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Penguin Paradise at Boulders Beach

Once upon a time (1983), in a land far, far away (South Africa) a pair of jackass penguin lovers (real name, seriously) waddled their way onto False Bay’s Boulders Beach.


So comfortable were they in their sandy new home, that they began to lay eggs just 2 years later. They were nothing, if not prolific and by 1997, their colony had expanded to include 2350 adult birds.

Some were the progeny of our penguin lovers, but many others were immigrants from Dyer Island, drawn to the area by abundant food and favourable breeding sites.

Initially, the human residents of nearby Simon’s Town were enamoured with the plump, tuxedo-wearing creatures (who wouldn’t be?), but as the little jackasses began invading gardens, making a mess and braying late into the night, their allure quickly faded.

Before an all out feud broke out between the residents and the feathery folk, the Cape Peninsula National Park intervened and established board walks, fences and a visitor information centre, so that humans from far and wide, could visit too.

All is not perfect in our little tale however, because today, the penguins are in real trouble. Unsafe environments, climate change, oil spills and the impact of human settlements have decreased their numbers from millions in the 1930s, to under 1,200 breeding pairs today.

Moved to the endangered list in 2010, Boulders Beach is now the only place in the world where you can come nose to beak with one of these increasingly rare African penguins.


Visiting the Penguins at Boulders Beach

READ MORE:  A Wild Whale Chase in Hermanus, South Africa

We highly recommend that you rent a car while in South Africa. It’s inexpensive, roads are quiet, the drivers are law-abiding and the scenery cannot be beat. Just remember to drive on the left-hand side of the road!

Boulders Beach is a short drive away from Cape Town. Drive south on the M3 (De Waal Drive) to get out of the city, and then turn right onto the M4, which runs along the east coast of the Cape Peninsula. Follow the signs to Simon’s Town, but watch for penguins along the way. Sometimes they go on “safari” and escape their fences.

You can also get to Simon’s Town via train. Timetables and information can be found on the Metrorail Western Cape Website.

Boulders is open year round, from 7:00 (Summer) or 8:00 (all other seasons) in the morning, until 5:00, 6:30 or 7:30 in the evening, with hours varying by the season.

Current conservation fees are R55 per adult and R25 per child. The most up-to-date information can be found on the Table Mountain National Park Website.

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Beautiful photos! Penguins look so cute 🙂

    May 20, 2014
    • Thank you! They were awfully cute, just waddling around all day on the beach. In the summertime, you can lie on beaches where the penguins are hanging out!

      May 21, 2014
  2. Seems to be a very peaceful place

    May 20, 2014
    • It was indeed. Well, except for the sound of the penguins. They sound just like donkeys!! (which is why they’re called jackass penguins). 😉

      May 21, 2014
  3. Ohhh, they are so cute!! Somehow when I was in Cape Town I missed these penguins. I did see some at the aquarium in Cape Town, though… but I think you’ll agree it’s not the same. I also appreciate how wittily this post is written 🙂

    May 21, 2014
    • Aww, thanks! 😀 They were truly adorable! I was so happy to see all the conservation efforts being made there for these little guys…

      May 21, 2014
  4. Thanks for all the info. I saw the fairy penguins in Australia where you sit and wait for them to come in from the sea. It was quiet the experience.
    When did you go visit them in SA?

    May 21, 2014
    • Fairy penguins? I’ve never heard of them…but that does sound magical. This was part of our RTW trip in 2012…in June, I think. I’m slowly working my way through writing about everything we experienced during out trip, but it’s gonna take a long while. I still have 8 months to write about!!! and I’m kind of a slow writer. 😮

      May 21, 2014
      • Wow I would love to do a round the world trip. Living here we have been able to see and do a lot, but in short spurts. Can’t wait to read more.
        The penguins were called fairy penguins because they were so small –if I remember correctly. That was well over 10 years ago. Those pics are on film in my storage back home.

        May 22, 2014
        • Woooahhhh, film!!! How did we survive before digital cameras were invented?? I took about 10,000 pics on our RTW. Can you imagine how much film that would be. Yikes!!!!!

          A RTW is unforgettable…if you can make it happen, you won’t regret it, no matter the cost! 🙂

          May 22, 2014
          • Yes that is the trouble. We would like to save for a house. After having to stay with family over summer, living in work accomadations it would be nice to have something we can call our own.
            I know I took 25 rolls of film and developed them for a small fortune. That was a 1 month trip… and I was more careful when I shot pics -to save film!

            May 23, 2014
  5. I’ve only seen them behind glass. But to see them out and just frolicking around would be so awesome. Pardon my ignorance, I didn’t think penguin would be in South Africa? hmmm …

    May 24, 2014
    • Ow, Fun post by the way. 😉

      May 24, 2014
      • Actually I was surprised by that fact too! Penguins seem like such an Antarctic thing…but I guess Cape Town is pretty darn south…and I’m glad we got to see them. They were so funny to watch!

        May 25, 2014
  6. Such cute little guys and lovely pics of them!

    May 30, 2014

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