Friday, 8 December 2017

Where can you see penguins in Sth Africa?

African penguinPenguins in Africa! It sounds like a contradiction in terms but there they were, on Boulders Beach, right where our guide book said they would be, dozens and dozens of African penguins. Also known as jackass penguins, because their call sounds a bit like a donkey, African penguins live along the south-western and southern coasts of Africa between Namibia and Port Elizabeth.  If you want to see them and you are in Cape Town just head out to Boulders Beach, Simons Town, a mere 45 minutes by car. Combine your visit with a trip to the Cape of Good Hope for a great day excursion.


The Penguins


Living in Australia, I am used to little (fairy) penguins, the world's smallest breed. Little penguins stand 30 cms (12 inches) tall and weigh 1 kg (2 lbs). They are very timid. Although there are some great spots to view them in southern Australia they stay out at sea or hide in their burrows until after dark. You are unlikely to see them during the day. At 60 cms (24 inches) tall and weighing up to 3.6 kg (8 lbs) African penguins are not so easily frightened. Those we saw at Boulders Beach were standing around in broad daylight, completely unconcerned about any daylight dangers.

Penguins at Boulders Beach
I took this photo on our first trip to Sth Africa in April 2016. The penguins were nesting. Can you see the chicks?
Penguins at Boulders Beach
I took this photo in October 2017. There were fewer penguins on the beach but still plenty to see.

How close can you get?


Boardwalks and viewing platforms take you right into the heart of the colony. Along the boardwalk you can be less than a metre from individual birds and, standing on the viewing platforms, only a couple of metres. 

African penguins
The penguins walk right up to, and beneath, the boardwalks.

Where is Boulders Beach?


Boulders Beach is at 6 Kleintuin Rd, Simon's Town.  There are signs directing you to the car park from the main road, Queens Rd. Once you've parked your car just follow the people and you can't go wrong.


African penguins


Is there an entry fee?


There is a small entry fee (35R for adults, 10R for children). If you have a Cape Town Pass entry is included.

When is the best time to see the penguins?


The boardwalk is open between 8 am and 5 pm from April to September and between 8 am and 6.30 pm from October to March. The penguins are there all year round but during September and October they spend more time feeding at sea and less on the beach. Having said that, we visited Boulders Beach in October and there were plenty of birds to see. Check out my two photos above to get an idea of the difference in numbers. One photo was taken in April and the other in October.

seagull
Not a penguin! This seagull looked so lovely against the background of grass and sky I had to include him.

Is Boulders Beach penguin colony crowded?


We visited Boulders Beach in April 2016 and in October 2017. There were lots of other people both times but it wasn't so crowded that we couldn't get a good view. There are two viewing platforms overlooking the beach. The far platform was less crowded but further from the penguins. To reach the far platform take the boardwalk entrance on your right just past the entrance turnstile. Even at the more crowded platform it didn't take more than a few minutes for those at the front to move on and make room for newcomers. The boardwalks leading to the beach go right through the colony so by the time you get to the beach you will have seen lots of penguins close up.

Penguins at Boulders Beach
The viewing platform looks a lot more crowded than it felt.

Penguins at Betty's Bay


If you are headed east from Cape Town toward Hermanus you'll get a second chance to see African penguins at Betty's Bay. Follow the R44 past False Bay and watch out for the penguin signs.  We saw the signs but we didn't turn off. I had tripped over in Cape Town the day before and feeling a bit sore and sorry for myself, I didn't want to stop. The Betty's Bay penguins are top of our list next time we visit the Western Cape.

Little penguins
Little penguins. I put this photo in to tempt you to visit Australia and see the world's cutest penguins.


My other blog posts on South Africa - 


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African penguin


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28 comments:

  1. I am a big fan of penguins so I'd definitely be keen to go and visit them. I also like the idea of the raised boardwalk, that way you can be sure nobody is disturbing the penguins. I've glimpsed the little penguins in Sydney before but am always worried about scaring them!

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    1. There are so few little penguins in Sydney now that it is very rare to see them. You are lucky to have even caught a glimpse.

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  2. I did see the chicks from that shot above Lyn. So cute, and those little penguins in Australia are just adorable. Penguins fascinate me. They never seem to stir when people are around, whether at tourist spots or being filmed by camera folks. Unflappable little guys...who cannot flap their wings and take off. Wait; I am seeing a pattern here....maybe I know why they don't bolt around people LOL :)

    Ryan

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    1. Haha - I adore penguins. Poor David has been dragged around so many places in Australia and New Zealand so that I could catch a sight of them.

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  3. That's sooooo cute. I don't think of S.Africa as a penguin place, but of course it is!!

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    1. For some idiotic reason I thought Sth Africa was in the Northern Hemisphere and therefore entirely penguin free. It turns out though that Cape Town is on the same latitude as Sydney.

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  4. Lyn our time at Boulder Beach was one of the high points of our time in South Africa. I loved seeing the wee penguins in Australia but to see the African penguins in the day time was a dream come true. They really do sound like donkeys don’t they?

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    1. One day you will have to come back to Australia and see the penguins on Phillip Island, or better yet King Island, and then come and visit David and I and see the kangaroos which come into our garden each evening. You would love them.

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  5. I only knew there were penguins in S. Africa because I have a friend who is a penguin lover and they framed there photos of the penguins from their visit there. I think it's just not something people think of in Africa. Great photos!

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    1. For me Africa always conjured up images of elephants, giraffes and lions not penguins. It was fun seeing them partly because I didn't expect it until I started researching thing to do in Cape Town.

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  6. I have been seeing a lot of penguin images this week - your post about penguins in South Africa and another blogger's facebook post about penguins in Antarctica :-) It's absolutely amazing to see penguins in broad daylight in Boulders Beach, and I love them for they are so adorable! I had seen the penguin colony in Kangaroo Island, South Australia about 20 years ago during my uni days - it was quite an experience. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. Sadly there are very few, if any, penguins left on Kangaroo Island. The New Zealand fur seal population has boomed and just about wiped them out. The New Zealand fur seal is native to Australia so we can't blame the kiwis. There are lots of places to see them in southern Australian but Kangaroo Island is no longer one of them. David and I once saw penguins on King Island which was just fabulous.

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  7. Ar! So many memories! I got to go to Boukders Beach in 2008 and loved it! I'm a big fan of penguins!
    Thanks so much for sharig #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. So many people love penguins - you and I are in good company.

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  8. Wow, that's a lot of penguins! I'm impressed that they are right out there in the daylight (I too am used to the fairy penguins that prefer to come ashore after nightfall). One of your photos has them almost lining up in neat rows.

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    1. It was weird seeing penguins in the broad daylight - but oh so easy compared to staking out a beach at sunset.

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  9. I've never seen penguins in their own habitat so far. I'd love to see the ones in Antarctica. I've seen a great documentary about them. The ones in South Africa look quite small, but they are so cute! #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. African penguins are much smaller than penguins in the Antarctic. Like you I would love to see them in Antarctica.

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  10. I would love to see the penguins in South Africa, thanks for sharing, I didn’t know you could see them there. I saw fairy penguins on Kangaroo Island about 25 years ago at night. It’s amazing to see them on the beach in daylight. #WeekendWanderlust

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    1. You are the second person to comment that they saw fairy penguins on Kangaroo Island many years ago. Sadly the colony has all but disappeared. It was decimated by increasing numbers of New Zealand fur seals (which are native to Australia). There are still some great places to see fairy penguins in southern Australia but Kangaroo Island is no longer one of them.

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  11. Seeing the penguins at Boulder Beach was a highlight of our trip. It was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to South Africa since I've never seen them in the wild. Now it looks like I'll have to go to Australia too to see them. #WeekendWanderlust

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    1. You will love our Australian penguins. They are super cute. Let me know if you ever decide to make the trip down under and I will give you some pointers on where to go and what to do.

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  12. I did not know you could see penguins in South Africa. Boulder Beach looks like a must-do for any South African itinerary.

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    1. Penguins and Africa aren't something you would expect to go together.

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  13. OMG I love the penguins...I've never seen them in the wild...so this would be a dream! And I love that you showed how crowded it is...realistic expectations are always good in my opinion. I'm adding this to my list asap!

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    1. I hope you get there one day. I am sure you will love it.

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  14. Oh how I would love to see a colony of penguins! I've never seen penguins outside of the zoo. What a great experience I'm sure and interesting to see the difference in size between April and October. Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

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    1. Living in the Southern Hemisphere I tend to take penguins a bit for granted and assume everyone has seen them in the wild at least once or twice. I forget they don't live in the Northern Hemisphere.

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