Penguins near Cape Town

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by becks on March 1, 2002

Boulders Beach (Simon’s Town)

Just south of Cape Town in Simon’s Town is one of only two spots on the African continent where penguins can be seen in their natural habitat. About a kilometer south of the main center of town is the turn off for Boulders Beach, some of the signs have graphics of penguins to make it impossible to miss.

The small Boulders Coastal Park is a fenced off part of the beach where jackass penguins breed. A R4 ($ 0.25) entrance fee is charged, although entry is free during quiet times when there is no park official present. The penguins pay little attention to the visitors although they have sharp beaks and a peck can be painful. They are not very large - about knee high for an adult. You can get pretty close to their rather untidy nests and they will stride right pass you on their way to and from the ocean without giving you as much as a second glance. However, don’t disturb them - South Africans take wildlife protection very seriously and you can receive a fine if you willfully chase them. (For smaller children the punishment is more likely to be just a painful peck!)

Amazingly the colony of penguins only arrived at Boulders in 1985. Previously penguins were only breeding on islands off the coast. The real name of the penguins is African Penguins or (Sphenicus demersis) but they are commonly called jackass penguins as they make a noise like a baying donkey. Their baying noise, the smell of their guano as well as the number of visitors they attract have limited appeal for the local property owners but visitors simply adore these rather formal looking birds.

The African Penguins are on the "vulnerable" list - one step above "endangered". The colony in Boulders is actually increasing in seize but oil spills from frequent tanker accidents in the treacherous and often stormy seas of the Cape can easily decimate a whole colony of coastal birds.


Betty’s Bay (close to Hermanus)

The other place in South Africa where penguins can be seen on the continent itself is at Betty’s Bay, on the coastal road from Strand to Hermanus. The colony is fenced off and you really need binoculars to see the birds here. However, the coast is rugged, especially once you are past Gordon’s Bay, and the inland area full of rocks and very little vegetation. This make the coastal road a more scenic option than the National Highway No 2 to get to Hermanus, which is famous for its whale watching opportunities. The town actually employs a whale crier to announce when and where the whales can best be spotted. Whale watching is most successful from July to early summer when the southern right whales make their appearance close to the coast.

Boulders Beach (Penguin Colony)
4 Boulders Place Simon's Town
Cape Town, South Africa
+27 (21) 786 1758

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