When you sit on the balcony at Tintswalo at Boulders, looking down over thousands of African penguins on the beach below, you might presume that penguins are a common site all along the Cape Coast.
As the birds waddle along the beach in their black and white suits, slip into the waves, and dart through the clear blue water, it seems as if penguins have figured out the secret to successful coastal living. It’s true that African penguin colonies were once found all along the Western Cape coast. Years ago, during a census of South African colonies, over 150,000 breeding pairs were counted.
Today, however, there are only about 21,000 breeding pairs left with a few colonies found on select beaches along the coast. The biggest of these colonies is the famous Boulders Beach Penguin Colony in Simon’s Town, just an hour out of Cape Town.
The founding of the Boulders colony is a true penguin love story.
It began in 1983, when a single pair of intrepid African Penguins swam from the nearby Dyer Island colony, and made their way to Boulders Beach. Here they found a beautiful, sheltered inlet among the safety of big granite rocks with glorious views of False Bay. They must have fallen in love with this setting; and it’s no wonder that they decided to start a family. Today, Tintswalo at Boulders looks down on the same sheltered beach where thousands of these penguins call home.
From the comfort of the balcony, you can watch the penguins surf, fish and dart through the clear blue water. When they are tired of fishing, the birds leave the ocean for a sunbathing session on the beach. From the moment they flop out the water and stand up to walk on the beach, the comedy show begins. Using their tiny legs to walk, they make the greatest effort to escape the surf, tripping, wobbling and falling their way up to the top of the beach, where they find a comfortable spot among the crowds to sit and soak up the sun.
The Penguin Boardwalk
Tintswalo at Boulders is lucky to have private access to the penguin boardwalk—a viewing platform that runs along the coastal forest parallel to the beach. When the penguins decide they would like a bit of shade or a quiet spot to nest, they make their way up to the boardwalk. Sometimes our guests don’t even need to leave the property to see penguins up close. In the past, breeding penguins have strolled up and nested right in the garden itself. If you follow the boardwalk down to the Boulders gate, a small entrance fee takes you right down to the middle of the colony where you can watch the penguins surfing, relaxing and swimming up close.
Another wonderful way to see the penguins is by walking to the opposite end of the boardwalk to a quaint little sheltered beach on the water where you can relax and swim as if you, too, were one of the penguins. With kids and families enjoying the sun and sea and fun on this sheltered beach, you can see why the penguins love it here. It’s the perfect place to bring a family!
The Penguin Story
While there are still many penguins at Boulders Beach, the African Penguin as a species has been classified as endangered. This is due to a variety of factors: over-fishing, habitat destruction, pollution, and irresponsible tourism activities. The Boulders Beach colony has also felt the effect, with numbers dwindling over the last couple of years. Despite the concerns, there are many people making a difference to the lives of the African Penguins.
Tourism is a great driver of conservation, and the popularity of Boulders Beach ensures a steady flow of income for the South African national parks who are the custodians of the Boulder beach. We encourage our guests to go down to the beach and enjoy the penguins, as this income is directed towards efforts to keep the colony alive and well into the future. Another organisation doing a lot for the penguins is The South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB).
This is a non-profit organization that relies on the help of volunteers and donations to protect South Africa penguins and other marine birds. SANCCOB played a huge part in saving the penguins from a terrible oil slick in 2000, when an oil tanker discharged a huge amount of oil just off Robben Island. SANCCOB is always available to help any coastal bird species in trouble. Often coastal birds get tangled in plastic or fishing line, or injured from interaction with humans and man-made things. They’ll step in to ensure the birds’ safety as best they can.
The best thing about Tintswalo at Boulders is that you don’t need to go far to see the penguins. From the comfort of the balcony, or the deck pool, you can watch these amazing birds do their thing on the beach below: Surfing the waves, nesting in the forest, or sunbathing on the rocks. If ever a bunch of birds looked happy with their lot in life, it would be the penguins of Boulders; all thanks to those first intrepid penguins in 1983 who made their way here to Penguin paradise, fell in love, and started a family.