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How to find the Boulders Beach Penguin Colony

Meet & Greet with the South African penguin colony at Simon’s Town

So, if you are going to Cape Town we are sure you will also visit the cute, handsome guys at Boulders Beach. And, no, we are not talking about the surfer guys who conquer the waves in nearby Muizenberg beach (although it certainly can’t hurt to visit them as well). But the penguins who are living freely at the beach in their colony and are enjoying their penguin live to the fullest. Boulders Beach falls under the protection of Table Mountain National Park in order to manage the wellbeing of the African Penguin colony you find there, the associated tourism and the whole environment.

Staying there and watching these animals waddle just a meter away from you and seeing them diving into the water like was one of our favorite experiences of our South Africa trip. 

four penguins relaxing on a rock at Boulders Beach

But to make sure you get the best from your visit to Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town we wrote a GUIDE for you what to expect and what you have to pay attention to when going there.

Getting there:

The best way to get there is by car: Coming from Cape Town you drive along a beautiful coastal road and you also pass Muizenberg, which is perfect for a stopover. There you can admire the colorful and famous beach houses, strengthen yourself in one of the cool surfer cafes and let yourself just get inspired by the relaxed surfer vibes.

Going further, located in the small village called Simon’s Town about 30 km from Cape Town, you will find the Boulders Beach Penguin Colony (it takes about 45 minutes by car from Cape town to get there without stops).

We recommend hiring a car and do this trip on your own. So, you can easily combine this spot with a visit at Muizenberg and Cape of Hope in your own tempo without stress. If you don’t want to drive yourself, there are many travel agencies that offer organized tours as well.

But be aware that most of them combine the mentioned spots and your time with the penguins will be limited (and believe us, once you get there, you don’t want to leave for sure). Boulders Beach is a great choice for spending at least half a day there as it is sheltered from the wind and heavy waves and currents by the large rocks that look like giant marbles. So just take your time and enjoy this extraordinary spot.

Find the right entrance:

Many people don’t know that but there are two entrances to the colony. If you are facing the sea the one to the left-hand side (the main entrance with the visitor center) is where you can walk along the wooden Boardwalks and just look at the penguins at Foxy Beach.

The main parking lot is called “Seaforth Square” and most of the visitors go there. It’s not possible to leave this pathway and get near these cute guys. It’s only for watching and you are not able to get to the beach where they walk freely from here anymore. So, if you are parking at the main entrance you have to pass it and walk along to the other entrance at (about 5 – 10 minutes). This entrance has a small second parking spot as well (accessible from Bellevue Road). If you are there – pay the fee (75 African Rand) and go in. You will come much closer to see the coolest animals in the world in their free habitat doing it this way!

Boulders Beach Penguin Colony

Find the penguins:

So, if you walk in you will immediately stand at the small Boulders Beach (about 15 meters long), maybe there will be many people and maybe no penguin will be in sight. Don’t be disappointed we are not there right now!

Walk along the beach till you reach the rocks and stones at the end of the beach. It seems like you can’t go further but now you have to climb up after you conquered some rocks and stones and squeezed yourself through some cave holes. Don’t give up you finally made it!

You are at another small beach with rocks where you can move freely as the penguins do as well. Since a lot of people don’t know that and it’s pretty much impossible to get there with smaller kids you won’t find many people and can enjoy the company of the penguins in their black suits.

Hint: wear good shoes to climb the rocks (flip flops aren’t the proper footwear here).

The timing – when to go there best:

One big learning for us was to consider the tides! Depending on the season the penguin beach is accessible cause it’s low tide or it’s simply not accessible when it’s high tide. The only thing you can do when it’s high tide: climb on the rocks and swim to find some of them. Believe us the arctic sea is not exactly the place for a proper swim if you just want to chill out with the penguins. It’s simply too cold and despite the penguins, they seem to love this refreshment.

We absolutely can’t recommend a swim without a wetsuit. It seemed to us they prefer to stay away as well when it’s high tide and it will be very difficult to get sight of them at this time of the day. So why do we tell you that? We went there early in the morning in January to be the first ones at the beach but to our disappointment, it was high tide and we had to give up searching for the penguins. It was impossible to reach them! So, look up the weather conditions and the tides before you go there to get the timing right as it changes depending on the actual season! At around 1 pm in the mid of January, it was perfect then.

Penguin at Boulders Beach on a rock next to a sitting woman

Do’s & Don’ts:

We almost spent an entire day at the beach watching the penguins living their best life. Jojo is a huge penguin lover and she says that this day was the second-best day of her life (yeah, of course, the best one was our wedding day)

But as cute as these guys are, please keep in mind that they are wild animals living in their natural habitat and we are only visitors who should appreciate this privilege! We have seen many people coming too close, even trying to touch them, trying to feed them, shouting around, scaring them, chasing them, harass them and almost hit them with their cameras! Guys this is not the correct behavior! We would remind you to treat and meet them with respect and give them space (or would you love to get hold a camera into your face when you are lying in the sun sleeping? – yeah, guess you would bite as well – and these guys can remove your finger easily with one bite…). 

Boulders Beach Penguin Colony

However, the best way to enjoy this incredible place is to sit down in the sunshine, watch them with patience and they will come near you and be as happy as you will be. (If you ask Jojo you will make many new little friends who are smelling a somewhat like fish, but who cares about that, right?) This experience will be joyful, and you will leave this place with hearts full of gratitude and happiness, believe us! 

But please promise us not to take one of these guys home in your backpack – guess the best place for them is right where they live and belong and not in your bathtub at home … and yeah it took me a little to convince Jojo about that as well.

Hardfacts:

  • Opening Times:
    • April – September (Winter): 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
    • December – January (Summer): 7:00 am – 7:30 pm
    • February – March: 8:00 am – 6:30 pm
    • October – November: 8:00 am – 6:30 pm
  • Entrance Fee: 75 African Rand per person (2019)
  • The Boulders Penguins are a vulnerable and endangered species of animals
  • Boulders Beach Penguin Colony is located in a national park (Drones are prohibited)
  • From February to August the penguins have their main nesting season (please stay away from their nesting sites)
  • Find out more about the Boulders Penguin Colony (official information brochure)
  • A bit more about African Penguins
couple next to penguins sitting on a rock

Support & Help

The Southern Africa Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds operates a rescue and rehabilitation center for injured seabirds. SANCCOB is funded solely by membership fees and public donations and has been scientifically proven to be the most successful sea bird rehabilitation center in the world.

You can donate, volunteer, fundraise or even adopt a penguin to support their so important cause!

We hope this guide helps you to have the best possible day at Boulders Beach Penguin Colony and we wish you an amazing experience making friends with the cutest guys of South Africa! 

Are you interested in how we create our couple pics? Get inspired here: Our camera equipment for couple shootings

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