06 – 15 July 2014
The Sardine run is a annual migratory event, that takes place between May to July, along the East coast of South Africa. It start from around the Eastern Cape city of Port Elizabeth and runs up the KwaZulu- Natal coast line where millions of silvery Sardines (more specifically the Southern African pilchard - Sardinops sagax) travel north from the cold oceans off South Africa's Cape Point.
Russ and Barbara van Aardt were all geared up and ready for one of the most rewarding and challenging diving experience one can have. Arrangements were made through Pro Dive and their base of operations for the trip was at the Port St John's River Lodge.
So, their first day out at sea was hectic, with huge swells and strong winds. After 2 hours of being on the boat, 90% of the divers were sea sick (Note: they had taken one of the best sea sick medications available) but had another awful 5 hours on sea to go before they were due to be back at the lodge.
They saw birds, dolphins and whales but the visibility was down to 1 meter, so even if they had had the strength to get in and out of the boat, after hours of being ill, they would not have seen or been able to film anything! Most of the boats occupants were begging to get back to land by this time, so it was agreed that the divers wishing to continue, would offload onto one of the other boats. At the same time, two sick divers would be transferred from that boat to the one heading home. The other boat was 300m away but it took an HOUR to find it, due to the swells and poor weather. Finally, the tired passengers were on their way back to the lodge.
The entry and exit to the ocean is a tricky one where the Umzimvubu River meets the ocean and forms a 300m+ gauntlet that runs parallel to the breaking waves. The sea swells, strong wind, large breakers and the underwater sand banks, make the access a challenging one. A huge wave hit the boat side on and skilled driving is all that stopped it from being strewn across the ocean floor. Barbara landed on all the camera gear, on the floor of the rubber duck and Russ landed on top of Barbara's dive gear, resulting in a gash on the back of his head that only became evident once the wet suite and hoody came off..
Russ and Barbara hung about the lodge for a further two days , hoping the weather would ease off and that the Sardines would arrive but it was not to be and Russ's open wound was not healing well, so they decided to cut their losses and head home.
“To all the photographers and videographers that capture those amazing Sardine Run photo's and footage, we congratulate you and hope that you are being paid large sums of money as you deserve to be.” Russ and Barbara said.