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Warm weather and sandy beaches don’t exactly conjure up images of penguins – the funny little birds are more often thought of living in cold climates. But at Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town, South Africa – just south of Cape Town –more than 3,000 endangered African Penguins are living on the sandy shore. During our visit in Cape town, we planned a day trip from the city that would allow us to see the penguins at Boulders Beach in their natural habitat.
Visiting the Penguins at Boulders Beach: What to expect
Rather than taking one of the Cape Town Penguins Tours (more on the top-rated tours at the end of the post), we decided to make the trip on our own. If you are planning a visit to see the Simon’s Town penguins on your own, instead of taking one of the organized day trips from Cape Town, we have a few tips of what you can expect.
Boulders Beach Entrance Fee
As the beach is part of the Table Mountain National Park, it is required to pay a Boulders Beach Penguins entrance fee. Boulder Beach tickets are purchased at the entrance and then visitors are able to walk onto the boardwalks. The Boulders entrance fee is a conservation fee to help protect the birds. As of 2020, the Boulders Beach ticket price was 160 rand (about $9 USD) for Adults and 80 rand ($4.50 USD) for children.
Boulders Beach Hours
The Boulders Beach opening times vary by season. The Boulders Beach opening hours in the summer are much longer than the Boulders opening times in the winter.
- April to September: 8:00am to 5:00pm
- October to November: 8:00am to 6:30pm
- December to January: 7:00am to 7:30pm
- February to March: 8:00am to 6:30pm
Viewing the Penguin Colony South Africa
Foxy Beach, South Africa is where the majority of the Boulders Penguin Colony resides. Boardwalk paths and viewing platforms have been erected on the Simon’s Town beach to allow visitors the opportunity to get an up-close view of the Boulders penguin colony near Cape Town in their natural habitat – and is one of the best spots where you can see penguins in South Africa in the wild.
Top Tip: Follow the third path to the south end of Simon’s Town Boulders Beach where you can put your feet in the sand…and maybe see a rogue penguin on the beach.
Watching Simon’s Town Penguins on Boulders Beach
We knew what to expect from the pictures we had seen, but nothing could properly prepare us for the natural landscapes, close proximity and hilarity of the African penguins on Boulders Beach. Hundreds of birds that are part of the African penguin colony could be seen on the beach and rocks. Some stood still. Some were lying down. Some were busy digging nests in the sand. A few waddled into the water for a swim.
The sea at Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town has crystal clear water – which allows visitors the chance to watch the penguins swim. As the penguins splashed around in the shallow water – which seemed to be more to cool off or bathe than in search of food – they often let themselves tumble with the waves. Others swam together, moving rapidly through the sea and then they would quickly pop up and emerge onto the shore.
Our late November visit coincided with the penguin colony at Boulders Beach “21 Days of Molting” – the annual shedding of old feathers to make way for the new. During this time, they lose their waterproofing and therefore are restricted to land – not even swimming into the ocean for food. In addition, they look quite funny with half of their coat a fuzzy mess of feathers and the other half sleek and new.
Penguin Mates and Enemies
Penguins have life-long mates and we noticed that the couples often separated themselves from the crowd. The pairs of penguins in Simon’s Town are often found standing close together and preening each other. Occasionally, however, we would witness a snarky penguin sneak attack another bird for reasons unknown to us. The result was a tense stare-off for them and a humorous scene for us.
African Jackass Penguin
The birds were not especially noisy during our visit, but when they did make sounds, the noise was like that of a donkey. The honking sound, which is quite funny, has earned the birds the nickname of “Jackass Penguins in South Africa.”
How to get to Boulder’s Beach from Cape Town
There are two ways to get to the Penguins at Boulders Beach without a car: Train or Tour.
Train: Metrorail Southern Line
The Cape Town train is rarely an option for getting around Cape Town – except when traveling from Cape Town to Simon’s Town. (Read our 3-Day Cape Town Itinerary Without a Car for tips on Cape Town transport!) The Metrorail’s Southern Line conveniently extends the 25 miles from downtown Cape Town to Simon’s Town, while following the eastern coastline from Muizenberg to the end of the line.
The railway is unbelievably inexpensive (about $1.50), but is sometimes unreliable as we quickly learned when our train broke down after traveling only six stop. (We had to wait on the platform for 45 minutes until the next train came by, collected us and we continued on our journey.) However, the train ride is incredibly scenic – especially the section from Muizenberg to Simon’s Town when the tracks are practically on the beach. We opened the windows and were blasted with cool ocean air as we gazed in awe at the scenery.
Getting to Boulders Beach from the Simon’s Town train station is about a 3km walk. But it’s an easy and pleasant stroll through the historic and charming town (passing the Navy Base along the way) to the Boulders Beach entrance. Use this link to Google Maps for a Boulders Beach Map.
Boulders Beach Cape Town Tours
Getting to Boulders Beach from Cape Town on an organized tour is a much easier option than sorting out the train – and the tours usually take in multiple sights along the way. There are many Cape Town day trips offering Penguins Tours from Cape Town – so we researched Cape Town day tours for the top-rated Penguins Cape Town Tours:
Cape Peninsula and Penguin Colony Full Day Tour – This robust full-day tour includes visiting beaches in Cape Town, standing on Cape Point, seeing the penguins and stopping at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Find out more!
Private Tour of Cape of Good Hope – This private tour visits the most well-known attractions in the Cape Town region – including the Table Mountain Cableway, African Penguins at Boulders Beach and the Cape Point Lighthouse at the most southern point of Africa. Get the details!
Full-Day Cape Tour – Enjoy this full-day tour that takes visitors along Chapman’s Peak Drive to Cape Point, makes a stop to see the penguins at Boulders Beach and includes a wine tasting in Constantia Valley. Learn more about this tour!
Want to add exciting adventure activities to your Cape Town trip?! Search now for the best adventure activities – like paragliding, hiking, and rock climbing.
More For Your Trip To Cape Town: Read our top tips and detailed guides for Visiting Table Mountain, A Cape Town Walking Tour, Best Cape Town Beaches, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town Wine Tasting and the Best Cape Town Itinerary!
We want to know: Have you seen the African penguins at Boulders Beach? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments!
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