Boulders Beach – Jackass Penguins in Cape Town

For our Cape Town holiday we had compiled a list of things that we simply had to do, most of them, as you’d expect, quite touristy.

Today was Cape Point day, a journey which pretty much takes the whole day if you go about it nice and slow.  It involves cruising along the toenail of Africa, the actual peninsula of the Cape Peninsula.  We headed out along a part of the N2 highway, up towards where it makes a junction at the foot of Devil’s Peak, and headed towards Muizenberg on the M3.

Boulders Beach – Jackass Penguins in Cape Town

Muizenberg is, in my mind, a bit of a surf spot. The waves are small, but abundant. It was sunny, yes, but warm it was not, and none of us had any aspirations to go in the water. I’m sure Muizenberg has other things going for it also, but we skipped it and headed on past Kalk Bay and Fish Hoek towards Simons Town, home of the famous Boulders Beach Jackass penguin colony – the Journo had her heart set on this one.

The world famous Boulders Beach in Simons Town, Cape Town's largest jackass penguin population
The boulders of Boulders Beach

Guided by plenty of penguins-this-way signs, we had no trouble finding the place.  It has changed much since the last time I visited some 4 or more years ago.  There’s a dedicated parking lot for one, but one small tourist van and a Malaysian-made Proton Gen2 aside (about which we were well excited), it was deserted.  The usual array of hawkers exhibiting their non-unique wares were lining the side-walk, clearly with no business, but not looking as keen as you’d imagine either.

Getting to what is now a fenced-in beach requires a short walk through a quiet neighbourhood. Entrance is R40 per adult, part of which, they say, goes to the conservation of the penguins. You never actually touch the beach, and of course, neither do you the penguins, although The Journo tried aplenty.

Wooden walkways guide you amongst the dunes and above the nesting penguins.  Some are in natural nests they’ve fashioned out of holes and rock spaces for themselves, and others make use of more modern conveniences in the form of fibreglass jars, planted in the ground to provide shelter against large seaguls eyeing a penguin egg for breakfast.

The sun was bright and glaring off the white beach sand, and there were penguins everywhere. No really. Everywhere!  The Jounro was excited, and kept on asking how we could touch them, the Sausage was amused and I, well, the novelty of the penguins wore of quickly. Especially after taking pictures from every conceivable angle.

Cape Point Nature Reserve

Having had our fill of penguins we headed towards the Cape Point Nature Reserve a 20-minute-or-so drive away.  Several sightings of baboons and sweeping views of the blue False Bay merging with the even bluer skies made the trip a visual feast.  Entry to the park, if I remember correctly, is R60 per person.  Inside the park we saw more baboons, but for the wealth of animals there aparently is in this relatively remote part of Cape Town, this was all we saw.

Our brief (and expensive) lunch at the restaurant was entertaining.  Cape Point Nature Reserve Tip: Sit inside, because outside they only serve really expensive starters. The waiter was kind enough to point out that the starters are about as expensive as they are small.  Inside are bigger and undoubtedly more expensive main courses.

Another reason to sit inside is that sometimes they have operational challenges with baboons and birds, who are regular attempted-diners at the restaurant. I.e. they will come and hijack your food.

On this particular cold and breezy afternoon we only saw birds.  Clear signs warned not to feed the animals, especially the baboons, as they can get quite aggressive.  The birds, however, don’t wait to be fed. The Journo was about to finish the last bite of a sandwich, when a black bird swooped in, expertly weaved his way through the umbrellas, and snatched the last bite out of her hands literally just before she bit into it. We weren’t quite sure whether to be shocked or amazed at this bit of real life National Geographic happening right before us. The Journo certainly wasn’t amuzed.

During our meal there was also some other commotion as people peered over the cliff down to the ocean below.  Far below us we could make out a whale.  It’s not quite whale season yet, but clearly there are some around and we were very excited to be seeing this one, albeit at such a distance.  We watched in awe for a bit and managed to get a few shots in which you can at least imagine seeing a whale.

We still had the actual point of Cape Point to reach, but by now we were cold and lazy, so we decided to take the Funucular up the steep hill. You can’t actually walk to the very south-westerly tip of the African continent, but we damn well went as far as we could, enjoying the absolutely breathtaking natural beauty of our surroundings.

The sheer cliffs plunged into the ocean some 100m below us, covered with greenery that dropped starkly into a deep blue ocean below.  On one side waves crash ferociously against the cliffs and on another it becomes saffire blue as it washes onto a bright, white beach. Cape Point must be one of the most spectacular scenes of nature on this planet.

An out-crop near the actual point of Cape Point. That's not it though.

Staying with spectacular, our return journey was supposed to include a drive along Chapmans Peak, a scenic drive as famous for its sweeping views of the Atlantic ocean as it is for rock-falls and avelanches. Unfortunetally, to prevent this very threat of rock falls, it is closed for maintenance, and, says the locals, God knows for how long.  So we had to drive through Constantia and Newslands to get to Hout Bay, which is where we wanted to sample supposedly famous seafood.

Hout Bay, seafood and Soap (Girls)

Being from Kota Kinabalu, the sea-food capital of Malaysia, the Journo and Sausage had no low expectations.  We parked near Hout Bay harbour and walked around a bit to explore and this is where me met the Soap Girls. But that’s a whole post by itself, although I will say this, I will go back to Hout Bay for the sole reason of meeting up with the Soap Girls again.

So what about the seafood, man?

Based on a recommendation by the Soap Girls we chose the Lookout Deck, situated on the Harbour Front near the yacht basin (if I was the Mariner’s Wharf, the other seafood restaurant, I would do something to impress those convincing girls). The portions where generous (the 3 of us were stuffed from 2 portions) and the fish was tasty, but did it beat the seafood in Kota Kinabalu?

Well, this entry is about Cape Town, so let’s move on 😉

Cape Town Travel Tip 3: If you’re going to go to Betty’s Bay, I would recommend the Jackass penguin colony there over Boulders Beach. It’s cheaper (R10), less crowded and the walkway is closer to the ocean so there is a lot of penguin-in-the-waves action.

Published by Yaku

Yaku is a brewer, baker, and semi-retired trouble maker (semi-retired from trouble-making that is). Although he believes anything is possible, he is nevertheless frequently stupefied by his world and the people in it.

3 thoughts on “Boulders Beach – Jackass Penguins in Cape Town

  1. Whaddya know? We went to all 3 places that you mentioned in this post — Boulders Beach (but entrance was free, man), Cape Point (AWESOME!) and Hout Bay (for some calamari). We also went up Table Mountain by cable car. Next time, I'd like to walk up (6 hrs or so), then pay some serious cash (R495 or so) to abseil down 😉

  2. Depending on the day and time you venture out there, it should take 45 – 60 minutes. Several options for scenic drives and the towns along the way are all browsable.

    I wish I could let you flip through the 4,000 plus pictures we brought back from our trip there – that would give you a good idea 🙂

    Whatever you do, go up Table Mountain. I would recommend walking up (about 2 hours), but most people prefer the cable car.

    And the Farmer's Market at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock – you can't miss that. It's only on a Saturday from about 8.30 till 1pm I think, but the food alone is probably the best reason to go there. Arts and crafts aplenty too.

    I also really want to recommend a township tour – but honestly, it's a tourist trap. Over priced, and you're not sure any of the money will actually reach the community. A pity, really.

  3. Cape Point looks spectacular. How long does the drive take from…err…the city? Heh.

    I'll be going around with some locals and they've been asking me where I want to go so they can make the arrangements but I still have no idea what I want to see 😛

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