Africa / South Africa

How to Visit the Penguins in Cape Town on Boulders Beach

view of penguins on Boulders Beach in South Africa

Visit Penguin Beach in South Africa

During our two-week Garden Route Road Trip in South Africa, a visit to see the penguin beach in Cape Town was high on our list of must-do activities on the Cape Peninsula.   

We had seen photographs of the world-famous Boulders Beach penguins, and we wanted to experience this unique animal encounter for ourselves.

Boulders Beach is slightly outside Cape Town, and we drove to it while we were exploring the Cape Peninsula. If you haven’t hired a car, there are lots of organised tours to book that will take you to see the penguins on Boulders Beach.

If you love wildlife I can guarantee that a visit to the Boulders Beach penguins will be a fascinating experience and, just one of the many unique animal experiences you will encounter during your time in South Africa.

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Image of a penguin

Why are there penguins in South Africa?

On a visit to South Africa, you are probably wondering why a colony of penguins is in such a hot country and not in icy Antarctica. These are African penguins, previously known as Jackass penguins, due to the braying noise they make and are only found in South Africa and Namibia.

The penguins chose to settle at Boulders Beach in 1982, and at the last count, between 2,000 and 3,000 penguins lived in this natural environment. Even so, these penguins are currently on the verge of extinction and are under the protection of Cape Nature Conservation.

Where is Boulders Beach?

Boulders Beach is just under an hour’s drive from Cape Town’s city centre near Simon’s Town. Parking is available at the entrance of the beach.

When is the best time of day to visit Boulders Beach?

From my experience, I would suggest an early morning visit. We turned up at mid-day, along with several coach loads of camera-snapping tourists. They were so eager to get to see the penguins they were running along the boardwalk and pushing other visitors out of the way! 

An early morning visit gives you the chance to see the penguins of Boulders Beach at their most active.

Best months to visit Boulders Beach?

You can visit Boulders Beach all year round. The weather was perfect when I visited in April (Autumn), with lots of penguin activity; however, summertime is the optimum time to see the most African penguins on Boulders Beach.

There are fewer penguins on the beach between September and October as they spend much of their time feeding out at sea.

Is there an entrance fee to visit the Boulders Beach penguins?

Yes. Boulders Beach is part of the Table Mountain National Park and, like many other destinations along the Garden Route, a South African National Park (SANParks).

SANParks entry fees are charged, with a portion going back into the conservation and maintenance of the national parks.

Boulders Beach tourist entry fees (2022) are R170 (£8.30) per adult R85 (£4) per child. 

Want to save money on sightseeing? Get hold of a Cape Town City Pass for generous discounts on Cape Town’s top attractions.

Can I get close to the Boulders Beach penguins?

As with all wildlife getting close to the penguins to touch, feed or get selfies with them is a definite no-no. Sadly many tourists still don’t understand the ethics behind simply observing wildlife, and we saw several people trying to ‘stroke’ the penguins! 

Having said that, the Boulders Beach penguins are a friendly bunch and not bothered by a human presence, so don’t be surprised if you are minding your own business and one decides to sit next to you, as was our experience! 

Boy sitting on a rock by a penguin
Boy sitting next to the penguins

Where are the best spots to see the penguins?

Boulders Beach is the only place in the world where you can get close to African Penguins and is one of Cape Town’s most visited beaches. You can view the penguins from a long wooden boardwalk that cuts through the beach from the car park. This boardwalk is wheelchair friendly.

As you observe the penguins you will see them basking in the sun, nesting, wandering about and generally getting on with their day-to-day lives. There are information boards along the boardwalk that give you an insight into the African penguins in South Africa.

When you are on the beach you can climb the impressive boulders, play in the rock pools, swim and watch the penguins coming in and out of the water. Once you have been there yourself you can understand why Boulders Beach is one of the most popular places to visit in South Africa.

How long can I spend with the penguins? 

There is no time limit on how long you stay at Boulders Beach. You can spend just an hour observing the penguins or take your beach gear and spend a whole day.

The water is warm, and the sand is golden; however, swimming with the penguins is restricted to areas on either side of the main penguin colony. And it is up to the penguins whether they want to swim near you, not vice versa!

Are there any other attractions to see at Boulders Beach?

The main attraction at Boulders Beach is the penguin colony and the ocean; however, there are plenty of great things to see on a road trip around the Cape Peninsula. Nearby places to visit include Simon’s Town and Muizenburg, famous for being the most popular surfing beaches in Cape Town.

Can I visit South Africa’s penguins on a day tour? 

If you want to visit Boulders Beach as part of an organised tour, these are some of the best Cape Town Day Tours to book.

Visiting Penguin Beach in South Africa

I hope you have enjoyed reading about Penguin Beach in South Africa, and that this post has inspired you to visit.

If you want to visit Cape Town, you may find my 2-Week Garden Route Road Trip Itinerary helpful in planning your trip. It is packed with must-see places and activities to see and do on your trip to South Africa. 

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About Author

Angela Price

Angie is a full-time travel writer with over 30 years of travel experience. She has always had a passion for travel, and after a 3-month world trip with her 18-year-old son, she created her popular travel blog to share her adventures with a wider audience. When Angie is at home in the UK, she enjoys exploring the English countryside, visiting castles and gardens and planning her next big adventure. Her motto is "Live Life Wandering not Wondering".

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2 months ago

This is fun! My kids are into animal experiences so, this is our type of adventure. It’s amazing to see so many of them here and happy to know that they are being protected. Thank you for sharing this detailed post. Very helpful. We hope to visit in the future. 

Reply to  Clarice
2 months ago

I am sure your kids would love it as would you. My boys found it fascinating.

Maria Veloso
2 months ago

I hope everybody who visits Boulders Beach does not harm the penguins. Swimming on the beach while watching the cute penguins is such an absolute delight! If I ever have the chance to experience Cape Town, I will not pass up this opportunity!

Nicole B
Nicole B
2 months ago

Oh I’d have to add this experience to my list. I completely fell in love with blue penguins after seeing a few floating around in the sea kayaking in nz and then again at oamuru. I’d love to see these African ones and hear what noise they make. I’m really intrigued now

2 months ago

I saw pictures of penguins from South Africa before. But penguins in Namibia, that’s new to me. It must be something to see penguins in person in Boulders Beach. I would like to experience it.

Puloma Bhattacharya
Puloma Bhattacharya
2 months ago

Boulders beach is an amazing place to watch penguins swimming and strolling. And it’s nice to see how these penguins are friendly creatures totally unperturbed by human presence.
Cape town is full of tourist attractions and is in my bucket list of destinations.

Reply to  Puloma Bhattacharya
2 months ago

If you are interested in finding other things to do in Cape Town then this post will help you

Shreya Saha
2 months ago

I was first surprised to rea the heading about Penguins in South Africa. Great to know about this Jackass versions at Boulders Beach. Would love to go there if Antarctica is not happening. However, I am a bit confused you mentioned April to be autumn instead of spring. Does that how it happens in SA?

Reply to  Shreya Saha
2 months ago

Thank you for showing such an interest in this post, the penguins certainly are a delight to see. With regards to South Africa’s weather, they are the same seasons as the rest of the Southern Hemisphere (same as Australia) The South African summer runs through Nov, Dec, Jan with Autumn (when I visited) running through March April May. Hope this answers your question.

2 months ago

Penguins are so adorable! I have seen them in the wild in Chile and Argentina and never miss a chance to visit them in zoos around the world. It seem Boulders Beach would be a perfect side-trip from Cape Town for me. I would definitely spend several hours watching the penguins.

Reply to  Natascha
2 months ago

I think I need to take a trip to South America as I would love to see the wildlife in that part of the world.

Kavita Favelle
2 months ago

Your post really brings back our own trip to Boulders Beach. Without a comprehensive guide like yours, we ended up approaching from the wrong side, and had a long walk along the wooden path to find the main beach of penguins. At least when we got there we had it mostly to ourselves until a couple of bus tour groups showed up! On the plus side, there wasn’t an entrance fee back then but I think that’s a good idea to help pay for staff to protect and conserve the penguins and their habitat and guard against bad behaviour of tourists!

Reply to  Kavita Favelle
2 months ago

Yes I am always happy to pay an entrance fee for somewhere if it is ploughed back into the upkeep for future generations.

2 months ago

Seeing penguins in their natural home is one of my bucket list dreams. I never heard of Boulders Beach before, but I’m totally sold on visiting to see them. It’s good that the penguins get to choose who swims with them not the other way around! They rule.

Reply to  Lisa
2 months ago

I really hope you get to see them one day – it is such a great experience.

Alaina Thomas
3 months ago

I have visited here before and absolutely LOVED it! It is definitely on the list for when I travel back to South Africa.

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