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-
PENGUINS PENGUINS PENGUINS PENGUINS.
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 IS NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT THAN PENGUINS.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).