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 many 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.
Do you need to arrange travel insurance, car hire or accommodation? Please check out my resources page to help you plan your trip.
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 midday, 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.
What are the 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 and 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!
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.
- Table Mountain, Penguins and Cape Point Tour
- Penguin Watching at Boulders Beach – Half Day Tour
- Cape Peninsula and Boulders Beach – Full Day Tour
- Cape Point and Penguin Explorer – Full Day Tour
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.
Saturday 22nd of October 2022
Looks so wonderful! I didn’t have much time when I was in Cape Town so we stopped at boulders beach but only did the paths around the beach, which you can walk for free. We saw penguins in the bushes but your post and photos are making me wish we’d gone in properly! Maybe next time…!
Thursday 7th of April 2022
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.
Thursday 7th of April 2022
I am sure your kids would love it as would you. My boys found it fascinating.
Wednesday 6th of April 2022
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!
Tuesday 5th of April 2022
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
Tuesday 5th of April 2022
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.