A close encounter with the penguins

10 February 2013

Look at the ocean! That is the Indian Ocean in False Bay!
Look at the ocean! That is the Indian Ocean in False Bay!

My friendly hosts took me for a drive to Simon’s Town on Sunday, to introduce me to the African penguins of Boulders Beach. (You can learn all kinds of fascinating facts about them on Reggie’s blog.)

Boulders Beach itself is part of Table Mountain National Park; if you pay an entrance fee, you can go down onto the pristine beaches, to see the penguins up close. But – NB! – no touching! They have razor-sharp beaks, and can be a little cantankerous and nippy, particularly during breeding season. If the beach is full (it is quite small, and they can only accommodate limited numbers), you can also walk along the wooden boardwalk, which is known as Willis’ Walk. This is what we did.

The African penguins here are an endangered land-based colony, one of only a few in the whole world. In 2011, when the last penguin census was done, they identified only 2,100 birds – a dramatic reduction from the 150,000 breeding pairs counted in 1956, when the first full census was conducted.

This reduction is most likely due to the destruction of their natural habitat, the effects of marine pollution, particularly oil spills, over-fishing and the impacts of global warmingn on fish stocks and fish movements, irresponsible tourism activities, and attacks by domestic pets.

Life is hard for these lovable little creatures!

11 thoughts on “A close encounter with the penguins

  1. Lovely post F.K. Can’t believe how close you got to the penguins. You are very clever to turn your back and not stare at them and scare them. I think it’s awful that their numbers have been so greatly diminished.


    1. You know, Sybil, when you’re standing at the same height as the penguins, it’s best not to stare at them or to make eye-contact – they may regard it as an aggressive challenge. And they have a very sharp beak!

      I agree with you – it is sad to think that they may die out one day because human beings have not cared enough about them to protect them and their natural environment. But for now – they are still breeding, so there is hope!


    1. Very big hadedas, you are right, Rosie Bear! Except – hadedas fly away, and they make A LOT of noise. I’d never met hadedas before coming to Cape Town; the first time I saw one, I thought it was a flying dinosaur, with a long scimitar beak – terrifying! There’s quite a large number living in this neighbourhood. But I’m still not used to them!


  2. Very lovable creatures… We have twenty-five African penguins in a local aquarium (Mystic Aquarium) – and they are fun to watch. But how much more rewarding it must be to see them in their natural home on a South African beach. Lucky Flat Kathy! Here we can pay $60 for an hour-long “penguin encounter” – apparently the proceeds go towards rescue efforts in South Africa.


    1. Oh, that is so interesting, Barbara! I did not know that they were African penguins on the other side of the world. And that the proceeds of those “penguin encounters” support rescue efforts here – I love that!

      Yes, I do feel very lucky that I could see them in their natural habitat.

      Oh – I just heard from Reggie that a couple of penguins live permanently at the Two Oceans Aquarium at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town – I hope I will be able to visit them soon. Perhaps Little N, my new friend, would like to go with me?


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