When we think of penguins, we picture them slipping and sliding across the snowy hills somewhere like Antarctica. But would you believe that there are penguins in one of the warmest continents in the world?
Boulders Beach, located in the Western Cape province of South Africa, is a sheltered beach made up of inlets and several granite boulders (thus the name, Boulders Beach). Also known as Boulders Bay, the area contains pristine beaches and fascinating rock formations. But that isn’t why Boulders Beach has become such a popular tourist attraction.
The beach has gained such popularity as it’s the home of a settlement of African penguins. This species of penguin, otherwise known as Spheniscus Demersus, lives in a few different areas of South Africa (from Nambia to Port Elizabeth). This species of penguin looks similar to their Antarctican cousins, but they have distinct pink glands around their eyes to help with thermoregulation. In order to cope with the changing temperatures, their blood is sent to the glands to be cooled by the air. They are also pursuit divers, feed primarily on fish or squid, and have a loud donkey-like bray.
Throughout the country, the number of penguins has been steadily declining over time due to a variety of environmental factors and they are now considered endangered. According to National Geographic, in 1910 there were roughly 1.5 million African penguins and by 2009 there were an estimated 26,000.
The Boulders Beach settlement of African penguins began in 1982 when two breeding pairs decided to make the beach their new home. Now there are roughly 3,000 birds currently living on the beach. Although the beach’s population has dwindled a bit in recent years, it’s now part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, thus ensuring the continued protection of the penguins and conservation of the beach environment.