Boulders Beach is a gorgeous cove, complete with white sandy beaches, granite boulders, and stunning blue waters. Yet the real reason this beach draws visitors is not because of the beautiful views – it’s the local residents! Home to a sizable colony of African Penguins, Boulders Beach draws over 60,000 visitors a year and is arguably the best viewing point of this endangered species on the entire continent. Boulders Beach is located just outside of Cape Town and perfect for a day trip. African Penguins are the only species of penguin found in Africa, and can be spotted from Southern Namibia and around the South African Coast. These tuxedoed fellas are nicknamed “jackass penguins” thanks to their distinctive braying, and can be spotted year round, though they do go out to sea to feed during September and October. January is known as the best time to see the young birds molting, but I was fortunate to see quite a few in this transformation during my visit.
Boulders Beach is a part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, and is therefore in pristine condition. After paying a nominal conservation fee (R65/$5), you’re led down a path through dense vegetation in which you can spot the occasional penguin or Dassie – a.k.a “rock badger,” which surprisingly is South Africa’s closest living relative to the African Elephant! The penguins can be viewed in two areas: on Boulders Beach, where you can brave the cold waters and swim with them, or via handicap-accessible boardwalk over Foxy Beach. While we were there, there was only one lone penguin playing in the water on Boulders Beach – but what a gorgeous view! We decided not to brave the icy Indian Ocean and only stuck our feet in, though it’s a bit warmer than the neighboring Atlantic found on the other side of Cape Point.
Over at Foxy Beach, we had quite the view of hundreds of penguins – some molting, some sleeping, some flirting, most just straight chilling. In this area, you’re confined to a boardwalk to protect the birds and offer the best views and photo opportunities, and to protect yourself – those beaks are razor sharp!
Boulders Beach is perfect for all ages, with plenty of rock pools to explore, picnic spots, photo ops, and of course, the beach. Be sure to bring a camera, and don’t forget to check under your car when you leave!