On our way back from Hermanus to Cape Town last weekend, Gareth and I opted to take the more scenic R44 route, which winds along the coast with spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean. We happened upon a small holiday town called Betty’s Bay. While most people come to this area to admire the exquisite fynbos, we were excited to see a sign with a penguin and an arrow pointing towards the beach. We had stumbled upon the Stony Point penguin colony, one of only four such mainland colonies in South Africa.
The colony itself is fenced off to protect the penguins from humans and predators such as dogs and leopards (!), but a nominal fee of R10 per person gives you access to the wooden walkway from which you can view these delightful animals in their natural habitat. The African Penguin, previously known as the Jackass Penguin but renamed due to it being the only species that breeds in Africa, is listed as vulnerable.
It was an amazing experience. Penguins are adorable at the best of times, but we were extremely lucky to arrive in the breeding season, so were able to see lots of little penguins waddle about, some still with their baby down visible in patches. Although you are limited to the pathway, it was in no way a hindrance, because the penguins had become so used to it and the people traversing it that they were not at all afraid of coming up close so we could get a good look at them.
Apparently the colony is also home to three or four breeds of cormorants, be we were so enamoured with their land-based cousins that we hardly noticed. They are said to breed close to the ruins of the old lighthouse, a relic from earlier whaling days.
When we had finally had enough of the penguins and their antics, we also took a few moments to enjoy the lovely view of Betty’s Bay, where the wreck of an old whaler, the Balena, can still be seen just off the coast from the colony.
The Stony Point penguin colony had been a random discovery for us, but it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. It was the first time I had ever seen penguins in their natural habitat. I can hardly believe they’re an endangered species and wish there was something that I could do to help look after these charming birds to protect them for future generations...
Labels: Africa, Cape Town, penguin colony, penguins, South Africa