on January 6, 2006
One of the highlights of the Cape Peninsula is the penguins of Boulders Beach, close to Simon's Town. I have been to Boulders on a couple of occasions now, but every time these black 'n white creatures manage to capture my full attention. Surrounded by massive boulders (what is in a name?), Boulders Beach is a safe haven to a colony of over than 3,000 African penguins. The colony is doing fine and slightly growing, which makes the penguin population at Simon's Town unique: most other colonies along the African coast are declining because of for instance over fishing and oil spills.In 2000 the MV Treasure sank 8km off Table Bay. More than 1300 tons of fuel leaked into the water, causing the world’s worst crisis for coastal birds. The oil affected thousands of African penguins on Dassen and Robben Island and threatened still tens of thousands more, including the colony of Boulder’s Beach. Six years before this tragedy, almost 10 000 African penguins near Cape Town were oiled after the Apollo Sea sank near Dassen Island. The pictures of these poor birds, covered in a thick, sticky layer of oil are simply heart breaking. The problem isn’t only the large oil spills due to accidents: many ships cause small oil spills as well, for instance when cleaning the engines. Every year the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds treats a few hundred oil-affected penguins per year. My favourite thing to do in Boulder's beach is to sit on a rock and - without disturbing - watch these little critter swim and waggle by, in their own clumsy but oh so cute way. Something that is still on the agenda is swimming with the penguins. In summer, a restricted number of people is allowed to use the beach for leisure purposes. To me, swimming with penguins seems almost just as fun as swimming with dolphins.
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