I’ve now visited the penguins in South Africa three times, and the experience doesn’t get old. For one, they’re penguins—how can you not find them adorable? And for another, it’s an experience you might not expect to find during a trip to South Africa. Antarctica? Sure. Cape Town? Inconceivable!
But that’s exactly what I love about South Africa: the variety and the abundance of wildlife encounters. If you’re planning a trip to Cape Town, here is exactly how to see the penguins.
How do I see penguins in South Africa?
The only place you’re find African Penguins are on colonies from the southern part of Namibia all the way down to Cape Point in South Africa. You can book a day trip down to Boulders Beach or you can drive there yourself if you have access to a car.
The penguins at Boulders Beach are among the most famous penguins in, well, the world. Part of the reason for this is how accessible they are to tourists. You can park right by the beach, pay a marginal entrance fee, then walk down the boulevard to the penguin breeding grounds.
Fun fact: The African penguins were once called jackass penguins because of their slightly annoying method of braying.
Along the boardwalk, you’ll see penguins left and right in the trees. Many of them will be sitting on eggs or have babies in tow. Peak breeding season for penguins in South Africa is March through May, which happens to be the timeframe I was visiting all three times I went to Boulders Beach.
While you’ll be on a platform at Boulders Beach, if you choose to go in the water at Foxy Beach, you may just be swimming feet away from penguins. They’re wild creatures so be respectful of their space.
We also saw many kayakers in the water, and this would be a great perspective from which to see the penguins, too.
How long does it take to reach Boulders Beach?
From Cape Town, Boulders Beach is exactly an hour by car if you drive it straight. This is one of the prettiest parts of South Africa in my opinion, so you’ll want to factor in time for stops along the way.
After Boulders Beach, I highly suggest driving onward to Cape Point National Park, driving the roads there and even hiking up to the Cape of Good Hope if you’re up to it. There are facilities like a bathroom, coffee shop, a cafe and even a funicular at Cape Point Nature Reserve. Once there, you’ll see even more wildlife like babboons and ostriches. The park entrance fee is 360 South African Rand (or about $20) per person.
What does it cost to see the penguins?
We rented a car for about $100 a day; there were five of us, and the largest car available to rent was a midsized SUV, so we were packed in there pretty tightly. If you don’t want the hassle of a car, there are several day trip options available from Cape Town.
The entrance fee to see the penguins is R160 (or about $8) for tourists. Most attractions in South Africa have discounted rates for locals. We parked in the lot right next to the entrance, and it was donation based so we paid the attendant around $10.
Can I touch the penguins?
No, you silly goose. This isn’t a petting zoo! If you think you’ll be frolicking among the penguins, however, think again: For obvious reasons, tourists have to stay on the wooden viewing platform.
That said, you are literally feet from these beautiful creatures, so it’s almost like you are waddling among them.
One last thing before you go: Be sure and check for penguins under your hood in case a hitchhikers tries to pull a fast one on you!
Have you ever seen penguins outside of a zoo? Would you make the effort to go to Boulders Beach to see these guys?