Another highlight of our Cape Town holiday was Boulders Beach. I’d never seen wild-living penguins in my life and here they were: Swimming between our legs, curiously inspecting my GoPro. Boulders Beach, located in the Cape Peninsula in South Africa, should definitely be on your list of things to do in Cape Town. It’s quite a unique experience and certainly bucket list worthy.
After we had hiked Lion’s Head in the late morning, we were up for another adventure. We fuelled up with a quick lunch at home and then drove down to Boulders Beach. We got there around 3pm and luckily, there weren’t too many people around so we got a good look at the penguins and were sometimes alone in the water with them.
Get into the ocean with the penguins
When you get to Boulders Beach, there is a visitor centre. You pay entry to get in and then walk along several walk-ways. Those only bring you to a platform over the beach that overlooks the penguins. But you can’t actually access that beach. It’s to protect the penguins’ living and breeding space which makes perfect sense.
But what many people don’t know is that there is actually a way to get onto a beach and into the water with the penguins! So instead of only going into the visitor centre, take the way towards the beach that has public swimming access. Along that way, you will already see lots of penguins resting and breeding underneath bushes. We actually saw a couple of nests that had eggs in them. So cool!
You can actually see a little bay from one of the platforms to the right of the visitor centre – that’s where you want to go! There is another entrance where you can purchase a ticket to access the beach for swimming with the same ticket you can also get into the visitor centre.
The beach is quite small and maybe not the best for a relaxed beach day. But I think the purpose of your visit is just to get into the water with the penguins for a while, so it doesn’t really matter. The big stones where the penguins rest are fenced. But they often swim through the fence and so there are quite a few of them just swimming around or walking along the beach in between sunbathers.
We waded knee-deep into the ocean and just stood there observing them swimming past us. They seemed quite curious and came up close. At one point, my boyfriend’s brother just about evaded an “attack” as one of the penguins took a liking to one of his flip-flops. We took that as our cue to leave.
It was a shame we didn’t take our bathing suits with us because we saw quite a few people swimming or snorkelling around the bay which would have been an even cooler experience.
How to get to Boulders Beach
Boulders Beach is near Simon’s Town and an easy, one-hour drive from Cape Town (Camps Bay) towards Cape Point. Take the M6 because that’s the scenic route and you’ll be in for another treat with plenty of good photo opportunities along the way.
Best time to visit
You will find plenty of penguins on the beach from January to August. In January, the birds are moulting on the beach. Breeding season is from February to August – we saw quite a few eggs when we were there in April. In September and October, there are less birds on the beach because they will be feeding at sea mostly.
Fun Facts about Boulders Beach
I also wanted to give you a few interesting facts about Boulders Beach and its penguins.
The colony on Boulders Beach was started by two penguins in 1983.
The penguins you will find there are African Penguins and Boulders Beach is in fact the only place in the world where you can get up close to them.
You are actually helping protect the endangered African Penguin by visiting Boulders Beach. Every year about 60,000 people come to visit and take photos with them. That brings in money needed to boost the parks conservation effort. For example, they have put up artificial nesting boxes all along the paths to help stop the loss of penguin chicks.
Be responsible and do not litter the area or threaten the birds by coming too close.