In my opinion, the African Penguin is the most penguin-esque of all the penguin species.
They’re small and cute with a real gangster waddle, a black face and a white belly. What more could you want? A fresh smelling fragrance would have been a bonus but after encountering these little fellas at every possible opportunity on a recent trip to Cape Town, I quickly came to realise that they absolutely stink. But you’ll forgive them for that because they’re very charismatic and so funny to watch.
When I said that I spotted African Penguins at every possible opportunity, I mean i’ve seen them in two different locations.
The African penguin is only found on the south-western coast of Africa. It is the only penguin species that breeds in Africa and there are only two established colonies on the mainland near Cape Town; namely Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town and Stoney Point in Betty’s Bay.
You may have heard claims that Boulders Beach is the only place to view the Penguins but, that’s not true. I followed a sign that said ‘Penguins’ and I found Betty’s Bay where I saw them with my own eyes!
Let’s talk about Boulders Beach first. If you’re staying in Cape Town, it’s about an hours drive from the CBD. I headed off from Camps Bay via Hout Bay, along Chapman’s Peak drive, past Noordhoek and Kommetjie and across to Simon’s Town. This was one of the most scenic drives i’ve ever experienced, it was absolutely stunning. As was Boulders Beach. Once i’d paid the entrance fee and made my way along the perfectly constructed wooden pathways to the first viewing area I thought to myself ‘Lucky Penguins’. They’ve got it made right here. This is one beautiful beach. Just like Camps Bay but with a LOT more boulders (and penguins).
My photos don’t do justice to the amount of Penguins that were on this beach. There were thousands!
The best place to view the penguins here is actually from Foxy Beach which has boardwalks all around the dunes to let you get much closer to them.
It would be rare for me to publish a blog post without mentioning food and whilst these little fellas enjoy a hearty fish supper – so do I! I tucked into a very tasty grilled fish salad at the Seaforth Restaurant which is right on the waterfront at Seaforth Beach, Simon’s Town – 5 mins walk from the Boulders Beach visitor center.
I genuinely thought i’d had my one and only Penguin encounter and was entirely satisfied that i’d filled my boots until a few days later, I was driving the coastal road between Somerset West and Hermanus when low and behold I saw a sign for ‘Penguins’!
I was in Betty’s Bay which is halfway between Pringle Bay and Kleinmond. I followed the sign off the main road to Stony Point Nature Reserve and could not believe that not only was there another protected colony of African Penguins but there was nobody there, I had them all to myself! This place could not have been any more different to my first Penguin experience at Boulders Beach which frankly was heaving with tourists.
This place, although it doesn’t have a beach anything like as spectacular as Boulders, is arguably far more interesting. The Penguin colony lies on the site of the old Waaygat Whaling Station which was used to harvest and process whale meat in the 20th Century. Remnants of the machinery and infrastructure can still be seen here including a shipwreck right next to the old Jetty.
I couldn’t believe my luck as I walked over to see the cute little handbag sized chaps jumping around on the old concrete slipway with no other humans in sight and a view that included a shipwreck which quite honestly blew my mind.
I genuinely can’t decide which of my two Penguin spotting experiences I enjoyed the most and my recommendation to any other penguin lovers who visit Cape Town would be to go to both Boulders Beach and Betty’s Bay but if you only have time for one, here are the plus points of each to help you decide:
- Much less of a tourist mecca
- More rustic atmosphere
- There’s also a shipwreck
- A beautiful beach
- Spectacular 500 million year old granite boulders
- More penguins
- More geared up for tourists with cafes, shops, street stalls and entertainment
I’ll leave you with this video clip from Stony Point to help you decide…