Meet the penguins at Boulders Beach
When it comes to picture-postcard beaches in Cape Town, you're spoilt for choice, but Boulders Beach offers up something the others don't – African Penguins!
The beautiful Boulders Beach is one of Cape Town’s most visited beaches and the only place in the world where you get close to African Penguins.
Cape Town definitely has no shortage of amazing beaches, but Boulders Beach in False Bay offers something extra special – a colony of African Penguins in all their smartly dresses, waddling glory, right under your nose. In fact, it’s the only place in the world where you can get close to African Penguins.
In 1982 a couple of these little crowd-pleasers settled on the soft white sand between the large granite boulders that protect the beach from wind and large, stormy waves, and currently the population is estimated between 2,000 and 3,000 birds. Sadly the African Penguin has been classified as an endangered species, due to things like over-fishing, habitat destruction, pollution, and irresponsible tourism activities, and the Boulders Beach colony has also felt the effect, with numbers dwindling over the last couple of years.
Thankfully, Boulders and its surrounding beaches now form part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, thus ensuring the beaches are safe and clean, and the penguins protected. A couple of years ago three wheelchair-friendly boardwalks were constructed to accommodate the nearly 60,000 visitors that visit the beach each year. These boardwalks wind their way through the dunes and vegetation and not only provides great viewing spots, but also protects nesting penguins and their chicks. However, you can still spot one or two of the little fellas waddling through the parking lot from time to time.
What to do
Boulders Beach isn’t just a great place for penguins, it’s also a popular family-friendly swimming beach where kids can climb over the boulders, explore the rock pools, or swim in the cool, clear False Bay water. It’s also a great place for a leisurely picnic. Due to the R65 conservation fee, the beach is rarely packed.
If you’d like to learn more about the area’s famous inhabitants, be sure to pop over to the Boulders Visitors Centre where expert guides will give you tonnes of interesting information about Africa’s own, unique penguins.
How to get there
Boulders Beach is situated False Bay, just outside Simon’s Town, on the way to Cape Point. It’s about an hour’s drive by car from the CBD.
There are a couple of routes you can take to get there:
- Around the mountain via the Southern Suburbs, and leafy Bishops Court, past the Constantia Valley to Kalk Bay, then along the coast to Simon’s Town
- From Camps Bay via Hout Bay, along Chapman’s Peak drive, past Noordhoek and Kommetjie (an incredibly scenic drive)
If you’d like to use public transport:
- Catch a train from Cape Town Station all the way to Simon’s Town (be sure to buy a First Class ticket). The train runs along the Kalk Bay coastline, an incredibly scenic train ride. From Simon’s Town you can either take the 30 or so minute walk through the historic little naval town, or catch a taxi.
- The newly launched City Sightseeing’s Cape Point Explorer also stops at Boulders on its way to Cape Point and it’s a convenient and affordable trip to take.
- Some hotels and tour operators offer transfers from the CBD and back.
What to bring
– There’s a conservation fee of around R65 per person, so bring some cash.
– An umbrella, hat, and sunscreen if you plan on spending the day on the beach
– Weather-appropriate clothing, especially during winter, when the weather can be quite unpredictable. Winter is also the rainy season, so bring an umbrella or raincoat.
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.
- For entry and exit times, please check the SANParks website