The penguins’ colonies in Betty’s Bay and Boulders beach
Since we were children, we have dreamed of seeing these cute and funny animals in their natural environment while basking in the sun or diving into the waves searching for food. Anyone who has seen advertisements or cartoons, such as the Penguins of Madagascar, became fond of this little black and white animal that certainly inspires a lot of sweetness. We made the dream true during our trip to South Africa, where two large colonies of penguins live.
About the African penguins
The African Penguins were formerly called the ”jackass Penguin” because of their donkey-like braying call. They breed on 25 islands and 3 mainland sites between Algoa Bay in South Africa and central Namibia, and nowhere else in the world. It‘s the only penguin that breeds in Africa. They feed mainly on oil-rich fish that occur in the upper water, squid and small crustaceans. The Penguins are social breeders and nest in colonies but defend an area around the nest site. Peak moulting time is during December, after which they head out to sea to feed, and they return in January to mate and begin nesting from about February to August. Unfortunately, they are listed in the red data book as endangered species. Of the 1,5 million penguin population estimated at the beginning of 1900, only the same 10 % remained at the end of the 20th century. The uncontrolled harvesting of penguin eggs and guano scraping nearly drove the species to extinction.
Where to meet the penguins
The most famous and accessible places to meet these cute animals and walk right in the middle of their big colonies are Boulders Beach and Betty’s Bay.
1. Boulders Beach
Boulders Beach is enclosed in a sheltered area between the historic Simon’s Town and Cape Point, along the Cape Peninsula. Its soft white sand and enormous granite boulders form part of the expansive Table Mountain National Park and offer these birds complete freedom to live their lives in a protected natural environment. Boulders beach is one of the few sites where these endangered birds can be observed wandering freely, well, and truly close. After the entrance gate, two boardwalks are heading to within a few meters of these funny birds, where you can see them going about their daily activities at an incredibly close range. Once got to the beach, you’ll enjoy these sweet birds while they waddle across the shoreline, dart in and out of the ocean and soak.
Admission fee: 70 rands;
How to get there: Boulders Beach is located about 1-hour drive from Cape Town, along the spectacular Cape Peninsula Route, near Simon’s Town. If you have a rental car, you will find a large parking lot not far from the beach entrance. Alternatively, local operators arrange the Cape Peninsula tours, including a stop to Boulders Beach. You can book tours by relying on web platforms such as Viator.com and GetYourGuide.com, where the same tour operators advertise their activities and tours in Cape Town and its surroundings. Another option to get to the beach and see the penguin colony is to take the “CitySightseeing Cape Town” tourist bus, which stops at Boulders Beach.
2. Betty’s Bay
It is a picturesque seaside village situated along the scenic Clarence Drive Route (R44) between Pringle Bay and Kleinmond. The town is positioned in a narrow strip of land sandwiched between the Kogelberg Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean and bordered by freshwater lakes and the Palmiet River. Betty’s Bay lies within the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, the first UNESCO declared Biosphere in South Africa. The penguins’ colony at Stony Point is one of only 3 breeding colonies on the African continent and declared a Municipal Nature Reserve in July 2002.
Since then, this important seabird colony has grown in size due to the breeding of both the endangered penguins and cormorants. Even in Betty’s Bay, after the gate, is a boardwalk along the rocky outcrops through green flora to spot until you get to Stony Point, an abandoned whaling station. Here, without a doubt, you’ll enjoy fewer crowds and a smaller fee than those at Boulders Beach. If you are lucky, you can find the penguins playing and resting along the unfenced beach in front of the car park before getting to the entrance gate.
Admission fee: 20 rands;
How to get there: Betty’s Bay is located about 1.5 hours from Cape Town, along the splendid R44, known as the “Whales Route”. If you visit Betty’s Bay coming from Hermanus like us, it will take about 45 minutes. You have to follow the R43 and then turn onto the R44.