South Africa’s penguins are under threat from the loss of habitat, declining fish and their ever-encroaching human neighbours. But not to worry, by making a visit to see these unique locals you are helping them. 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).
African penguins used to be known as Jackass penguins due to the braying sounds they make. Although they breed in colonies stretching from southern Namibia to Port Elizabeth, the story of how they came to call Boulders Beach home is one of remarkable urban colonisation. The whole species though, both at Boulders Beach and elsewhere, face many threats and these aquatic flightless birds are actually listed as endangered.
Boulders Beach remains the only place in the world where one can get up close to African penguins. Penguin viewing is made easier by boardwalks that lead vistors across the beaches as well as to an information centre, which is managed by SANParks.
To help stop the loss of chicks, and provide a safe breeding environment, Boulders Coastal Park management has introduced artificial nesting boxes, which you will see when you walk through the area. Thanks to conservation initiatives by the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, and SANParks, these precious penguins may yet survive to swim, and waddle, another day.
Boulders Beach is located in Simon's Town, just over the hilly peninsula from Cape Town. It's easily accessible by bus, car, taxi or train.
Enjoying the penguins at close range is made easier by boardwalks traversing the beaches, and an information centre, which is managed by South African National Parks.
Simon's Town is home to the South African Navy and the village houses a few navy museums. There are also plenty of superb beaches close by.
South African National Parks
Tel: +27 12 428 9111
A small conservation fee is payable for use of the boardwalk.
The Cape Town area, including nearby Simon's Town and Fish Hoek, has a wide variety of accommodation available from budget to luxury options.
Try one of the terrific seafood restaurants in Simon's Town, Fish Hoek, Kalk Bay or Muizenberg, all close to Boulders Beach.
In January the juvenile penguins are moulting on the beach and adults are feeding-up for the breeding season, which lasts from February to August. Penguins feed at sea for much of September and October so the number of birds on the beach is lower.
A visit to the penguins can last from half an hour to an entire day.
To understand our penguins is to understand their history. The story of this penguin colony in Cape Town started in 1983 when a pair was spotted on Foxy Beach at Boulders. The birds came to False Bay from Dyer Island. At the time, False Bay was closed to commercial fishing. For the newcomers, abundant food and breeding sites meant the African penguin population at Boulders soared.
However, almost three decades later, Boulders Beach penguins are in trouble. Cars, people and competition for breeding sites has seen the penguins trying to nest in unsafe environments, leaving their nests exposed to both predators and the elements. Climate change has also affected fish stocks and increased severe weather incidences have depleted penguin chick numbers.
But thanks to tourism, there is hope. Every time you visit these little guys at Boulders Beach, you help spark a lifelong commitment to saving their future.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article