Penguins at Boulders Beach, South Africa.

Posted on
May 21, 2015
Posted in: Attractions

I love how annoyed he looks. Like, “Ugh, I got dressed up for this?”

I was in the process of working on a post about the Holy Grail. My family is Catholic, so I figured it was kind of important, because the grail marks the point in time when we all should have started feeling really guilty about stuff.

Anyway, I was thinking about the post, and drafting a few lines in my head, when all of a sudden my inner monologue interrupted me. It simply said this:


Um, excuse me? I’m writing about the Holy Grail in Valencia, thank you very much.




But I’m writing about Valencia right now and-


But, but –


Penguins? You want me to write about penguins?

Um, yeah. PENGUINS. What are you not understanding about this?

I just think that maybe there are things that are more important than peng-


There has to be something.


What about global warming?

… which we care about why?

Well, because we’re damaging our planet and our ecosystem, and there are species out there that are very vulnerable to fluctuations in our planet’s temperature.

Species like?

Polar bears come to mind, and whales, and … oh.


Oh my god.

Yup. Everything important all comes down to penguins.



Okay. So, penguins.

We encountered them way back in South Africa. This is still a concept that I have trouble with: that penguins live in places that aren’t perpetually covered in snow and don’t run around wearing little bow ties. TV was a great parent, but it lied to me in so many ways.

But it’s true: some penguins live in warmer climates. There is one kind that lives and breeds exclusively in Africa. It is called the African penguin, a name that totally loses points for originality. Then again, if it were up to me to name penguin species, we’d have a problem.

Fancy Tuxedois Wabblelus

Snugglus Huggalotus

Birdius No-Flyia

And by “problem”, I mean everything would be awesome forever and ever.

If you want to see African penguins in their natural environment, there is a colony of them at Boulders Beach, which is a relatively short drive from Cape Town.

Whoever named the beach probably came up with the name African Penguin, too.

Even before you get to where most of the penguins are (lounging on the beach, often, but not always, covered in a patina of their own feces), the signs are pretty incredible.

In the parking lot, this denoted a wheelchair accessible spot.

You know what? I’m just going to do this from now on. Wherever I am.

I see and obey.

I’m most upset that I can’t own an 80s style boombox or attempt to shake a penguin’s hand.

This photo just makes me so happy. Notice that Rand is actually airborne with excitement.

Apparently you aren’t supposed to hug any of the penguins. This bummed me out, until I actually saw the little buggers. Here is the sad truth that you must know:

You really don’t want to touch a penguin. At all. They’re gross. Like, really, really gross. They smell like poop and dead fish, and they’re usually awash in at least one of those substances. They make this awful sort of bleating sound, and if you actually get a glimpse inside of their open beaks, you will see untold horrors.

Remember the sarlacc pit that Boba Fett gets tossed into (and remains stuck there for, like, ever)? That is sort of what the inside of a penguin’s mouth looks like.

So you can’t get that close to them, but you wouldn’t want to, anyway. Which works out perfectly, because Boulders Beach has plenty of raised walkways where you can view the penguins from a safe distance. And from a distance, they are wonderful. Goofy and adorable and perpetually overdressed.

Note: there will be crowds. Especially on a beautiful, sunny day.

It’s a magical place to visit, especially if you aren’t standing downwind of the birds.

Penguins, you guys.



The Essentials on Boulders Beach, South Africa

  • Verdict: Recommended. Because penguins.
  • How to get there: We took a rental car – it’s about an hour drive from Cape Town (though it was less for us – we were staying in a nearby beach town).
  • Ideal for: animal and wildlife lovers, people who love natural landscapes (the beach itself is gorgeous, though you can’t really access it), photographers.
  • Insider tips: Boulders Beach is a popular destination, so I’d recommend going mid-week, if possible, and heading out earlier in the day (it gets crowded). It’s a high-traffic area, and the parking lot isn’t monitored, so don’t leave valuables in there. And, of course, heed the signs. Don’t touch/feed the birds, don’t bring your dog, and check underneath your car for rogue penguins before leaving.
  • Nearby food: We ate at the Salty Sea Dog – a great fish and chips place in Simon’s town (there are lots of cafes there, too. It’s a bit touristy, but not at all bad).
  • Good for kids: Yup (just be sure that they keep their hands to themselves – you can get quite close to some of the wildlife). We had a barely-3-year-old toddler with us, who was not at all interested in the penguins, but he got a kick out of the sand. Plus the walkways are mostly stroller accessible (though they do get crowded).


Leave a Comment

  • WOW! Love dem penguinos.

  • Kiaora

    PENGUINS!!! I was in Capetown in March and we took a morning kayak tour from Simons Town (leaves from the same parking lot as Salty Sea Dog) and went to Boulders Beach by kayak!! A great experience and we still had the rest of the day to explore cute lil Simons Town. Ahhhhh South Africa 🙂

  • Allison

    Saved this for later because South Africa is one of my 2015 musts and I’m obsessed with penguins! Thanks for sharing xx

  • Oh man, I heart penguins so much. They might almost be better than Panda bears. Maybe. Except Pandas do make you want to cuddle, even up close. Still, penguins. Must add seeing penguins in real life to my bucket list.

  • Wow. . . I thought it is something about Google Penguin algorithm. Actually it is not but I loved it.

  • Where2Stay_SouthAfrica

    Excellent article – not sure i am going to get penguins out of my head today. Another interesting place to visit if you are in South Africa is the SAMREC centre close to Port Elizabeth. They do some awesome work in caring for injured African Penguins and other sea-life. Its great value for money for a family visit. We came from Port Alfred on the Eastern Cape and we often see penguins out to sea when we go fishing.

  • Catherine Crawford

    Until recently, they had the much more descriptive name of “Jackass Penguin” – becasue of the braying sound they make.
    Then someone decided bird names should be standardised.

  • We had an amazing time at Boulders. The trick is to go early and do the boardwalk last. Go to the second entrance and have the beach to yourself for a little while. A penguin came waddling right by me and he didn’t mind me at all.

  • Kristina Cline

    Whenever I play the “2 Truths and 1 lie” game, I always win because I have in fact been bitten by a penguin. It was at the conservatory in Victoria, BC, I was on our 6th grade trip. There was a penguin in an much too small enclosure. I watched sadly as it was teased by some teenagers. And when I got close, I too felt this enormous urge to TOUCH THE PENGUIN. So I slowly reached out, and the penguin chomped. Not too hard, but I could feel the edge of the beak on my finger. He let go and I pulled my hand away, and we both shuffled off.

  • Lizbet

    There’s a tiny beach at Boulders (near the second entrance) where you can swim and tan… Don’t fall asleep though – the penguins are never far!

  • Chris Johnson

    We have penguins all round the cooler end of countries in the southern hemisphere – there are plenty of penguins of several different species in New Zealand and Australia, Chile and Argentina, as well as South Africa. Antarctica has the big ones.

  • LOVED being surprised by Penguins in South Africa – for some reason just didn’t dawn on me that I could find them in South Africa. What an amazing beach to get lost exploring for an afternoon.

More from The Blog

On Instagram @theeverywhereist

  • Take note: if you ask your husband if you can move to NYC roughly four dozen times, he will start to cave a little.
  • Incredible reading by the love of my life to a packed room at NeueHouse Madison Square. So proud of you, @randderuiter, and the amazing emcee work by @michaeliconking.
  • Re-posting this photo that @wilreynolds took of us and his youngest near the beach outside of Lisbon. We're back home now, and I can't decide what I miss more: this little guy and his brother, or Portugal. Actually, scratch that. I know.
  • This place looks like a damn fairy tale.
  • Lunch with a view of the water, and some of the best seafood of my life.
  • The entire drive from Sintra to Lisbon looks like this. It's just miles of blue sky and rocky beaches.
  • No filter. This is just what Sintra looks like.
  • This street artist does amazing collages of animals from hunks of discarded plastic he collects (part of an effort to raise awareness about some of the most vulnerable victims of pollution). They're all over Lisbon, but we managed to get a close up view of this one.
  • Thousand watt smile on the little dude, and I am done.
  • Those eyes though.

All Over The Place

Buy my book and I promise I'll never ask you for anything again.