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

SEAL (Sardine Run 2008)/Mbotyi River Lodge, Jun, 2008,

by Mario Mizrahi S., Mexico, Mexico (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 8 reports with 17 Helpful votes). Report 4199.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments 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- 70°F.
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.

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

Weather cloudy Seas choppy
Water Temp 70-0°F / 21--18°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 10-60 Ft/ 3-18 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions Time and buddy diving
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales >2
Corals 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 N/A
UW Photo Comments 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.
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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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