Dive the Wild Coast & Big Five Safari

Day 1: Welcome to the Wild Coast

Tucked between lush forest, rolling hills and the ocean, arrive at your accommodation for the next 6 nights, Mbotyi River Lodge, an ideal place to stay during your marine migration expedition. Rustic yet comfortable accommodation provides beautiful views of the ocean, while a spacious restaurant and a well-stocked bar offer great spots to compare impressions of the day’s dives with your fellow deep sea enthusiasts.

Take the evening to settle in, unpack and prepare your gear for the next day’s action. After dinner you will have a dive briefing with your Oceans Without Borders host, and dive masters, who will explain what to expect over the coming days of diving. With years of combined expert knowledge, they not only aim to provide you with the best possible chance of catching up with the migrating shoals, but can also provide rich insight into the significance that this mass movement of fish has to the marine environment.

Days 2-6: Dive the Great Migration

Wake up each morning at around 06h00 and feel the excitement start to build up as you prepare to venture out in search of the greatest shoal on earth. Be ready for long days in and out of the water as you launch between 06h30 and 07h30, depending on the light.

You will spend about five hours each day out on the water with Walter Bernardis, your diving guide with African Water Sports, either moving in search of the shoals or snorkeling with the accompanying whales and dolphins. Keep a look out for dolphins, humpback whales, southern right whales and the extraordinary Bryde’s whale.

Prepare for instant action when the shoals are spotted, as you rapidly kit up and descend to the depth the shoals are traveling at, ready to gaze in awe at millions of glittering sardines, as well as the sharks, gannets and other predatory game fish that follow in their wake.

Stay submerged until the shoal either moves off or is dispersed by the hungry predators that harass and follow in its wake. Attacked from above and below, the sardines are skillfully maneuvered to the surface of the water and separated into compact bait balls, easier to feed upon. Depending on the movements of the sardines, you may take part in multiple dives a day, most of them at a depth of 5-15 meters, or you might spend most of your day on the boat. With a strict limit on the number of divers, there is ample space for you and your gear on board the semi-rigid inflatable, ensuring for a comfortable day out at sea.

After several hours out on the water, return in the afternoon for a hot shower. Enjoy afternoons spent looking at your underwater footage, updating your log book or simply doing nothing at all. If you are up for further activities, you can hike to cascading waterfalls, go micro lighting or explore the beauty of the Wild Coast on a horseback ride. End the day with a hearty dinner and the camaraderie of sharing photos and stories of the day’s action.

Day 7: Oyster Box

Spend a night at the iconic Oyster Box hotel on the way to Phinda Private Game Reserve. The landmark Oyster Box Hotel lies at the edge of the beach, overlooking the Indian Ocean. Enjoy a leisurely afternoon enjoying the hotel’s many first-class facilities, or venture out into town to explore like a local. If you haven’t quite had enough beach-time, Umhlanga has a wonderfully warm ocean to enjoy a surf or a swim. Unwind with a drink at either the Lighthouse Bar or the Chukka Bar. Treat your taste buds to the freshest oysters and the most delicious prawn curry, accompanied by superb local wines, while enjoying an informative discussion with one of our Oceans Without Borders custodians.

Days 8-9: Phinda & Sodwana Bay

After spending five days exploring the colder currents of the South Coast, move up to KwaZulu-Natal to enjoy the balmy waters of Sodwana Bay, along with the attractions of a Big Five safari at Phinda Private Game Reserve.

Set in a rare and beautiful sand forest, the glass walls of Phinda Forest Lodge’s suites offer a sweeping view of one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet. A dense canopy provides privacy and floor to ceiling windows invite the forest in, with the wonderful opportunity to view wildlife roaming outside your glass “bubble”, fluttering birds nesting in the foliage and the gentle rustle of forest sounds.

On the edge of the forest, just before a clearing that overlooks a small waterhole, lies the lodge’s sparkling rim-flow swimming pool, an ideal spot for relaxing. Expansive decks in the spacious guest area, look out onto panoramic views of an open grassy meadow. In the evenings, when warm firelight welcomes you to the traditional African boma, wide-eyed bush babies watch inquisitively from the trees above, as you in indulge in a lantern-lit feast beneath a canvas of stars. Enjoy a captivating afternoon game drive and track a magnificent variety of wildlife, including the Big Five, cheetah and black rhino. The sand forest is home to the shy suni and the rare red duiker, two tiny antelope that are seldom encountered elsewhere.

After a hearty breakfast, head to Sodwana Bay to indulge in an opportunity to compare the balmy waters and abundant coral life of Sodwana Bay, with the massive shoals and fast-paced marine predators of the Sardine Run. This is a gentler kind of diving that allows you to experience unforgettable marine diversity, with over 1 200 species of fish and decorative coral formations.

Days 9-11: Phinda’s Big Five and more

In the morning, enjoy another extraordinary game drive across Phinda’s seven distinct habitats, looking for some of the rarer species such black rhino or pangolin, or some of the 436 bird species on the reserve. A magnificent tapestry of woodland, grassland, wetland, and forest, interspersed with mountain ranges, rivers, marshes and pans, the reserve is home to 1 000 hectares (2 471 acres) of Africa’s remaining rare dry sand forest.

There a variety of activities for you to enjoy on the reserve between game drives today, including a nature walk where you can experience a deeper connection with the African bush.

Later on this afternoon, get back in the game vehicle for your final captivating safari. Stay out late in the afternoon (continuing after nightfall), with expert rangers and trackers and enter the world of Africa’s nocturnal predators on a thrilling night drive. The next morning you will wave a fond farewell as your unforgettable journey with us comes to an end.

Note: Oceans Without Borders

On this trip, gain an understanding of how marine systems along the coastline are connected, discover the essential niche occupied by the sea’s apex predators and find out why aggregations such as the Sardine Run are important and what are the threats that they face.



A bucket list adventure for any diver, this expedition combines the swirling sardine bait balls and agile apex predators of South Africa’s famed annual Sardine Run, ending in a Big Five safari on this extraordinary 10-day itinerary, and is privately guided by experts, along with a group of other divers. Your adventure takes you to the spectacular Wild Coast where you have the opportunity to dive among the billions of fish that make up the Sardine Run, the greatest shoal on earth, followed and harassed by predatory game fish, sharks, whales and giant pods of dolphin.

Date & Rate: please inquire

* This itinerary can be customized for individual travels