AFRICAN PENGUINS AT BOULDERS BEACH: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO BOULDERS BEACH
A visit to Boulders Beach to see it’s beloved African Penguin Colony has undoubtedly become one of the top things to do in Cape Town. Located just past Simons Town along the vibrant False Bay coastline, Boulders Beach is one of the only places in the world where you can actually get up close and personal with the cute and charismatic African Penguins. Making a visit to the beautiful Boulders Beach a once-in-a-lifetime bucket-list worthy experience in every way. And something absolutely everyone who travels to Cape Town should experience at least once in their lives.
We’ve put together the ultimate guide to Boulders Beach and its colony of African Penguins in order to ensure you have the absolute best experience when visiting this Mother City gem.
Photo Caption: Tag a friend who needs a hug! ?
Did you know that Penguins ? mate for life?
Amazing photo by @emmett_sparling
Known as the penguin paradise of Cape Town, Boulders Beach is home to a colony of African penguins. Boulders is located in False Bay just outside of Simon’s Town, this sheltered beach is among the most visited beaches in Cape Town. However there are a few secrets to know to get the best experiences as well as the best photos for Instagram.
THE AFRICAN PENGUIN COLONY
Lovingly referred to as Cape Town’s coolest ocean locals, the cute and charismatic African Penguins are the only penguins found on the continent. Colonies of African Penguins can be found from Southern Namibia all the way around the South African Coast to Port Elizabeth. But there are very few places that offer visitors as remarkable of a viewing site as Boulders Beach. Not to mention the fact that it is one of the only places in the world where you can actually get up close and personal with these beautiful and playful ocean beings.
Although the charismatic African Penguin Colony at Boulders Beach is considered one of Cape Town’s most sought-after attractions for locals and travellers alike. The total population of African Penguins have significantly dwindled over the years. To such an extent where our beloved African Penguins are now classified as an endangered species. With the current population estimated to be around 2000 – 3000. This is mainly as a result of various environmental factors, marine pollution, oil spills and over-fishing. However, thankfully, some incredible efforts have been made to combat the threat of extinction of one of our famous members of our Marine Big 5. Boulders Beach, together with surrounding beaches, now form part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area. Thereby ensuring that the beaches are always kept clean and safe and the African Penguins are protected. Which is a massive step in the right direction in ensuring that Boulders Beach can once again be home to a thriving colony of African Penguins.
Here are a few fun facts about African Penguins: Did you know that African Penguins used to be known as Jackass Penguins? This is mainly due to the loud distinctive donkey-like braying sound they make. They are also believed to be one of the first penguin species to be discovered by humans. When it comes to their appearance, African Penguins have a distinct, sharply pointed beak and black feet. As well as an array of black, white, and grey dense, waterproof feathers that cover their bodies in order to keep them warm and dry. Another distinctive feature is the small pink gland above each eye. Which actually helps them cope with high temperatures. They can also hold their breaths for over 2 minutes and dive over 400 feet deep. The African Penguin species are also monogamous, and both the male and female penguins share parenting duties.
WHERE TO VIEW THE AFRICAN PENGUINS
Did you know that there are two sides to Cape Town’s Boulders Beach? Namely the north side (Foxy Beach) and the south side (Boulders Beach). The north Foxy Beach side is considered the best place to enjoy spectacular sightings of the African Penguins. There are three wheelchair-friendly boardwalks that make their way through the dunes and dense vegetation around Foxy Beach. With informational boards positioned along the route to help guide you and give you extra insight and information on these incredible ocean beings. These boardwalks will lead you to two amazing viewing platforms that are positioned above the main Boulders Beach African Penguin colony. This is where you will find the largest concentration of penguins.
Foxy Beach at the main entrance is therefore one of the best sites where you will find the most African Penguins gathered together. Plus, the views from the viewing deck are absolutely incredible. As the African Penguin colony is kept separate from people at this side of Boulders Beach, it gives the penguins the opportunity to socialise, pair up and mate without being disturbed by visitors. In addition to the boardwalks providing visitors with amazing viewing spots for incredible African Penguin sightings. They also protect nesting penguins and their chicks. Which in turn is incredibly beneficial to the conservation, protection and breeding of these endangered marine animals.
As African Penguins are known for their fun and playful nature, you can expect to enjoy amazing sightings of them slipping and sliding into and out of the water and just generally having a good time when visiting this penguin viewing site. It truly is something pretty special!
The penguins and people are kept separate here allowing the penguins to socialise, pair up, mate and breed without being disturbed by visitors. It is a great spot to see the penguins going about their activities undisturbed and has the best access for those with disabilities or who struggle walking far on uneven terrain.
At the visitor centre you can find all the information you need about the penguins or you could enquire about a guide.
If you’re looking for more of an up close and personal experience with the beloved African Penguin colony, then head over to the south side of Boulders Beach. Here you’ll have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of spending the day on the beach with these tuxedo cuties. And if you’re lucky, you’ll even be able to enjoy a dip in the cool ocean water with them by your side. How incredible is that?
But how exactly do you get to the south side of Boulders Beach? Exit Foxy Beach through the visitor centre and walk along the road and boardwalk behind the dunes and forest. This is shown by the green dotted line in the map. You will then find another parking lot and entrance gate on this side of Boulders Beach. On the map it is indicated by Boulders Beach Standbad. In addition to a bucket-list worthy experience and spectacular African Penguin sightings. This beach also has several additional facilities. Including bathrooms as well as a double gate to keep the penguins safe and away from the road.
The African Penguins like coming onto the main beach at sunset but otherwise you will find them in between the rocks to the left side of the beach.
In addition to being a great spot for enjoying amazing African Penguin sightings, the cool, quirky and charismatic Boulders Beach has also captured the hearts of beach lovers around the globe. And with good reason too! Crowned the 62nd most beautiful beach in the world by Flight Network on their World’s 100 Beach list. Boulders Beach has established itself as one of the most sought-after family friendly swimming beaches in Cape Town. Boasting large granite boulders, a stunning swimming bay, rockpools and a spectacular backdrop. It will almost feel like you’ve escaped to your own little piece of beach paradise.
For the kids
Due to its beautiful swimming bay, shallow rockpools and big granite boulders creating a relatively secluded escape, Boulders Beach is the perfect place to enjoy a fun-filled beach day with the kids. The water is also warmer than on the Atlantic seaboard side and it is usually calm between the rocks which makes it perfect for swimming and safe for the kiddies to play around in.
Looking for some instagram inspiration? Check out our post on our favourite Boulders Beach Instagram photos.
Finding the best spot on Boulders Beach
The first beach you will encounter is the largest beach area. This is where you will find most people sunbathing and swimming and they generally don’t explore much further. It is a good spot set up your umbrella and lay down your towel. There are usually a few penguins around but most of them are behind a small barrier on a rock to the East.
We suggest that you go exploring a bit further. Especially if you’re up for an adventure! If you walk around the beach to the left, you will come across some large boulders which seems like it is the end of the road. However, if you crouch down you will see a small tunnel between the rocks that you can duck/crawl through. On the other side you will need to scramble over a few rocks and maybe get your feet a bit wet. But, that’s the fun of it right!
Once you’re through these rocks you will find a more secluded beach with a lot more penguins and some beautiful rocks. This is the best place to get close to the penguins and take some great photographs. Be careful not to get too close as the penguins can give a nasty bite.
If you keep exploring, you will find some beautiful spots to relax as well as even more penguins.
Eventually you will reach a sign that says no entry, which is on the far side of Foxy beach and the beginning of the penguins protected area. Don’t go further than this.
Note: There is no way round here, so you will have to head back the way you came to get back to your car or to Foxy beach.
Tip: If you go around high tide you will be able to stand in the shallow water between the rocks and have the penguins dart and dive all around you.
BEST TIME TO VISIT BOULDERS BEACH TO SEE THE AFRICAN PENGUINS
Although Boulders Beach is a year-round destination. With locals and travellers having the opportunity to see the cute and charismatic African Penguin Colony any time of the year. Summer (November – February) is considered to be the prime time to enjoy incredible African Penguin sightings. Besides a bit of wind, Cape Town’s summer season is characterised by beautiful warm sunny days. Which means the African Penguins are out in full force, loving life, basking in the Mother City sunshine and living it up in their natural habitat. For a real treat, you should visit Boulders Beach during January. As this is the time of year when the juvenile birds can be spotted moulting on the beach.
Between September and October, the African Penguins spend a lot more time out at sea feeding. You will therefore experience fewer sightings during this time of year. Therefore, making it a less favourable time to visit Boulders Beach and its African Penguin colony.
For really good sightings, incredible photo opportunities and amazing Insta-worthy snapshots, the best time to visit Boulders Beach and its African Penguin colony is either early in the morning or later in the afternoon when Cape Town’s cool ocean locals are most active. Early in the morning is great because there are far less people around. Which means smaller crowds and shorter ques – win! However, when it comes to capturing the perfect photo, nothing beats Cape Town’s golden hour glow. Paired with the clear turquoise ocean water and golden sand, it’s pure bliss!
Another important thing to consider when planning your trip to Boulders Beach is the tide. If the tide is very high or the ocean swells are too big. Chances are you won’t be able to enjoy up close sightings of the charismatic and playful African Penguins. It is therefore a good idea to check the tides online and plan your visit accordingly.
HOW TO GET TO BOULDERS BEACH
Whether you have your own car or are renting one, the easiest way to get to Boulders Beach, Cape Town is by car. There are two main ways to get to Simons Town from Cape Town city center. You can either choose the scenic route that takes you via Camps Bay, Hout Bay, over Chapmans Peak and then onto Simons Town. Although the scenic route to Boulders Beach takes a little longer, it is absolutely beautiful.
Alternatively, you can choose to take the faster route via the highway. Head to Simons Town along the M3 towards Muizenberg and then continue on the M4 (Main Road) through Fish Hoek to Simons Town. Just on the other side of Simons Town there will be signs to Boulders Beach. If you see the golf course on your left, you know you’ve gone too far.
Once you get to Simons Town there are two possible entrances to Boulders Beach and its African Penguin colony that are connected by a public boardwalk. You can either stop at the first entrance which is in Seaforth road. This will take you onto a wooden walkway and all the way down to a viewing platform. Where you’ll be able to enjoy sensational African Penguin sightings. The other entrance is down Bellevue Road which will take you directly to Boulders Beach. As the parking can get pretty full, it’s a good idea to just park at the one side. And then to use the boardwalk to walk from one side to the other.
Another way to get to Boulders Beach is to take the train from Cape Town to Simons Town. Boulders Beach is located about two kilometres from the Simons Town station. This is the last stop on the scenic Southern Line.
OPENING & CLOSING TIMES
- December – January: 7am – 7.30pm
- February – March: 8am – 6.30pm
- April – September: 8am – 5pm
- October – November: 8am – 6.30pm
CONSERVATION ENTRANCE FEE TO SEE THE AFRICAN PENGUINS
In order to view the African Penguin Colony from the Penguin Viewing Site as well as gain access to Boulders Beach, there is an entrance fee that forms part of a conservation project. Your ticket is valid for the entire day. You can also choose to exit and re-enter as it suits you (only on the same day as when your ticket was purchased). Your ticket will grant you access to both the African Penguin Viewing Site as well as the famous Boulders Beach where you can spend the day on the beach with these tuxedo cuties.
|1 November 2019 to 31 October 2020|
|South African Citizens and Residents (with ID):||R40 per adult per day
R20 per child, per day
|SADC Nationals (with passport):||R80 per adult per day
R40 per child, per day
|Standard Conservation Fee (Foreign Visitors):||R160 per adult per day
R80 per child, per day
IMPORTANT NOTICES FROM SANPARKS:
- Boulders is a safe beach, with rangers on patrol each day
- Do NOT feed the penguins or come too close. While they may look cute, they’re still wild animals.
- Parking is limited, especially during peak Summer, so come early
- Alcohol and smoking prohibited
- No vessels are allowed, including canoes and kayaks
- Because it’s part of the Marine Protected Area, it is a no-take zone, which means no marine life may be removed.
Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town Telephone Number
+27 (0)21 786 2329
S 34° 7′ 55″ E 18° 26′ 53″