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Swimming With the African Penguin at Boulders Beach – Near Cape Town!
Remember my previous post: Swimming with dolphins in Kizimkazi? Well this time, I’ve decided to let you discover another amazing African destination: Boulders Beach, near Cape Town. However, the protagonists of today’s story are not dolphins. On the contrary, they are very beautiful little creatures: African penguins!
Boulders Beach is located in Simon’s Town, a small haven near Cape Town. The area is protected under the Cape Peninsula National Park, one of the city’s most fascinating tourist attractions. It is home to one of the largest populations of African penguins, with around 3,000 individuals!
African penguins or collared penguins?
In a variety of bird books, the little fellows are known as Jackass penguins (and no, this has nothing to do with the famous American MTV series lol)! Weird name, huh? Well, you see, the reason for this is because of their distinctive mating call that happens to sound exactly like a gobbling donkey! Recently, however, scientists have changed its name because other species from South America apparently make the same kind of noise. Nowadays, Jackass penguins are called African penguins.
Another name for the animal is the black-footed penguin (pretty obvious), or the Cape penguin!
Interesting facts about penguins
– Scientific name: Spheniscus demersus.
– Description: Black above, white below (for camouflage against predators). Black horseshoe on chest.
– Minors: plain grey/brown.
– HABITAT: Breeds on offshore islands. It feeds strictly at sea, foraging regularly for 9 miles (15 km).
– diets: Mainly fish (anchovies and pilchards).
– Hight: about 50-70 cm.
– Body weight: between 2.1 and 3.7 kg.
– Speed: While penguins are quite clumsy on land, they are excellent swimmers and can reach speeds of up to 15 mph (24 km/h). If you get a chance to see them underwater, it’s almost like they’re flying!
– Breeding season: mostly February-May, but really all year round. Like humans (at least for most of us), African penguins are monogamous and will mate for life.
– nesting: Nests in small colonies. It digs its nest in a sandy area or guano deposit under a rock or bush, or in a burrow. It lays 2 eggs, which hatch after 38 days. Both parents incubate and feed the chicks.
– Range: Confined to Africa. On the west coast of South Africa, Namibia, South Angola and Mozambique.
– Storage status: numbers declining by about 2% per year.
– International and South African Red Book Status: vulnerable.
There are two beaches in Simon’s town: one where only penguins reign (Foxy Beach), and the other where humans and penguins share the same space for sunbathing, bathing and resting ;). The two beaches are adjacent to each other, so you can definitely plan to do both excursions on the same day.
On one side, Foxy Beach is accessible via a boardwalk overlooking the site. The admission fee is relatively affordable (R25 for adults and R5 for children; prices may change over time of course). This is where most of the colony resides and no immediate contact with the birds is possible. However, a really nice scenic view, and quite attractive indeed! It’s a perfect place to watch them swim, eat, grow and wait almost unnoticed! I could look at them all day!
On the other hand, Boulders Beach is where the real action takes place. Here you can come face to face with these funny creatures! However, I wouldn’t try to touch them (forbidden). Penguins can be quite fierce with their sharp beaks and can cause serious injuries in a short time. So please keep your distance!
The idea is to have fun while still respecting the fact that these penguins remain wild animals!
Swimming is also possible, although you have to be brave enough to dive in (the water temperature is freezing, rarely reaching 15 degrees Celsius). I tried it a few times but it didn’t last long :).
As for swimming WITH the penguins: good luck! The little creatures are extremely nimble and swift in the water; it’s honestly impossible to keep up with their pace!
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