Boulders Beach - Penguins
Boulders Penguin Colony is a stunning year-round destination, not only during the feeding/breeding season. Nowhere else in the world you get closer to African Penguins, the Jackass, in the wild. However, it's often crowded.
Nearby Tip: Visit the breathtaking Table Mountain at Cape Town. We just updated our Table Mountain Guide (the link takes you to our article) with great tips you should know, as well as tour suggestions.
The best time to visit Boulders Beach with a high number of penguins on the beach is during the peak of the breeding season from February to May. If you want to dodge the crowds April and May are less busy, except the Holy Week, otherwise, come early or late in the day. However, you will never be disappointed there are penguins around the entire year.
Avoiding Tourist Crowds
The busy months are November until March; worst in December and January. However, it can be crowded in the shoulder and off-season as well, especially on the weekends. To beat the crowds and increase the chance of a parking lot, be there very early in the morning as soon as they open. An alternative is to go late: roughly 1 hour before they close. You'll see more penguins compared to the morning.
The breeding season is from February until August: It peaks from March to May. It's fascinating because all the penguins are at the beach feeding the small ones. The babies get fed for about two months in the late afternoon. Therefore, you have to decide between fewer crowds but also fewer penguins in the morning and more crowds but also more penguins in the afternoon. Or go late before they close (see above Tourist crowds). In general, you'll spot more penguins in the breeding season than at other times.
- Winter: April - September 08:00 - 17:00
- Summer: December - January 07:00 - 19:30
- February - March 08:00 - 18:30
- October - November 08:00 - 18:30
- January: Juveniles are moulting, adults feeding up for the breeding season.
- February - August: Breeding season with most penguins at the beach.
- September - October: Penguins foraging at sea for the moulting season. Fewer penguins at the beach.
- November - December: Moulting season, means losing all feathers and getting new ones. It lasts for a couple of weeks. At this time they don't have the capability to stay warm in the cold sea.
Most pleasant weather from October-March. Day temps are always above 20°C. Rain showers can occur but on a couple of days only. During winter it’s much quieter but also colder. There is often a light breeze or even strong wind. Be prepared and bring a windbreaker.
Decreasing rainfall from September onwards. Day temps are on average around 20°C and nights around 13°C. It’s often partly cloudy and occasionally overcast.
January and February are the driest months of the year. Day temps are on average around 24°C and can climb up to 30°C. Night temps are on average around 15°C. Usually, it’s often sunny and partly cloudy. Due to the light breeze, it doesn’t get too hot. The water temperature is around 18°C cold.
March is still dry, increasing rainfall from April onwards. It is still pleasant on average above 20°C. Nights are cool around 13°C. It’s often sunny and partly cloudy.
During winter it is a mixture of sunny, partly cloudy, and overcast days. More precipitation in winter around 90 mm each month. Usually, June is the wettest month of the year. Day temps are on average around 18°C and during the night 10°C.
Our 5 Top Tips for an Exceptional Visit
- If you want to get onto the beach, walk a little furthermore after the main boardwalk.
- Turn right after the entrance; it's quieter here than on the main boardwalk.
- Arrive in the morning to get your parking close to the entrance and to dodge the crowds. Expect a tip for parking!
- Usually, you can also see penguins at Water's Edge Beach and Seaforth as well but in smaller numbers. The beaches are within walking distance.
- For a memorable visit, book a kayak trip. It's prohibited to do on your own.
Simon’s Town is home to the South African Navy's Naval Base. The harbour was established in the 19th century by the Brits as an alternative when powerful storms prevent landings in Cape Town. In 1983 the first pair of African penguins settled at Boulders Beach and more followed. Nowadays, there are about 2.500 around the area of Boulders. Unfortunately, the numbers are decreasing due to domestic pets, seals, overfishing, climate change, even cars, and first of all because of us! Meanwhile, the species is classified as endangered since 2010. The jackass penguins are native to South Africa and Namibia. Boulders is just one of two land-based colonies in SA where you get pretty close to wild penguins. Please let them stay wild; don't pet or frighten them. Betty's Bay is the other exceptional place less known to watch these cute guys close.
Boulders Beach is a section of Table Mountain National Park and managed by SANParks; three beaches, three boardwalks, and two penguin viewing areas belong to it. The main beach is Boulders, the other bigger one with viewing area is Foxy Beach plus a smaller one. For the increasing number of visitors peaking at 5.000 each day in December/January for the rest of the year around 2.000 visitors daily, the access is via wheelchair-friendly boardwalks nowadays. It's a protected area, fishing, smoking, and alcohol is prohibited! Before you can enter you have to pay a conservation fee.
Fee Boulders Beach 2020; ZAR 160 roughly 10€/10$/16AUD/8GBP
The boardwalks not only protect the environment and the penguins' habitat but also providing great viewing spots for capturing outstanding pictures of nesting penguins and their chicks. The area is a Marine Protected Area, you must follow the rules of Cape Peninsula National Park and never remove any marine life from the area. Respect the recommended 3 meters distance to these majestic birds, they have a strong beak and bite. However, the area around Boulders might be the only place in the world where people can swim amongst penguins. Nevertheless, the water temp is around 20°C in summer and 14°C during winter. You could also check for low tide, as there is more space at the beach during crowded times.
How to Get to Boulders
- By rental car, uber, or Taxi roughly one hour from W&A Waterfront
- Take the train until station Simons Town and take a taxi or uber from here
- Book a guided tour, most convenient if traveling without a car
Facts about the Boulders Beach - Jackass Penguins
The pinker it gets the hotter it is
- Called jackass because of the donkey-like call
- Weight 2-4 kg
- Size 60-70 cm
- Lifespan in the wild roughly 15 years
- Feeding on small fish, sardines, anchovies, squid
- Laying two eggs – both parents breed and feed
- Mature after 2-4 years
- Diving more than 100 meters deep
- Excellent eyes underwater but on land nearsighted
Where to Stay (Hotels, Lodges, B&B)
There are tons of lodges, cottages, private houses, B&Bs, and hotels in Cape Town. It's rare that Cape Town is fully booked. However, we always book these accommodations in advance. First, rates are lower and we only choose the safe and better rated self-catering cottages or B&Bs Check out booking.com for the best rates and read the recommendations first. Bookmark the link for the lowest prices. The following three are some of our favourite ones.
- A Boat House (8-minute walk from the beach): Incredible staff and host, stunning view, great breakfast, great pool, spacious room with detailed touches, beautiful location. Amazing value! We say: A++
- Rocklands Seaside Bed and Breakfast (excellent location): Lovely and accommodating hosts. Comfortable and of top class. Delicious breakfast and a view to die for! One of the best places you can stay in the Cape.
- Alternatives (incl. budget tips): Penguin Colony | B&B - Lodges: Enter your preferred dates and then check the list of hotels. Make sure to change the search criteria to your liking at the top bar. We usually select 'Review Score & Price'.
Pay the entrance conservation fee in advance at one of the following locations
- The Aloe Unique shop in Simon's Town (close to the Penguin Colony), 18 Kleintuin Road, Seaforth, Simon's Town
- The Cape Point Ostrich Farm, Plateau Road, Cape Peninsula, Cape Town
More information about the whole region: Table Mountain National Park. An excellent guidebook which is very captivating and extremely helpful in orienting yourself within the city and the area:
Video by Paul Brown