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Dive Review of SEAL (Sardine Run 2008)/Mbotyi River Lodge in
Africa/Wild Coast, South Africa

June, 2008, an Instant Reader Report by Mario Mizrahi S., Mexico, Mexico
Reviewer   (6 reports, with 4 Helpful votes)
Report Number 4199
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
Socorro, Cocos, Galapagos, Komodo, PNG, Tahiti, Acapulco, Guadalupe Island,
Malpelo, Ixtapa, Cozumel, Veracruz, San Diego, Rapallo, Saint Tropez, etc.
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
70   to 0    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
10   to 60    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Time and buddy diving  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  1 stars
Tropical Fish
3 stars  
Small Critters
  3 stars
Large Fish
5 stars  
Large Pelagics
  5 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
5 stars  
Shore Facilities  
There are coolers in the boats, to keep the cameras. Afterwards, you can
take them to your room. You can take pictures or video from the boats, UW
or from the air (on their ultra light plane). Also, SEAL will sell you a
DVD of your stay.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
5 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
2 stars   
5 stars    
The Sardine Run 2008
It is an event that takes place every June- July (Southern Hemisphere
Winter) off the Eastern Coast of South Africa. It involves a migration by
millions of sardines in a shoal sometimes 15 km (10 miles) long by 4 km
(2.5 miles) wide, who are followed by 
thousands of dolphins, sharks, sea lions, whales and sea birds. The weather
is cool (15°C- 59°F to 24°C- 74°F) and water is 21°C-
To get there, you have to fly to Durban by way of Cape Town or
Johannesburg. SEAL people will greet you at the airport and drive you (500
km- 300 miles) to a place called Mbotyi River Lodge on the Wild Coast,
between Port Edwards and Port Saint John, Eastern Cape.
The lodge is set on a small hill overlooking the ocean. It has cabin type
rooms with a terrace; there's a main cabin which houses the Dining Room,
Living Room with (NTSC) TV, DVD player and a fireplace, Play Room with a
pool table, ping pong and dart board and a Pub (or Bar) with TV for
watching sports (usually Rugby or Cricket), where we socialized with our
hosts and companions from all over the world (half of them repeat guests)
and watched every evening the Soccer UEFA Cup games.A typical day starts
with meeting at the beach at 7-8 
am (tide permitting) wearing 5 mm wetsuits and stand by our preassigned
semi inflatable 8 person boats. The boats are then launched into the surf
and upon getting away from the waves, we await news from an ultra light
plane that scans the coast for action. The moment our pilot locates
something interesting like a 
bait ball, whales, pods of dolphins, sharks, etc. he'll direct us to the
spot and the boats race there to catch a glimpse of the action.
A bait ball is a big pack of sardines, removed from their main group and
forced near the surface by hundreds of common dolphins and bronze whaler
sharks, who then take turns attacking from below while 
myriads of birds dive from above. This action is joined by the ocassional
Bryde's Whales and Cape Fur Seals.
Upon arriving at a bait ball, you jump into the water, usually with
snorkeling gear to watch the UW action. There's a "rain" of Blue
Footed Boobies (called Cape Gannets in South Africa), diving at 60 kph- 40
mph and trying to catch sardines while you see a "carpet" 
of sharks from below and dolphins and whales coming at the sardines from
everywhere. The feeling is unique and you know you are participating in a
Natural wonder. When action dies down, you start 
looking for humpback whales and snorkel in their path or "super
pods" of dolphins (common, bottlenose or hump headed), sometimes 500+
strong or you scuba dive with sharks (bronze whalers, dusky or ragged
tooth) that are attracted by the sound of a plastic 
water being squeezed UW.
Security is very strong and participants are men and women ages 15-65 who
can choose to watch from the boats, snorkel or scuba dive. I logged only 4
dives in 7 days but jumped to the water 50+ times in 
snorkel gear, because action sometimes is too fast to allow you to don all
of your scuba gear in time. Sometimes you'll witness seconds or a couple of
minutes of it before it all moves away, too fast for you to catch up (more
so in scuba). Despite this, there is always the possibility that you will
get lucky and witness a bait ball from below. I think an excellent idea is
to take a small cylinder of spare air with you and jump in snorkel gear +
weight belt and this way you can enter quickly and move fast UW.
Boats usually return by 1 pm and then you can have a hot shower in your
room and head to the Dining Room where there are always delicious gourmet
meals, like King Klip and Hake (local fishes), South African wines and
fresh baked bread waiting. After lunch you can join groups who go hiking,
visit the local witch doctor or fly on the ultra light (included in your
package), etc.
The Sardine Run is a must for every serious advanced diver and Nic de
Gersigny (SEAL) is surely your best contact for booking this adventure. He
will book you for a stay of 9 days (I did June 21-30) with a possible 8
days of diving, because sometimes weather will not allow the boats to be
launched (we lost only 1 day) and this way you are almost guaranteed to
catch good action (we had it for at least 
5 of the 7 days we did). Bear in mind this is not a fixed coral or wreck
but an ongoing event in open water.
Bring some warm clothes and a good parka.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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