South Africa is known for it’s abundance of wildlife. That goes beyond safaris and the Big 5 though. In Simon’s Town, near Cape Town, you can get up close with an African penguin colony. These cute little black and white creatures hang out at Boulders Beach year round, happy to pose for your pictures!
Visiting the Boulders Penguin Colony
The Boulders penguin colony consists of around 2,000 African penguins, an endangered species. You can watch them waddling over 3 adjacent beaches at Boulders Bay: Seaforth Beach, Foxy Beach, and Boulders Beach. The beaches are set amidst a residential area, but are one of the few sites where the African penguin can be observed from up close.
Keep in mind that the penguins from the Boulders Penguin Colony are wild animals. Keep your distance, don’t feed them, and don’t take anything from the beaches. Alcohol and smoking is prohibited on the beaches, and no vessels (including canoes and kayaks) are allowed.
Boulders Beach is the most popular beach when it comes to penguins in Cape Town, at least by name. It got its name from the 540 million years old boulders laying around. It’s a small sheltered beach where you can swim with penguins. There are hardly any fences, but keep your distance, ’cause penguins may look cute, but they have razor sharp beaks!
Between Boulders Beach and Foxy Beach there’s a wooden boardwalk called Willis Walk. It’s about an 8 minute walk between these 2 beaches, longer if you stop regularly to check for the odd penguin on the side of the boardwalk.
Foxy Beach has the most penguins of these 3 beaches, but you’re not allowed on the beach to protect this endangered species. However, the wooden (wheelchair accessible) boardwalks are a great vantage point to watch them waddle and swim.
There are 2 viewing platforms at Foxy Beach. To get to the one with the most penguins (and most people), continue straight after the ticket office. For the other viewing platform, turn right after the ticket office, next to the toilets. There are considerably less people, but less penguins in close range as well.
While walking the boardwalks, keep your eyes open for some loners or tree huggers. And don’t forget to take a #penguinselfie!
Seaforth Beach gets skipped by most people visiting the Boulders Penguin Colony. Quite some penguins venture over there from Boulders Beach and Foxy Beach though, probably to get away from the crowd (of penguins and/or people). It’s the biggest beach of the 3 and popular with families because of the trees providing some shadow.
In total we spent just over an hour at these 3 beaches, watching and photographing the penguins, dipping our toes in the chilly ocean water. You can easily spend more time here though, sunbathing and even swimming with the penguins.
Best time to visit Boulders Beach
The Boulders Penguin Colony hangs out at Boulders Beach (and the adjacent beaches) year round. However, in September and October the penguins spend a lot of their time out at sea feeding, so the numbers on the beach might be smaller then, compared to the rest of the year.
African penguins have an extended breeding season, with a peak in March to May. Keep this in mind when you want to see baby penguins.
They say that to beat the crowds and see the most penguins, you have to visit Boulders Beach in the early morning or late afternoon. We visited around noon on a beautiful day in March (the end of the high season according to Lonely Planet). The car park was pretty packed and the board walks were moderately crowded, but there were plenty of penguins to spot. The ocean water was too cold for us to swim, although not everyone agreed.
Boulders Beach entrance fee
To visit Boulders Beach and Foxy Beach you have to pay a 75R (~ $6 ~ €5) entrance fee per person. You can do so at either ticket office, and just show your ticket at the other. When paying, you get an information brochure with a map that has points of interest like viewing platforms and toilets marked on it.
Access to Seaforth Beach is free!
How to get to Boulders Beach from Cape Town
Getting to Boulders Beach by car
Parking is free, but there are parking attendants that require a tip. When travelling in South Africa you’ll notice they’re everywhere, helping you find a parking spot and guard your car while you’re away. It’s custom to give them some change upon departure (or arrival).
We followed the “Penguin Parking” signs and ended up at the Seaforth Beach Car Park. If you prefer the Boulders Beach Car Park, continue past the “Penguin Parking” signs and follow the “Boulders Parking” signs.
Getting to Boulders Beach by public transport
We don’t have any experience with public transport in Cape Town, but there is a train running between CapeTown and Simon's Town. The train ride is supposed to be scenic and takes just over 1 hour. It will cost you around 12R (~ $1 ~ €1) per person one way.
From Simon’s Town train station you can then walk the 40 minutes to Foxy Beach or take a taxi. Another option is taking an Uber or Lyft, the modern version of a taxi. Click here for more information on Uber, and here for more information on Lyft.
Getting to Boulders Beach on a tour
If you prefer the familiar red busses from City Sightseeing, you can book a Cape Point & Penguin Day Tour through their website or via GetYourGuide (maybe they have a deal?). The bus leaves from Cape Town in the morning, with several pick up spots. You’ll visit Cape Point, the Cape of Good Hope and Boulders Beach, with an optional walking tour from Cape Point to the Cape of Good Hope. It’s a full-day tour in an air-conditioned coach.
Boulders Beach and the adjoining Foxy Beach are great spots for some up close penguin spotting. Don’t miss out when visiting Cape Town!
Boulders Beach in short
What? Up close encounter with tons of African penguins
When? Year round
How much? 75R (~ $6 ~ €5) entrance fee per person
More information? Table Mountain National Park website
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