale

  • Humpback dolphins

  • Cape fur seal

  • African penguin

  • Shy Albatross

  • Antarctic Prion

  • Manta ray

  • Sailfish

  • Green turtle

Rare Sightings (1% chance of seeing)
  • Great White shark

  • Tiger shark

  • Whale shark

  • Black Marlin

  • Minke whale

  • Orca

  • Sunfish

Bait Fish Identification

If you are coming on the Sardine Run, you’re looking forward to seeing the massive shoals of sardines as they move up the coast on their spawning migration. Hopefully, the phenomenon happens whilst you are on the water, ready and waiting. There are many species of small silverfish that you may witness the predators feasting on. Each species has a different tactic to avoid getting eaten, this is what we call the “baitball”. This is really a tight schooling pattern that these fish form to avoid being eaten. Some species, like Saury, will never form a tight school, instead, they live close to the surface and scatter in all directions when hunted by dolphins. This leads to widespread, scattered diving action from Cape Gannets and random lunging by the dolphins. There is no single place for a diver to swim too, this kind of activity is best watched from the boat. On the other extreme are the sardines, they form slow-moving static bait balls that we are after. These fish try to hide inside the school and only when this happens can we get in on SCUBA and watch the activity. Red-eye round herring can form slow static bait balls, but the gaps between the fish in the shoal are larger and they are quicker to swim away from predators when the feeding slows down. There is so much to learn and interpret out on the water, we will help you learn and understand the environment out on the ocean.

Bait Fish Identification
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