Boulder’s is one of my favourite beaches and one of Cape Town’s most visited on the peninsula. It’s not hard to see why, as it is home to a colony of African jack-ass penguins who live off Southern Africa’s shores. I know that the penguins colony once extended all the way up to Robben Island, and sometimes you can still spot a few out there. However, these precious penguins have decided to make this warm rocky beach their home.
What is Boulders Beach?
The beach has always been popular for swimming with locals living down south of the peninsula. The beach is littered with various sized granite boulders that once belonged to the mountains that have broken off and rolled down. They have now become part of the coastal landscape and provide wonderful opportunities for basking in the sun for both penguins and humans alike.
The waters here are warm, especially in the summer as the sea spills into clear, turquoise blue rock pool inlets between the granite boulders. The strong Agulhas current carries in the warm tropical waters from the Indian Ocean, making this a beach you can enjoy swimming in. It also brings in plenty of other marine life and that are an important food source for the penguins and locals.
Where is Boulders Beach?
Boulders Beach is located between Simon’s Town harbour and Cape Point. This means it’s really far down South of the peninsula and while you can take a train until Simon’s Town and walk to this spot. I would recommend getting there by car, and is accessible via the scenic M4 or Main Road that runs along the peninsula.
The beach also forms part of the False Bay coast and you can view the arched coastline all the way round from here.
The African Penguin Colony at Boulders
The main highlight of coming to Boulders Beach is to view the penguins up close. The beach is divided into two sections. The first section is dedicated to the colony and you cannot enter this section of the beach. This area is to create a safe and natural environment for the penguins to breed peacefully.
You can view many nests on the white sands where mothers tend to their newly hatched chicks. Visitors are restricted to the walkway that leads to a nice view over the beach. This part of the beach is always full, as lots of tour buses bring in hordes of tourists daily. Many of the tourists here will elbow you to get in their prized shot.
Are the penguins bothered by people? Actually, they make even more noise and they have grown accustomed to human presence over the centuries. Just make sure you respect their territory.
The African penguins can actually be found all along Southern Africa’s coastline and extend up as far as Namibia.
Swimming with the Penguins
Okay, so I am THAT lucky that this gets to be a beach I get to regularly visit and chill out on as I am from Cape Town. I can honestly say that visit to this beach is never boring and it’s just beautiful. Getting an opportunity to swim with penguins in the summer time is nothing short of awesome.
Yes, you can swim with the penguins on the beach and this area lies on the other side of the beautifully shaded walk way. You can hear the braying donkey sounds of the penguins nested in the bushy area along the walk way. There’s a reason they are also known as the jack-ass penguins, and you’ll hear it.
Boulders’ swimming beach is clean, safe and is littered with penguins! You’ll find them on the rocks, walking across the sand, passing by or basking on the rocks. While they aren’t vicious and not shy, you should always maintain a respectful distance. Taking photos here is a dream, yet the penguins don’t like you getting too close to them. I have a good lens which allows me to take those close ups. I was actually lying between two low rocks in the sand while I shot these.
As a result many penguins do not breed on this side of the beach, and simply come here to relax too. They also enjoy jumping off the rocks and diving into the water for a swim and don’t be too surprised to find one darting pass while you’re swimming. It’s almost magical.
A Day at Boulders Beach
For me, a day at Boulders means simple relaxing and taking a refreshing dip in those beautiful natural pools. As there are no shops on the beach (thankfully) I usually pack in plenty of water and some light snacks for lunch. The first beach easily accessible and nearby the bathrooms.
I personally prefer the second pool, as that’s where you will find more penguins coming in and out. It’s also quieter than the first beach. This is because the second pool is a bit harder to reach as you either have to swim around the boulders separating it or climb under and over them. I don’t think it’s hard, but it can be challenging getting those umbrellas over them.
DO NOT try and feed the penguins. I saw two kids trying to feed a basking penguin Nik Nak chips! Needless to say the penguin stared unaffected and scared to move.
Just image going to for a swim in these clear waters, where you can see right to bottom. The boulders don’t only create a unique landscape, but offer shade, sunbathing and make excellent diving ‘boards’ in to the water. I have seen both humans and penguins enjoying a dive from the rocks.
This entire beach is private and you will pay a reasonable fee to enter all beaches. I find the beach safe, and you’ll find SANParks rangers around the beaches to ensure the environment is safe, clean and no harm comes to the penguins. This is the kind of beach I can come alone with a book and with friends.
10 Tips for Visiting Boulders Beach
Maintain your distance from the birds and DO NOT feed them. Don’t be stupid.
Bring a pair of well fitted sandals or shoes that allow you to climb over those big boulders. The swimming area with penguins have two areas and are divided by boulders.
Bring a back pack to explore the beach easier
Bring money, as to access the both beach areas you must pay a fee. It’s totally reasonable, don’t worry.
Pick up your litter. There are lots of trash cans to make sure you don’t leave anything behind.
There is a restaurant before the entrance at the back parking lot and souvenir shop.
There are a few really nice accommodation options near the beach front.
Do venture into Simon’s Town, which lies just a few Kilometres down from Boulders. It’s accessible by foot and car and there are lots of great restaurant options with a beautiful harbour.
Want to avoid the crowds? Then I recommend going before 9 am in a week day especially during the peak summer season between December – February. Either way, the week day is always best.
Want to explore further? If you’re travelling with your own transport, you can carry on down all the way to the end of the peninsula at Cape Point!