Caught on camera: Sardine Run orca action

Filmed on safari with Raggy Charters

It is not often that orcas make an appearance on the annual Sardine Run, but when they do it brings the house down!

Orcas, also known as killer whales, are actually not whales at all but belong to the dolphin family. These sleek black-and-white predators are super fast and hyper intelligent, making them one of the world’s deadliest predators.

In the video below, a hunting orca body-slams a common dolphin clear out of the water in one swift, fierce movement. This is a common hunting technique for the larger dolphin (orca) and has the effect of stunning or injuring the dolphin, making it impossible for the usually agile smaller dolphin to escape.

The video was filmed in the last week of April 2021, while the safari boat was following a school of long-beaked common dolphin. These small dolphins are always so full of energy, but, on this day, they were almost “flying” out of the water they were moving so fast. The crew knew that something had them rattled. Then, Jake Keeton, of Raggy Charters, casually mentioned that a male and female orca were in pursuit! And, just like that – bang – the female orca smashed a common dolphin right out of the water!

The crew witnessed something that they’d never seen before: the orca was skinning the dolphin just below the surface of the water and blood pooled in the water as the animal was soon devoured. As suddenly as they appeared, the male and female orcas took off – having secured their prize. This is the first time that Raggy Charters’ head guide, Purity Khosa, had seen orcas. What a treat for someone who hails from Mpumalanga and is still relatively new to our marine world! The Sardine Run holds a new treasure every day for wildlife lovers. Watch more Sardine Run action.

The Sardine Run is the result of an upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water; which begins off the Southern Cape coastline of South Africa. where the continental shelf is much further offshore. This icy water feeds the phytoplankton (plant), which feeds the zooplankton (animal) in the warmer coastal waters. In turn, the baitfish (sardines) feed off both the phyto- and zoo-plankton.

Now, here’s where it gets truly entertaining: the baitfish, gathering in their millions in shoals that are sometimes kilometres long and up to 30 metres deep, are fed upon by the most spectacular array of predators. African penguins, Cape gannets, cormorants, seals, other fish, dolphins, sharks and whales turn the ocean into a boiling frenzy as they herd the sardines into the famed “bait ball” to gorge on the baitfish. In turn, the orca – the apex predator – feeds on these lesser predators, making for a most unforgettable marine safari experience.

These enormous shoals, and their entourage of predators, make their way along the South African coastline each winter and, as the continental shelf moves closer to the shore, the action intensifies and provides visitors to Algoa Bay (Nelson Mandela Bay) in the Addo Elephant National Park, and locations further north, with untold marine wildlife viewing opportunties.

NOTE: if you are considering booking a Sardine Run experience with Raggy Charters, please check suggested dates for visiting and give yourself enough time to account for both weather and marine activity. Sadly, the movement of the sardines doesn’t follow a strict calendar, so it is best to plan ahead. Contact Raggie Charters on