Penguin Watching

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MichaelJM on October 30, 2004

Sir Francis Drake said, "This Cape is the most stately thing and the Fairest Cape we ever saw". He was talking about the view of the Cape over False Bay, and his words still hold good today.

We explored the small fishing village of Kalk Bay and felt a strange sense of excitement as we watched the steam-train pull away from the picturesque station and continue its coastal journey. The main street is lined with interesting, balconied shops, brightly painted in crisp colours. These are a real delight if you have an interest in antiques or porcelain. "Chinatown" is crammed with thousands of items of chinaware and, at some points, we dare hardly move lest we knock over a display cabinet. You could spend hours in this one emporium eyeing up the Wedgwood and the Minton, the Clarice Cliff and the Royal Doulton. If you’re into porcelain, I defy you to leave this shop without buying something!

Next, we drive through Fish Hoek, basically a seaside village with a small harbour, and continue south to Simon’s Town (named after Simon van der Stel of Groot Constantia fame). This town has an impressive naval harbour, a mass of maritime monuments and a "bucket load" of Victorian and Cape Dutch houses. Then south towards Boulders Beach, where we both wanted to visit, and the Penguin Colony. Apparently, almost 3,000 jackass penguins live here. There are the obligatory souvenir stands – we did pause to look, but although the quality was good, nothing caught our eye.

At the beach, we followed the most popular clockwise route, and on this walk we saw the odd loner penguin. I was prepared to be disappointed as we rounded the corner, but the beach and sea was packed with penguins. I suggest that all manner of society was mirrored here. We saw penguins which appeared to be guarding the perimeter of their village; lovebirds staring transfixed into each other eyes; the homebuilder; the exhibitionists who were propagating in view of their human audience. We saw family protectors who were chasing off the herring gulls that made repeated efforts to steal and heard the aggressive braying call of the lonely male seeking his mate. It’s a call that is hard to associate with these delicate-looking birds, but it was clear at this point why the African Penguin is called the Jackass.

They waddled to the edge of the sea and then hurled themselves into the water or rapidly retraced their steps before they turned hesitantly towards the sea again, pondering their next move. I wonder if the sea was a little too cold for them! We saw them standing on the rocky boulders and swimming gracefully back to the shore – bobbing up and down through the gentle waves of Boulders Beach. I’d recommend that you also take the quieter, anticlockwise route, as I managed to get much closer to penguins that stood looking defiantly up at me.

Boulders is an absolute treat!

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

© LP 2000-2009