When I first started reading the usual touristy guides about the Cape Town area, one “must-see” was always mentioned: The Boulders Beach African Penguin Colony. Righfully so, since the penguin colony at Boulders Beach, located in the Table Mountain National Park, is part of the only breeding species of penguins on the continent of Africa.
The African Penguin is also known as the “jackass penguin”, as these animals allegedly sound very similar to donkeys (I sadly did not get to hear this delicate sound, they all went very quiet when they saw me approaching). Unfortunately, the species is still declining and was recently listed as officially “Endangered”.
Boulders Beach is not just interesting for its penguins, but also (you may have guessed it) for its boulders. The huge granite boulders you see in these photos are estimated to be 540 million years old!
I challenge you! Can you find the penguin in this photo?
The penguins only started settling in the area in 1982, but Boulders Beach has since grown into a very popular tourist spot. A construction of boardwalks leads the visitor on a path along numerous penguin nests, finally opening up to views of the beaches.
Interestingly, these African Penguins have pink patches of skin above their eyes, which are actually glands. These glands help regulating their temperature and will turn a darker shade of pink as the penguin gets hotter. This is because the glands will fill with more blood as the penguin’s body starts to warm up. It’s like when us humans start sweating really heavily, just less disgusting.
Worth It or Not: is it a Tourist Trap?
The Boulders Beach penguins were definitely one of the highlights of my visit to South Africa this summer (winter, technically). Sure, the place looked like a massive tourist symposium, but you still get to see plenty of penguins. Even just the sight of them awkwardly waddling on the beach is worth the trouble, obviously.
Just in case you were thinking of visiting soon, here are some useful links:
- South African National Parks (Boulders)
- Simons Town (The African Penguin)
- Cape Town Magazine (Boulders)
Also, you may not want to try petting or high-fiving these friendly-looking penguins, they are perfectly capable of biting off your rude little finger, nose or any other protruding body part. Anyways, stay tuned for more posts about my adventures in South Africa!