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WATCH: SA’s breathtaking Indian Ocean ballet, the annual ‘sardine run’

Tens of millions of sardines yearly trek alongside the chilly currents off the South Africa’s coast in the course of the winter months, peaking in July.

Dolphins gracefully pop out and in of the water, peppering the infinite-looking Indian Ocean, sharks rise from the depths whereas birds dive from the sky — all on the hunt for his or her subsequent meal: sardines.

Within the crisp air of winter, South Africa’s east coast is house to a spectacular annual migration of thousands and thousands of sardines.

The “sardine run” lasts a number of months, often peaking in July.

It attracts a bunch of marine predators, and the result’s an superior feeding frenzy.

“It is a super-pod of frequent dolphins,” Michelle Carpenter, marine biologist excitedly tells AFP, whereas perched on the facet of a ship as three dolphins synchronise into a superbly timed dive proper behind her.

Because the ripples of foamy waters roll by, a flurry of Cape gannets tuck of their wings in succession, diving from the clear blue skies like arrows into the ominous darkish waves.

A shape-shifting silvery ball of sardines grouped collectively glides by the water in unison slightly below the waves — a “bait ball”.

Separated from the primary shoal, which will be a number of kilometres (miles) lengthy, they’re surrounded after which herded up from the deep sea to the floor by the dolphins.

The feast can now start.

This choreographed dance of nature is feasible due to the symbiotic relationship between the totally different predators.

“Sardines are all the time in search of depth, for defense… so that they attempt to go down deep. And that’s the place the sharks are available,” stated skilled diver Gary Snodgrass.

“So you may have the sharks on the backside, you may have the dolphins across the edges… mainly stopping the sardines from working away,” Snodgrass stated, pointing to the hyperactive mammals.

Then probably the most menacing visitor arrives, the dusky shark, stealthily weaving into the banquet with its well-known fear-inducing pointed fin.

Within the water, wetsuit-clad spectators anxiously maintain their distance, watching the feeding frenzy because the sardines frantically attempt to escape.

However inside minutes, their shoal is decimated. The eating ends, and the visitors take their depart.

Their binge might be repeated again and again in the course of the subsequent three to 4 months of the migration — till the sardines disappear again into the open ocean.

The explanation behind the “sardine run” will not be precisely identified, however scientists consider it’s linked to their reproductive cycle.

Those that noticed the feast from below the waves will take again indelible recollections.

“Wonderful,” stated French diver Laurent, who didn’t give his surname.

“Shark! Cherry on the cake… Unbelievable. The shark didn’t chunk us… greatest time ever”, he stated gleefully alongside his pal Jeremie, who admitted to being “a bit afraid”.

“Loads afraid, actually afraid,” Laurent corrected in jest.

As calm returns to the ocean’s floor, a silvery constellation of fish scales trickles like stardust into the deep.

© Agence France-Presse

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