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Waddle you do this weekend?

White sand, rock pools and mountain views are not the only reasons to visit Western Cape beaches. You can also hang out with African penguins at two coastal conservation areas not far from Cape Town.

Waddle you do this weekend?

Boulders Beach with penguins

Boulders Beach. Image: Sanparks

With their comical gait and distinctive features, these much-loved seabirds have found their way into storybooks and animated movies. Sadly, they have found their way onto the endangered species list too. Due to overfishing, oil spills and other human interference, penguin numbers have nosedived over the past 100 years.

The good news is the Western Cape is home to a handful of protected African penguin colonies. Although most of them are on islands – Dyer Island, Robben Island and Dassen Island, to name a few – two shoreland destinations for penguin-spotting are Stony Point and Boulders Beach. And whether you’re an international tourist or a local traveller, you won’t be able to resist whipping out your cellphone for a few snaps of these quirky creatures.

Stony Point Nature Reserve

By the seaside village of Betty’s Bay lies Stony Point, which close to 4 000 African penguins call home. This is also the site of the abandoned Waaygat Whaling Station, where whale hunters used to harvest and process their bounty more than 150 years ago. Here, as you meander slowly down the rustic boardwalk, you’ll pass within a feather’s distance of the breeding burrows. You’ll probably also catch site of the endangered white-breasted and Cape cormorants and the vulnerable bank cormorant, that rub shoulders with the little tuxedoed seabirds at this reserve. Rusty remnants of the machinery and infrastructure of the long-defunct whaling industry can still be found at the site, which adds a layer of interest for history buffs. Bonus? Stony Point is less crowded than its more accessible counterpart, Boulders Beach.

Entrance fee:

Adult R25, Child R15. No Wild Cards accepted.

An African penguin chick. Photo: Sanparks

Boulders Beach

On the outskirts of Simon’s Town, this sheltered beach is world-renowned for its pristine white sand, smooth granite boulders, and the seemingly countless little crowd-pleasers going about their daily business. The first breeding pair of African penguins arrived here almost 40 years ago, and clearly found the picturesque beach to be a suitable new address. Today, more than 3 000 of these black-footed seabirds waddle around, braying happily at each other and the hundreds of tourists who visit daily. This is one of the only places in the world where you can actually swim alongside penguins – but if you aren’t up for an ocean dip, walk among the little fellas on the well-maintained boardwalk at the adjacent Foxy Beach.

Entrance fee:

  • R152 for international guests
  • R76 for SADC (South African Development Community) nationals
  • R39 for SA nationals and foreign nationals with official SA residence status

Did you know?

  • The African penguin is also known as the jackass penguin, due to its distinctive braying sound.
  • They can stay underwater for roughly two and a half minutes when diving after prey.
  • African penguins are monogamous, and a pair will return to the same nesting site year after year if it is not disturbed or destroyed.