On a fine, sunny South African day, we set out to visit one of Cape Town’s popular attractions: Boulders Beach, in Simon’s Town, hoping to see some African penguins. Penguins, you say, in Africa?
The African Penguin, Spheniscus Demersus, is the only penguin that breeds in Africa. Its distribution coincides roughly with the cold, nutrient rich, Benguela Current. These penguins can be found from Southern Angola and Namibia, to South Africa. 
Few African Penguin colonies are accessible to tourists, Boulders Beach being one of them. Penguins are notably nervous little birds, but at the Boulders they seem at ease in the presence of humans.
Boulders Beach became a very popular spot because, you see, two clumsy little birds, a male and female wearing tuxedos, decided to call Boulders Beach home, in 1983. Today, there are about 900 breeding pairs. Boulders Beach is part of the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), formed in 1998, and managed by South African National Parks.
Simon’s Town is a residential town, and Boulders Beach is quite beautiful with its indigenous bush above the high-water mark on the one side, and the clear water of False Bay on the other. There are several small sheltered bays, partially enclosed by granite boulders. Beaches of soft sand and clear blue waters beckon the humans, but the truth is, the water is usually too cold (15C), and unless you wear a wetsuit, you can’t last more than a couple of minutes. But, it’s perfect for the little penguins!
Swimming with the Penguins
Humans are allowed to swim only in the Boulders Beach area, and while the penguins don’t seem t mind the presence of humans, don’t get too close, as they have razor-sharp beaks, and can inflict a nasty cut. Better to observe from a distance.
As far as swimming with the penguins: the little birds are extremely quirky in the water. Quite frankly, it would be impossible to keep up with them!
Best Viewing Options
The most popular spot for penguin viewing is Foxy Beach (penguins only). Here, the wooden boardwalks meander through the indigenous bush, and visitors may observe nesting areas and the little birds, from within a few meters of the birds, while not harassing them.
Since the TMNP took over, the birds have been restrained from wandering inland by a fence which keeps them relatively safe from danger, such as attacks from dogs and cats.
African penguins going the way of the Dodo bird
Unfortunately, the African penguins are disadvantaged by living so far north [from Antarctica], in a relatively accessible region, causing them to be particularly vulnerable to human depredation.
The African penguin was threatened by man from the moment the first Dutch settlement at the Cape, established in 1652. Penguins were an invaluable addition to the settlers’ food supply, and penguin eggs were regarded as a delicacy and were sold and eaten well into the twentieth century, nearly to the point of extinction. 
The African penguins rebounded to healthy numbers, only to be threatened again by modern concerns, such as over fishing, pollution, and the threat of oil spills.
Getting to Boulders Beach
From Cape Town, the drive is very scenic and easy; you basically follow the Cape Point route.
When you visit the Boulders, have a good time, but respect the penguins; they are wild animals! Visit the Boulders Beach education center and learn more about these adorable birds.
R40 for adults – R15 for children
The stark reality is that African penguins are highly endangered: they face extinction in the next five years. Their food supply, which is mostly, sardine, anchovy, and herring, is dwindling, due to over-fishing. In an effort to save the birds, many fishing areas near certain penguin colonies, including the Boulders, are closed to commercial sardine and anchovy fishing, while others remain open. Studies show that populations do rebound in no-fishing zones. 
Time is running out for African penguins, and we need to act fast and efficiently to save these little birds from extinction, or soon they will be living only in zoos.
Learn about organizations such as Southern African National Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds. concerned with the preservation of the African penguin. See what you can do to help; I adopted a penguin!