Cape Town has many things to offer in the city and surrounding areas. Simon’s Town is an easy day trip, and it is home to Boulders Beach. There are only a couple places to see the endangered African penguin, and Boulders Beach is the most well known. Having never seen these beautiful birds in the wild, the trip down was a must for us. Here we will provide tips for visiting and everything you need to know to enjoy your visit. So let’s get started!
While planning our trip to Cape Town, we knew that visiting the penguins was high on our list, right up there with scaling Table Mountain. We have always dreamed of seeing them in Antarctica or even South America. While this was no south pole, it was still pretty awesome. We were there in late June which is the off-season. It tends to rain more that time of year, but we lucked out and had good weather when we went to Boulders Beach.
The drive down was gorgeous which helped build some excitement about our destination. Upon arrival through the gates, there were already some penguins walking about! Our anticipation built as we walked down the first boardwalk. There were hundreds of them swimming, playing, lounging, and just being as cute as possible. We saw penguins that looked like they were holding hands that were so adorable. Very romantic! It was hard to stop taking pictures and video of these awkward birds.
One of our favorite spots that wasn’t as crowded was the second boardwalk across the beach. The tour groups didn’t go there as much, so we had a good vantage without the hoards. Not as many people notice the path to get there, and stick to the first boardwalk.
We fell in love with these tuxedo-wearing birds, and with this video, you will too.
Where to Find Them
First off, the African penguins are endangered. Their numbers used to be in the millions and now they are down to a few thousand. The decrease is primarily due to overfishing sardines which are their primary food source. Many conservation efforts are in progress, but it is estimated that they may face extinction in the next 10 years.
Boulders Beach (in Simon’s Town) and Stony Point (near Betty’s Bay) are where the main colonies are found on the mainland. Offshore, they can be found on the islands between Namibia and Algoa Bay near Port Elizabeth. The easiest place from Cape Town is Boulders Beach.
How to get there
The trip from the Cape Town City Center to Boulders Beach is about an hour’s drive. Be sure to get there early if you are driving because parking can be difficult. Parking is free but there will be attendants there that expect a tip for watching over your vehicle to protect from theft. Do tip them as that is how they make a living. 5 rand (0.35 USD) is the average tip for car park attendants. However, the range is between 2 to 10 rand depending on the service level.
If you do not have a car, a train is a good option and takes about an hour and 15 minutes. The train doesn’t stop near Boulders Beach, so you will either need to walk 3km or get a taxi from the station. For safety reasons, is recommended that you buy a first class ticket (Metrorailplus). The train is very safe overall, but do avoid riding it at night.
Cost: 100 to 130 rand ($9-$10 USD) per one-way ticket (Check their website for the latest prices)
The entry fee differs depending on your residency and your age. For foreigners the amount is 160 rand ($11 USD) per day. Here is the most updated information from the Table Mountain National Park website with the latest fees.
Tips for Visiting
Boulders Beach has many wooden walkways that keep the birds safe from the people who sometimes get too close to get their Instagram shots. These animals are wild and they can bite you. Even with the fenced paths, you can still get really close to them. Use caution and good judgment even with the fence and try not to disturb them.
Best Time to Visit
Penguins are there all year, but there are certain times that are better to visit depending on your interests. Summer is the high season, but we recommend going in the winter, which is still somewhat crowded but tolerable. Penguins hatch in March through May.
Protect yourself by not getting too close to the penguins with their razor-sharp beaks. As far as theft goes, be mindful of your belongings even though it is a safe place; theft can happen anywhere. Do not leave anything valuable in your car and make sure your doors are locked by checking them before leaving the vehicle.
When we researched Simon’s Town and Boulders Beach we found that they were some of the safest places to visit in the country. There was no problem with us having our cameras out as the area was well patrolled.
Visiting this place is a special experience that we will always treasure. With the tips we have provided, we hope you are able to enjoy seeing these penguins in all of their clumsiness. The area around Cape Town is magical and stunning. Boulders Beach is well worth the drive for the views and the sweet (but slightly dangerous) penguins.
What animal would you like to see up close?
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