The penguin colony, although these days a major attraction of around 2,000 birds, started out as recently as 1983, with a lone pair spotted on Boulders’ Foxy Beach. Two years later, they started laying their first eggs, and by 1997, there were 2,350 adults birds, many of which had immigrated from Dyer Island. The colony reached its peak in 2005, when there were 3,900 birds, but global population has been in decline since then.
Boulders is the largest mainland penguin colony in South Africa, and the easiest place to observe them. Authorities have set up boardwalks and viewing areas to make it easier for visitors to get photos of the penguins in action, and there are special nesting stations to protect their eggs. There’s a fee for entry to the boardwalk and visitor’s centre, but it’s free to access the public beaches on either side of the main colony, where swimming is permitted. When you’re in the water (which is usually extremely cold), there’s every chance you’ll be swimming among penguins; nowadays they’re reasonably habituated to humans and will let you get quite close. Touching them, however, is forbidden and given that these are wild animals it’s only fair to leave them in peace. Definitely do not feed them. If they approach you or show curiosity, simply enjoy a rare moment of human-animal interaction.