on October 16, 2009
Visiting Cape Town is a memorable experience, the area offers such beauty and variety that it can be difficult to distinguish the high-lights a trip. However anyone who wants a unique experience should head off to Boulders Beach.Boulders Beach is now part of the Table Mountain National Park. It is situated near Simons Town which is on the Cape peninsula, South of Cape Town. In the early 1980s a pair of breeding penguins was seen on the beach and now the colony has grown to over 2500. The species here is the African Penguin which is also sometimes known as the Jackass Penguin due to its distinctive call; it has also been called the Black-footed Penguin. Boulders Beach is actually a group of beaches that are separated by granite rocks so the water is relatively safe and calm and a little warmer than some of the beaches of Cape Town.Access to the beaches is R15 for adults and R5 for children (prices 2009). Once on the beach you can swim and picnic and you may well find that you have penguins for company. The birds seem totally uninterested in their human companions and the opportunity to see them at such close quarters is not to be missed. They are quite a small breed of penguin and they do look very cute and cuddly but you are wise not to touch. They can be aggressive and they can give a nasty bite. However if you do not attempt to touch them you can observe them from a long time without any problems.A wooden walkway has been constructed from the first beach to Foxy beach where you will find the majority of the colony. The walkway restricts human access to the beach and the majority of birds congregate in this less hectic setting. The raised walkways meander down the beach and there are several viewing spots to allow you to watch the birds enter and leave the water. This beach is very noisy and you can appreciate how these penguins got their more common name.The penguins used to walk all over the roads and caused a lot of destruction in local gardens. This led to accidents and irritation so the beach was put under the National park status. Fences were erected and proper visitor facilities were erected as the number of tourist was also causing a problem. The penguins will still sometimes shelter under cars so it is wise to check around your vehicle before you drive off.Foxy beach is also the home to the information centre on the penguins, this is not large but it does offer the opportunity to learn more about the species and about their life in the area. This species of penguin is the only one to be found in Africa and there are several colonies but this one is the largest on the mainland. There are facilities and a gift shop here too.We have been lucky enough to visit the colony twice. The first visit was at the end of October. This is the time when the penguins are moulting. This lasts about three weeks but the birds look very bedraggled and thin as they are unable to enter the water. Their coats are not waterproof during this time so they all just stand around looking forlorn. The smell from the beach is also rather unpleasant at this time so it is not the ideal time for a visit.The other visit we made was in February. This time the birds looking healthy and happy. It was possible to observe them entering and leaving the water, they look so awkward on the beach but look streamlined and elegant the moment they enter the sea. It was particularly entertaining to seen the way them seem to "jump" out of the water.These birds can breed at any time of year but the usual time from the Boulders Beach colony is March to May.Overall this is certainly an experience that will stay in the memory for a long time. The sheer number of penguins, the close proximity and the amazing noise will leave a lasting impression.
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