Near Cape Town in South Africa resides the marvellous, one-of-a-kind, Boulders Beach. Together with neighbouring Foxy Beach (no foxes to be found here) it offers something quite spectacular – thousands of African penguins.
The cheeky chaps settled here in 1982, laying claim to a sheltered cove with pristine white sands and large granite boulders over 500 years old. The boulders act as the perfect springboard to practice their dives. African penguins can submerge up to 130m under water and usually spend around two and a half minutes while they’re there. What started out as just two breeding pairs has now blossomed into around three thousand penguins. It doesn’t show any signs of stopping, which is good news for everyone who loves penguins. Well, how can’t you? Just look at them waddling about:
Being one of only three mainland colonies of African penguins in South Africa, visitors are given a rare opportunity to get close to these intriguing birds, considered endangered by ICUN’s Red List. Also known as jackass penguins (for the donkey-like sounds they make, not their personalities), the African penguins are acclimatised to warmer weather unlike their snow-basking counterparts. They will saunter past you as you sunbathe, even join you for a swim to cool off, perhaps emerging with a freshly-caught sardine or anchovy. Just don’t touch or feed them, they may look cute but if they feel threatened, you may get a nibble on your finger.
Due to its location within Table Mountain National Park, a marine protected area, the beach is always clean and safe. Plus, the granite boulders protect it from wind and waves, meaning good swimming conditions for all. For viewing, the wheelchair-friendly boardwalks of adjoining Foxy Beach are your best bet and provide excellent photo opportunities. The penguins should be available to view all year ‘round, with summer the most popular time to visit, but bear in mind that the birds spend the majority of September and October feeding out at sea. From late November to January you will be able to witness the unusual moulting stage, where they have drawn comparisons to exploding pillows.
The beach is an essential stop when touring the Cape Peninsula. Setting off from Cape Town, around an hour’s drive away, you will pass the coastal settlements of Muizenberg, Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek and Simons Town en route. Just off Simon’s Town is Seal Island – yes, you guessed it, home to 75,000 Cape fur seals – but that’s another story. After arriving at the beach, meeting the penguins and reluctantly saying your goodbyes, end your day at the awe-inspiring Cape Point with its rugged coastlines and dramatic bays.