All You Need to Know About Swimming with Penguins in Boulders Beach 

South Africa is a beautiful country. It is known for its bountiful wildlife and beautiful safaris. Here, you can find about ten percent of the world’s bird species and about six percent of the world’s mammals and reptiles. When you think of South Africa, animals such as giraffes, zebras, and elephants may automatically come to mind, but the country has so much more to offer. 

Where is Boulder Beach, South Africa

South Africa is also known for its beautiful beaches. Among these beaches, one particularly stands out because of the creatures that are popular area- penguins! Yes, South Africa’s Boulders Beach, also commonly known as Boulders Bay, is a famous spot for swimming with penguins. 

So, where is Boulders Beach exactly? 

Boulders Beach is in Kleintuin Road, Simon’s Town, Cape Town, 7995, South Africa. Cape Town is the second most populous city in South Africa, with Johannesberg being the first. Cape Town was named as the best place in the world to visit in 2014 by The New York Times and The Daily Telegraph. One of the major highlights was the Boulders Beach and the beautiful penguins that have settled in the area.

How to get to Boulder Beach

 If you are flying internationally, you might be arriving in the Cape Town Airport. If you are taking a cab from the airport to Simon’s Town, it will only take you about forty minutes. There are no direct routes from the airport to Simon’s Town, but if you are going to take the train and bus transfers, it would take you about two hours and thirty minutes. The train will pass along the coast via Muizenberg. You can check the train’s timetable on this site or you can call 0800 65 64 63. 

Cape Town Airport
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Simon’s Town (sometimes spelled as Simonstown) is a suburban part of Cape Town. It is popular amongst tourists, but the overall setting and feel of the town is still very residential which makes it a perfect place to hangout and relax. 

Best time to visit Boulders Beach

Anytime is a good time to pack your swimsuits and swim with the penguins, but the best time to visit Boulders Beach is between the months of October to March. During these months, there will be less rainfall. Boulders Beach is open from 8AM to 5PM. There is an admission fee of about 8 USD per person. You might want to hit the beach as soon as it opens. The best time to swim with penguins in Boulders Beach is early morning or late in the afternoon when they come back to their nests. These are also the most crowded times though, so if you would like to avoid the crowd, noontime to early afternoon is a good time to see the Boulders Beach penguins. 

Is Boulders Beach Safe

In terms of safety, Boulders Beach has rangers that patrol in the area every day. You still have to be cautious though since petty thefts are common in South Africa. You also have to be cautious once you are in the water, but overall, Boulders Beach is pretty safe. Stay a comfortable distance from the penguins in order to keep them safe as well. They may look cute and inviting but touching them is strictly prohibited and is quite unethical. 

Weather in Boulders Beach

Since located in Cape Town, the weather in Boulders Beach reaches up to 26 degrees Celsius in January and could crop to 7 degrees Celsius in December or wintertime. 

Opening Hours for Boulders Beach

You can swim with the penguins as early as 8AM in Boulders Beach. It is open to the public as early as eight in the morning and remains open until five in the afternoon. There are a couple of food places in the area, so heading straight to the beach before breakfast is possible. You can get souvenirs such as penguin stuffed toys at the shop and visitors center in Boulders Beach. 

Cost to swim in Boulders Beach

It only cost 8 USD to swim in Boulders Beach. This admission fee applies to all visiting guests from the age 12 and up. 

What to expect in Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach is a sheltered beach made up on inlets between granite boulders. These granite boulders are said to be 540 million years old. This is the only place in the whole African continent where you can swim closely with African penguins. It can get a bit crowded especially during summer since this is the most visited beach in Cape Town. The main attraction of course are the penguins that live and thrive in this beach, but people also come here to swim and relax.

Boulder Beach, South Africa

There are limited water activities that you can do since motorized engines are not allowed to keep the penguins safe, but this is the perfect place for families with small kids and young adults. The shores in Boulders Beach are sandy and perfect for building sandcastles. The water is also in a perfect temperature for swimming most months

You will see a lot of professional photographers who come and visit to take photos of the penguins. Make sure to pack your own camera as well since you would surely want to take photos of these cute Boulder Beach penguins. 

The Boulder Beach Penguin Colony

Penguins are aquatic birds that cannot fly. Their habitats are Antarctica, some parts of the Galapagos Islands, and Africa. There are seventeen species of penguins, but the African penguins are the only specie that lives in Boulders Beach, South Africa. The African penguins are one of the quick swimmers; they use their wings instead of their feet to swim. Just like other species of penguins though, African penguins are clumsy in land.

The African penguins inhabit 27 sites all over the continent. Boulders Beach is one of the most popular mainland colonies which is home to around 2,500 penguins. The Boulders Beach penguins’ diet is made of small pelagic fish such as pilchards, anchovies, horse mackerel, and herrings. Penguins are known for being divers and can go up to 35 meters underwater.

They can also hold their breaths for 2 minutes. Penguins are known to eat 300 grams of fish on a daily average. The older they get, the longer time they spend on the ocean feeding. They can travel up to 30 to 70 kilometers in search for food. Some penguins also feed on squid and other crustaceans as well. 

African penguins are known to breed with the same partner for many years. A female penguin can produce one, or two eggs per year starting the age of four years. In Boulders Beach, South Africa, the penguins usually breed from March to May. The incubation period lasts 40 days and then followed by the fledging period which could last from 60 to 130 days.

The Boulder Beach penguins would nest in shallow burrows dug out of the sand or under beach vegetation. When the baby penguins are born, its parents would take turns in feeding it. One will stay and guard the baby while the other parent would head out in hunting for food. 

The Boulder Beach colony started with a pair of penguins in 1983. Since then, its number in the area has grown by 60% each year. In general, though, the African penguins are considered as an endangered species. Human interactions and oil spills in the ocean are top reasons why the number of African penguins has decreased to thousands from millions over the years. The tourism in the area and the penguins used to be managed by the community, but its care has been handed over to the Cape Peninsula National Park for conservation and protection. 

Tips for visiting Boulders Beach

To make the most of your visit, head over to Boulders Beach before eight in the morning. You can swim with the penguins as soon as the gates are opened. The parking area is also not that big and it can get packed quickly during peak season. There are not a lot of shade in the area, so wearing and reapplying sunscreen is advised. Make sure to wear environment friendly sunscreen for the sake of the Boulder Beach penguins. There is a small admission fee, so bring cash with you. 

There are shallow parts in Boulders Beach which are safe areas for little kids to swim in. There are also sandy parts where you can lay your picnic mat or beach towels. Do not forget to bring your beach umbrella or hats if you plan on staying long during summer. For good swimmers, you can venture further to the deeper parts and swim with the penguins, but you can also see a lot of them on the boulders at any time of the day. 

There are boardwalks in Boulders Beach, so if you simply want to see the penguins without getting wet, that is very possible here. You will also encounter bird watchers and photographers on these boardwalks. During winter, the boardwalks could get packed, especially when the weather becomes too cold for swimming with the penguins.

You can bring snacks, but you are not allowed to feed the penguins. Alcoholic drinks are not allowed as well as smoking. Swimming with the penguins is pretty much the only water activity you can do in Boulders Beach since canoes and kayaks are not allowed in the area. 

The beach is closed at 5PM and there is a no-take policy implemented which means you are not allowed to take any marine life form with you upon leaving the beach. 

When taking pictures with the penguins, observe the three 3-meter distance requirement. Do not use camera flashes as well since this will startle the birds and may destroy their eyesight. 

Places to eat in Boulders Beach

Spending hours swimming with the Boulders Beach penguins in South Africa could work out an appetite. The good news is there are a couple of great restaurants in Boulders Beach that offers delicious food choices. Here are some of the best places to eat and grab a drink in Boulders Beach, South Africa: 

1. Boulders Beach Lodge and Restaurant

The restaurant is open as early as eight in the morning until eight in the evening. This is the perfect place to have breakfast in before heading out to Boulders Beach.

Boulders Beach Lodge and Restaurant
Credits: Boulders Beach Lodge and Restaurant

If you prefer to have dinner instead, take a seat near the window and have the best sunset view. Fish and chips is a specialty here. 

2. Seaforth Restaurant

How would you like to eat while watching the penguins at the same time? That is possible while you dine in Seaforth Restaurant in Boulders Beach, South Africa. Enjoy the view of the ocean and the waddling penguins while waiting for your favorite seafood dishes to be served. Seaforth Restaurant also has a good selection of cocktails, which is perfect for anyone on vacation. 

3. Tasty Table

After a day of swimming with the penguins in Boulders Beach, South Africa, head over to Tasty Table for a hearty meal. The restaurant’s brie, bacon, and onion jam burger is the best seller.

Tasty Table
Credits: Tasty Table

The serving is huge, and the chips that come with the burger is tasty and fresh. The burger is best paired with the special milkshake. Tasty Table takes in reservations and accepts all major credit cards. 

4. The Lighthouse Café

The food selection in The Lighthouse Café is superb, and if you are a vegetarian, you would specially like it here. They serve delicious salads and chickpea burger. If you want to stay on the seafood side, the platter of squid, shrimp, crabs, and clams are a must-try. Their selection of wine is great and perfect to pair with your seafood dishes. If you are dining in a large group, you might want to call and book a table ahead since the restaurant is not as big and could get crowded, especially during evenings. 

Other places where you can see penguins


1.Oamaru Harbor, New Zealand

The world’s smallest penguins are found in Oamaru Harbor in New Zealand. The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is not the place where you can swim with penguins, but it is a great place to watch the little penguins in their natural environment and learn more about their history. Day tours are offered here where the visitors will get to see the penguins’ nests, their habitat, and their usual routines. Admission fee is $25, but there is a family pass for $65 that covers two adults and two children. 

2. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

It is a known fact that Galapagos Islands has the most diverse marine life in the world to the point that it encouraged Charles Darwin to write the Theory of Evolution. Galapagos Islands is home to the Spheniscus mendiculus penguins. Since Galapagos is an archipelago, there are a couple of islands to choose from for your penguin-sighting activity. The western islands of Fernandina and Isabela are the best places for spotting penguins on land. You can see them in their clumsiest walks, which seems cute and funny for some reason.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador - Swimming with Penguins

If you want to see them swimming gracefully, you can go swimming or scuba diving. The best place to swim with penguins in Galapagos Islands is in Academy Bay. You can also swim with the penguins in Pinnacle Rock. This is also a popular place for snorkeling. Aside from penguins, you might also see sea turtles swimming in the area. For advanced scuba divers, the Bartolome Island is the place to be.

This island is filled with different kinds of marine animals and cute little penguins. You will see them gracefully swimming around and hunting for food. When swimming with penguins in Galapagos Islands, try to keep a safe distance of at least 6 meters. The last thing you would want on vacation is to harm these cute, little penguins. 

3. Philip Island, Australia

Another place to see penguins is in The Land Down Under. Kangaroos are not the only attractions of Australia. In Philip Island, the star of the show are the cute penguins. There are many spots in the country though where you can see penguins, but Philip Island is probably the best one. This is also just 90 minutes away from Melbourne, so it is a great place for a side trip. At sunset, a waddle of penguins emerges from the ocean and go back to their nests in the sand. This activity is called “penguin parade” and is a top attraction on the island. Photography is not allowed during this time though to protect the penguins but seeing this little creature in the moment is worth it. 

4. Falkland Islands

The sandy shores of Falkland Islands are home to the largest population of gentoo penguins. Currently, there are more than 121 thousand pairs of penguins that are living here. Other kinds of penguins can also be found in Falkland Islands such as the king penguin, magellanic penguin, southern rockhopper, and macaroni penguin.

Falkland Islands - Swimming with Penguins
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

On most days, you can see the younger penguins in the shores and grassy land nearby waiting for their parents who are out in the ocean hunting for food. This is the perfect place to sit back, relax, and hangout with these little birds. If the water is not too cold for you, you can also go swimming with the penguins in Falkland Islands. Professional photographers hangout here a lot to take photos of the colony. You can also snap some photos yourselves, but always make sure to turn off the camera flash in order to keep the penguins safe. 

Penguin Facts

What is the smallest penguin?

The smallest penguin is the Little Blue Penguin. It is also called fairy penguin because of its size. The little blue penguin is only 13-15 inches and weighs no more than 3 pounds. 

What is the biggest penguin?

The emperor penguin is the tallest and biggest penguin specie in the world. The emperor penguin is endemic to Antarctica. The little blue penguin would look like a dwarf beside the emperor penguin. They can reach up to 22 cm in length and can weigh up to 45 kilograms. 

How fast can penguins swim?

Most species of penguins can swim 4 to 7 miles per hour on average, but the gentoo penguins can swim up to 20 miles per hour. 

Can penguins dive?

Penguins are divers. The deepest dive recorded was by an emperor penguin at 1,850 feet. The longest dive by a penguin lasted for 22 minutes. That is quite impressive for a bird, don’t you think? The penguins have dense skeletons, unlike most birds who have hallow bones, which make it easier for them to dive. 

Swimming with Penguins in Boulders Beach

Do penguins need water?

Penguins drink to stay hydrated. They usually drink from pools, streams, and the ocean. Yes, penguins can drink seawater. They have the similar characteristics with sea turtles in this department. A supraorbital glad located above the penguin’s eye removes salt from its bloodstream. The excess sodium then comes out of its bill. 

What are groups of penguins called?

A group of penguins in the water is called a raft. A group of penguins on land is called a waddle. A group of penguins can also be called a colony, rookery, or a huddle. 

What does a penguin eat?

Penguins eat small pelagic fish such as pilchards, anchovies, horse mackerel, herrings, and the likes.

What eats a penguin?

Penguins often fall prey to sea lions, seals, whales, and sharks. Most penguins are friendly to human beings because their enemies are usually in the water. 

Where do penguins build nests?

Some penguins build pebble nests or under plants, but most penguins burrow nests in the sand. Since almost all penguins mate for life, both male and female penguins take turns in incubating the eggs. They take turns in feeding their young as well, which lasts for about two months. 

Why do penguins huddle?

Penguins are known for being social. They like to be around other penguins, but the main reason why they huddle often is for body warmth. Penguins in the Arctic regions are known for being huddlers. 

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment