There’s a different way to see the African wildlife in their natural habitat than a safari and it’s called Boulder Beach. We ventured to the Eastern side of the Peninsula (Indian Ocean) to meet and spend time with the locals, Cape Town‘s penguin colony. Following the wooden boardwalks, you gain access to Foxy Beach, a sheltered cove with soft white sand, crystal clear water, massive granite boulders, and birds in butler-style tailcoats. Its nothing short of an Instagram-worthy photo op but I recommend climbing atop a boulder and spending time to take it all in. It’s impossible to capture how majestic this destination truly is.
Penguins and submarine
Boulders Beach is just outside Cape Town, South Africa, and has been home to an African penguin colony since 1982.
A Different Kind of Little "Pitter Patter"
Boulder Beach in Cape Town South Africa has many little hidden treasures for which you can find. From tiny on the water restaurants to sweet kitschy craft shops. The best find with out a doubt is a secret protected breeding grounds for these adorable penguins. Remember don’t forget to check under your vehicle for these little ones when backing out!
Penguins In Simonstown, Capetown
About an hour by train outside of Cape Town central is a charming waterside town called Simon’s Town (or Simonstown). Nearby, Boulders Beach is where the penguins call home. This destination makes for a great day trip from Cape Town. If you take the train from Cape Town, you might want to taxi or bus down the road to the penguins at Boulders Beach, otherwise its a bit of a walk. Not far from the penguins is a casual waterside outdoor restaurant called Seaforth with a nice view overlooking the harbor. Take some time to stop at Kalk Bay, Muzienberg or Fish Hoek on the way back from seeing the penguins. Each of these towns are lovely towns on the water.
Peering Into Penguin Lives at Boulder Beach, South Africa
Busy creatures, penguins. At Boulder Beach near Cape Town, South Africa, I witnessed their little society on a cold, windy day. This little molting guy was huddled close to the boardwalk, where the penguins make nests and lay their eggs. Large groups laid out together on the rocks like vacationing sunbathers, others trundled back and forth along the sand like businessmen in their black-and-white suits, very focused on some indiscernible mission. A group of six appeared to have a club house in a small nook created by two rocks leaned against each other. Standing around gossiping or chatting penguin politics, who knows. One guy got offended and walked off. Soon one of his club mates walked over and calmed him down, then they both waddled back to the clubhouse, and all was good cheer again. An afternoon at Boulder Beach was one of the most amusing I’ve ever spent, peering into the lives of penguins.
Chill with penguins (tuxedo not required)
The only land-based penguin breeding colony, Boulders Beach reserve is part of Table Mountain National Park. Here you can see the little black-and-white fellow previously known as the Jackass Penguin. His new name, the African Penguin, might be more politically correct, but it’s anybody’s guess who the name reflects most poorly on: Africans or jackasses. When you hear their braying mating sounds, you won’t ask why ‘jackass’. INSIDE INFO: Don’t think you must pay the entry fee to get into Boulders Beach reserve within the National Park. Following the boardwalk is free and will enable close-up viewing of their nesting sites. Even better: head onto the tranquil and wind-protected Seaforth Beach on the western edge of the Boulders Reserve. On the rocky outcrop on the west of Seaforth you will be sure to find plenty of penguins that will allow you up close and personal, with no fences in the way. Be warned, though: a penguin beak is a dangerous thing, and they will not hesitate to attack you if they get annoyed. If you are extremely lucky, you might see a Cape Clawless Otter there too just as night falls. These creatures exit the sea at a freshwater stream, and come searching for penguin eggs.
Beach Time with Penguins
If you’re spending time exploring the Cape Peninsula area of South Africa, a visit with the penguin colony at Boulders Beach is a must. They made Boulders their home (wise penguins) in 1982 and you’ll be surprised by how residential the setting is, and how fascinating these birds are when you have the chance to view them at such close range. This is now a protected area for the birds and you’ll pay an entrance fee that contributes to their continued, protected well being. By last count, the colony had grown to 3,000! You’ll be able to witness all aspects of their daily life here and might even find a few swimming companions or two if you decide to take a dip in swimming area at the very end of the boardwalk. Be sure to ask where swimming is and isn’t allowed and then keep your eyes peeled for a few new friends and want to get a good look at you. This spot is included in the area known as Table Mountain National Park and information on their hours can be found in the link below.
In penguin country
To the south, Antarctica. Not far from Fish Hoek. Just to your right, huge granite boulders. Any minute a penguin could waddle by.
Penguins Take Over the Beach
Traveling to Africa usually conjures visions of safari. If your destination is South Africa, a stopover in Cape Town is a must before heading into the bush. Once there, you won’t want to miss Cape Town’s beaches, which range from secluded bays to long, open stretches of sand and surf. The choice of beach is yours. The west side of the Cape Peninsula, on the Atlantic Ocean, is where the more fashionable set go to see and be seen. The east side of the peninsula, on the warmer Indian Ocean, is generally more laid-back and not as frenetic as the Atlantic coastline. But for a different seaside experience, Boulders Beach forms part of a conservation area that is home to the African penguin, and wooden walkways have been constructed to view the penguins in their natural habitat.
Watching Penguins at Boulders Beach
Where else in the world do you have bikini-clad women lounging in the sand a few meters from a penguin colony sitting on eggs and tending to young? Boulders Beach, which lies within Table Mountain National Park, is one of the easiest penguin colonies to observe. During our visit we saw African penguins sitting, caring for young, and frolicking in the surf. They do not appear to be disturbed by all of the human spectators, and seem to appreciate that you are prohibited from approaching them by leaving the boardwalk. I recommend that you spend some time observing the behavior of these rare creatures.
Chill with African Penguins for a day!
One of my TOP experiences in South Africa was hanging out with the penguins on Boulders Beach. I don’t know if you can do this anywhere else in the world in your bathing suit! (maybe Galapagos Is.) The penguins mind their own if you don’t get too close and are pretty acclimated to being around humans. You can choose to swim in the chilly waters with the penguins as well. The scenery at Boulders Beach is stunning and not to be missed.
Swim with Penguins next door
This place was great. Perfect viewing of the Penguins and walk a feet feet down and you can go for a dip. Bring your wide angle lens and zoom lens. You’ll be able to take great pics.