african penguins
Cape Town

Meet The African Penguins at Boulders Beach

August 30, 2017

Boulders Beach, commonly known as Boulders Bay, is located in the Cape Peninsula, near Simon’s Town towards Cape Point, near Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. It is a sheltered beach made up of inlets between granite boulders, from which the name originated. Boulders Beach forms part of the Table Mountain National Park. Cape Town definitely has no shortage of amazing beaches, but Boulders Beach offers something extra special – it is home to a colony of thousands of African penguins. Boulders Beach is a tourist attraction, for the beach, swimming and the African penguins. The beautiful Boulders Beach is one of Cape Town’s most visited beaches and the only place in the world where you get close to African Penguins.

boulders beach

African Penguins

African penguins are formerly known as jackass penguins because of their distinctive donkey-like braying sounds to communicate. These penguins are the only penguins found on the continent. Like all extant penguins, they are flightless, with a streamlined body, and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine habitat. They have distinctive pink patches of skin above the eyes and a black facial mask. The pink gland above their eyes helps them to cope with changing temperatures.  Their body upperparts are black and sharply delineated from the white underparts, which are spotted and marked with a black band.  They are covered in dense, waterproof feathers which keep dry and insulated in cold water. These penguins are pursuit divers and feed primarily on fish and squid. And they usually breed during the African winter when temperatures are lower.

african penguins

African Penguins at Boulders Beach

The story of this penguin colony in Cape Town started in 1983 when a pair was spotted on Foxy Beach at Boulders. They came to False Bay from Dyer Island. False Bay at that time was closed to commercial fishing so they had abundant food and breeding sites. Their population then grew.

In Boulders Beach, you should be able to see the African penguins throughout the year. However, the birds do spend much of September and October feeding out at sea, so the number of penguins on the beach at this time of year is lower. On summer months you can see them preening and sunning themselves. You can also enjoy the sight of penguins guarding a nest or of penguins waddling along the sand like an old married couple and then transforming into sleek black-and-white torpedoes as soon as they enter the water.

The Penguins allow people to approach them as close as a meter. In fact, the Penguins almost seem to pose for pictures. But be warned, they may look cute but they can be grouchy and their beaks are razor sharp.

Three wheelchair-friendly boardwalks were constructed a couple of years ago to accommodate the visitors that visit the beach. These boardwalks wind their way through the dunes and vegetation and not only provides great viewing spots but also protects nesting penguins and their chicks

Every year, over 60 000 visitors flock to Simon’s Town to photograph and watch the famous Boulders Beach Penguins. This leads to more money to help boost our penguin conservation efforts through South African National Parks (SANParks).

If you’d like to learn more about the area’s famous inhabitants, you’ll find information at the Boulders Visitors Centre.

Other Things You Can Do In Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach is not just a great place to see the world famous penguin colony. It is also a popular family-friendly swimming beach. The kids can climb over the boulders, explore the rock pools, or swim in the cool, clear False Bay water. Boulders is a safe beach, with rangers on patrol each day.  So it is a great place for a leisurely picnic. If you go to Boulders Beach, bring some cash because there’s a conservation fee of around R65 per person.

On summer, bring an umbrella, hat, and sunscreen if you plan on spending the day on the beach. It is also advised to come early during peak summer because parking is limited. During the winter season, the weather can be quite unpredictable so bring an umbrella or a raincoat. No vessels are allowed on the beach, including canoes and kayaks. Alcohol and smoking are also prohibited. And because it’s part of the Marine Protected Area, it is a no-take zone, which means no marine life may be removed.

Indeed, Boulders Beach is a perfect place to enjoy a day with your family and friends.

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