Playing with the Penguins at Boulder Beach

Cape Town Travel Blog

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A forest dweller?

     Another thing you shouldn’t miss if you come to the Cape is the penguin colony at Boulders Beach.  I’m jumping quickly from political world to natural world now, but South Africa has so much going on in both areas, what can I say?  Boulders Beach is on the Cape peninsula but isn’t part of Cape Town.  It takes about an hour to drive there from the city center, and you get to pass by some beautiful scenery and scary, windy, drive-off-and-die type roads along the way.  Boulders Beach is a reserve that is home to one of the largest penguin colonies in South Africa.

Hanging out by the homestead
  You pay a cheap entry fee and then you walk along the boardwalk until you find a nice spot to cop a squat and watch the penguins do their thing.  Right now, the penguins are molting – shedding their feathers and growing new ones – so they are more or less trapped on land for a few weeks until their new coats are finished.  This results in an absurd amount of penguins standing, sleeping, frolicking, waddling and generally being ridiculous all in one place. 

     I can’t emphasize strongly enough how ridiculous they are.  When they walk around on dry land, they stumble around clumsily like someone who is wearing high heels for the first time.  They put their wings out fully at a ninety degree angle, and waddle like idiots from place to place with seemingly no purpose.

A curious dude
  I stood there on the edge of the boardwalk and watched this couple break away from the group and waddle over towards me as if they were as curious about me as I was about them.  Maybe they thought I was going to throw them pieces of bread or something.  They came over and stood a few feet away from me and cocked their heads and waited.  I didn’t do anything, (I’m not sure what they were expecting me to do) and after a few minutes they got bored with me and started clapping rapidly.  They put their little wing/arms out and slap them together over and over.  Imagine how stupid a person would look if they walked right up to you,  extended their arms fully at the shoulder forming a straight line, and then slapped their hand together without bending their elbow, and then brought their arms back to a straight line, and then did this 100 times rapidly.
Penguins at play
  It’s silly.  Even funnier is watching the penguins that want to venture out in to the ocean.  The beach has medium sized waves, so what happens is the penguins run up to the edge of the water, and when a wave subsides they run as far in towards the ocean as they can get.  Then, the next wave comes along and completely knocks them over and they fall on their ass and get pushed back but maybe not all the way back, then they get up and take another run at the ocean, getting closer each time.  Finally they make it so that they are in water deep enough that they can float on it, and they get dragged out far enough by the current that they can be behind the breaking waves.  Once they are actually swimming, they are the picture of grace, but until then they are comical delights.
I think they are checking us out as much as we are checking them out.

     They way they are hanging out on the beach, they look like spring breakers trying to get a tan.  On a sad note, the reason that they need to be protected in this reserve type setting is that they are endangered due to a sharp reduction in their food supply (because of commercial fishing) and the development of the coastline.  The penguins are curious and will wander up and out the beach area at times.  There are signs up in the parking lot urging visitors to check under their car for penguins before they back out of their space.  Evidently, penguins will waddle up and decided that under the car is a good place to hang out.  I could have stayed there for hours and watched them doing all kinds of dumb things, but we did have plans and other things to see, so I didn’t get to stay as long as I would have liked.  Still, it was a highlight for me of the Cape Town area.

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A forest dweller?
A forest dweller?
Hanging out by the homestead
Hanging out by the homestead
A curious dude
A curious dude
Penguins at play
Penguins at play
I think they are checking us out a…
I think they are checking us out …
This guy is ridiculous
This guy is ridiculous
I was applauded by someone for che…
I was applauded by someone for ch…
A penguin village
A penguin village
Cape Town
photo by: v10