Jackasses at Boulders Beach

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by SaraP on December 15, 2003

South of Simon's Town (named after Dutch colonist, Simon van der Stel) along the west coast of the Cape, south of Cape Town itself, is Boulders Beach, famous for its colonies of sphenicus demersis, or African penguins. There aren't many spots in Africa where you can get so close to these little chaps nesting in the wild. Just south of the town-centre is a turn-off for the beach and information centre, clearly signposted with a penguin.

Fenced off from the rest of the beach is an area reserved for penguin habitation, for them to breed and nest. Entry is R15 ($€2/£1.50) to meander along the boardwalk which has been laid down to preserve the sand from over-wear and erosion. The penguins, best known as jackasses, not for their tomfoolery but rather the braying sound which males make for territory/females/to show off, go about their business, seemingly oblivious to your presence and having much better things to concentrate on! In Nov/Dec, they moult for the summer and look rather threadbare, the sand covered with feathery sheddings. Park guards warn you not to interfere or try to feed the birds - both for their sake and also for yours -- you can apparently be on the end of a nasty peck for your trouble and may be subject to a fine (jackasses are not quite endangered but lead perilous lives since oceanic catastrophes such as oil spills render areas of their beach uninhabitable and wipe out both penguins and their dinner. Current worldwide population is c160k birds).

There are some boards detailing facts about penguins/their habits. There's also an info centre, selling postcards, T-shirts, etc. If you approach from the BB Guesthouse (see above), you'll pass by Boulders Beach itself, a small expanse of sand dotted with small rocks of various sizes (hence its name) where penguins escape from the confines described above and sit or lie quite placidly on the rocks, seemingly posing for a photo with you. They rarely get crotchety but don't like it if you stray too close and may simply get up and walk or swim off. You'll also find that the unmistakable smell of guano is less overpowering here!

Keep an eye out at the water too, as seals patrol just offshore for dinner, and if you're lucky you may see a seal chasing and catching its prey (not for the faint of heart though). An alternative (though less good) viewing spot is to see jackasses at Betty's Bay along the south coast towards Hermanus. Here they mingle with cormorants in nest-building and are less accessible and seem to stand out less well on white rocks than against the sand at Boulder.

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


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