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SSouth Africa’s penguins are under threat from loss of habitat, declining fish numbers and their ever-encroaching human neighbours. By visiting Boulders Beach, you’ll be making a difference to their plight. Every year, thousands of tourists flock to Simon’s Town (outside Cape Town) to photograph and watch the penguins. Proceeds help to boost penguin conservation efforts.
African penguins used to be known as jackass penguins, due to the braying sounds they make. Although they breed in colonies stretching from southern Namibia to Port Elizabeth, the story of how they came to call Boulders Beach home is one of remarkable urban colonisation. The species, both at Boulders Beach and elsewhere, face many threats that have classified these flightless birds as endangered.
Boulders Beach remains the only place in the world where one can get up close to African penguins. Penguin viewing is made easier by boardwalks that lead vistors across the beaches, and an information centre managed by SANParks. Look out for artificial nesting boxes, put in place to help prevent the loss of chicks and provide safe breeding grounds for the penguins.
The story of this penguin colony started in 1983, when African penguins were first spotted on the beach. The birds came to False Bay from Dyer Island. At the time, False Bay was closed to commercial fishing. This was good news for the penguins. Thanks to an abundance of food and good breeding sites, their numbers soared.
Today, cars, people and competition for breeding sites have put pressure on the penguin population. Many try to nest in unsafe environments, leaving their nests exposed to both predators and the elements. Climate change has also affected fish stocks, and severe weather incidences have depleted penguin-chick numbers.
Now that you know more about the Boulders Beach penguins, start planning a trip to Simon’s Town. Your visit will help to keep these oddball birds waddling on.
Did you know?
African Penguins were moved to the Endangered list in May 2010.
Travel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111
Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB)
Tel: +27 (0)21 557 6155
How to get here
Boulders Beach is located in Simon's Town, just over Cape Town’s hilly peninsula. It's easily accessible by bus, car, taxi or train.
Best time to visit
In January, you’ll spot juvenile penguins moulting on the beach. Breeding season is from February to August.
Things to do
While you’re in Simon’s Town, pop into one of the local museums or enjoy a delicious lunch of fish and chips.
What to pack
The wind can pick up along the beach, so a hat and sunglasses will provide a buffer.