Penguin spotting at Boulders Beach, South Africa

Boulders Beach is a unique wildlife spotting opportunity – it is home to a population of (very cute) African penguins, who swim and climb and waddle on the sand. This coastal habitat, a day trip away from Cape Town, is the perfect chance to get up and close with these amazing birds, and see them in an unexpected environment.

Arriving super early was a great idea.

At 9am, we were almost the only people there. A group of sunbaking penguins lounged on a large flat rock as we walked down the steps to the beach, with others relaxing on a boulder further out to the sea.

Clambering a little further, we found a shallow pool fanning out, where an athletic penguin was zipping and corkscrewing through the blue water like a fish. It’s a rare opportunity to see wild penguins swimming so clearly in the wild!

To explore the beach properly, it’s worth following the shoreline, weaving, ducking and scrambling under and through boulder formations. It’s a physical pursuit, but worth it for a private view of the penguins. There are plenty of hidden sandbars and shady corners to observe the penguins in this unique beach setting.

But, remember, it gets busy with tourists around lunchtime!

The penguin colony at Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach gets its name from the large number of impressive granite boulders that tumble over each other and into the surf. They form shady coves, wave breaks and nesting areas ideal for the penguins.

The penguin colony first arrived in 1982, and several dozen penguins have since has expanded to a population between 2000 and 3000 birds. They are classified as an endangered species, but luckily they live within the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, so they can live in a clean, safe environment.

For those who don’t want to get their feet wet, there are several wheelchair accessible boardwalks that trace the shoreline, and offer great views of the penguins from a distance. Foxy beach has great viewing platforms to observe the African penguins.

The number one rule is, obviously, do not touch the penguins! They should be left alone as much as possible (and they would probably bit with their strong beaks). There are also no-human zones, where the penguin nests are located, so they can nurture their babies in peace.

When you’re leaving, pay attention! There are signs in the parking lots to watch under your car for penguins – they like to keep cool under the cars in the parking lot!

The Cape Peninsula

Boulders Beach is located south west from Cape Town, about an hour’s drive. The closest town is Simon’s Town, and makes for one of the best places to stop on a day trip down the Cape Peninsula.

The Cape Peninsula has lots of other great things to check out, besides Boulders Beach. It can be an action-packed day out! Chapman’s Peak drive has some stunning views of the mostly rocky spine that runs south down the peninsula. You can also visit seal colonies and shipwrecks at Seal Island in False Bay, sit down for some local wine in the area, and check out the colourful bathing huts at Muizenberg Beach.