Snapped is a companion piece to the hugely successful, "I turned away and she was gone"
See rare African penguins in two beautiful Cape environments
Visit them in Boulders and Stony Point Nature Reserve + both coastal drives there are gorgeous
The African penguin is endemic to the coastal waters of South Africa, and there are only two mainland breeding colonies for these endangered flightless birds: Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town, and Stony Point Nature Reserve in Betty’s Bay.
IMAGINE SWIMMING WITH A PENGUIN? IT COULD COME TRUE
At Boulders, the penguins coexist with humans in a residential area and take no heed of the boundaries imposed by the South African National Parks fenced-off area where visitors can view the birds from a boardwalk. They swim near the beach, waddle nonchalantly over towels and picnic blankets, and bask on the rocks.
Stony Point, on the other hand, is adjacent to the small and far less populated settlement of Betty’s Bay in the Overberg region and part of the Kogelberg Biosphere. There is no friendly beach, and the penguins are fenced off. One similarity is the warning signs at both locations to check under your car before driving off, in case one of them has decided to take shelter there.
It’s a windswept stretch of craggy coastline, and be warned: the penguins have, shall we say, a strong and distinctive odour. Don’t worry, you’ll soon get used to it.
OBSERVE THESE QUIRKY CREATURES CLOSE UP
You can view the penguins from a wooden boardwalk. At first, you’ll look around and wonder if all the official staff went home and you don’t have to pay your R25 (adult) or R15 (child) for the privilege. It turns out there is a decent stretch of elevated pathway from which you can spectate for free; the payment kiosk is a bit farther along.
For this entry-level experience, you see a large crowd of penguins standing around on the rocks not doing much else other than watching the waves crash around their feet. At this juncture, the Bank Cormorants, another species endangered to the brink of extinction which makes its home here, are more entertaining as they feed and flap in the surf.
THIS IS IMPORTANT: DO NOT DISTURB
Here, and inside the Stony Point Nature Reserve itself, visitors are urged to remain on the boardwalk and to not feed, touch or disturb the penguins. While most of them keep their own social distance, there are others that are nesting just under your feet.
The warning is not only for your own safety - penguins have a nasty bite - but because you just shouldn’t bother the birds. Even glancing in the direction of the ones that are moulting and having a seriously bad feather day seems invasive.
Inside the reserve, the boardwalk extends around the outcrop of the point, where you’ll see lots more penguins sunning themselves. As you round the corner, the birdlife changes to only the cormorants and gulls wheeling and cawing, and you’ll feel the bracing sea air on your face as massive waves send their spray into the air. A couple of benches allow you to sit a while, and informative plaques educate and inform about the residents of the reserve.
FINISH WITH AN ICE CREAM
There’s something about being beside the seaside that demands you eat an ice cream, so get one at the shop between the car parks, to enjoy - preferably upwind from the penguins…
By Bianca Coleman
See the African penguins colony at Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town
If you loved that experience, why not take more day trips on these scenic routes?
Want more adventure? Get off the beaten track with unusual excursions.
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