This is my twenty-third entry in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge.
This is not going to come as a great surprise to anyone who visits my blog, but I love penguins. There, I said it. Haha. Okay, I’ve been saying it for years now. You can actually do yourselves all a favour and return to one of my earliest blogs and find out exactly why, the name Penguin has been synonymous with me for many decades. Please click here to enjoy that entry. Having said that, we still have to get on with W for the A to Z Challenge, so here it is in all its feathered glory.Boulders Beach in South Africa is home to a colony of some 55,000 African Penguins. At the current rate of decline, these birds could be extinct in 15 years. These little guys used to be known as Jackass Penguins because of the braying sound they would make, but upon further exploration and knowledge, several other penguin species make the same sound so these guys were re-named. They have colonies along the west coast of South Africa and Namibia, but because of several threats – sharks, seals, man, industrialization, there numbers have decreased from 4 million only 200 years ago. The colony at Boulders Beach is used to humans coming and going on their protected part of the beach. Research and Conservation societies have set up nesting huts, and ensured that during the main breeding season the beach is closed for humans, enabling the penguins to do their business in peace, providing a greater chance for their offspring to reach maturity. However, even during these times, the hardier penguins will find their way off their own beach and visit other areas at Boulders Beach and Simon’s Town, thereby still allowing people to interact with these funny little well-dressed birds. The first time I visited Boulders Beach the beach was closed as it was moulting season. This didn’t stop me or the penguins from making eye contact from a few meters away, they obviously recognizing one of their brethren before them. We walked along the wooden pathways hoping to catch a glimpse of one nearer the fence line. There were a few hanging out near their plastic huts, but the majority of them were still congregating on their private beach. Seeing a moulting penguin, half fuzzy, half naked, is really weird. I’m sure I have a photo or two but I don’t want my little buddies to be embarrassed so I’m not posting any. The second time I visited Boulders Beach was during a full-day photography tour with Cape Point Photographic. We had spent the morning learning about leading lines, how to recognise shapes and interesting angles, so showing up on the beach to shoot penguins (with a camera) was going to be awesome. I was with my friend Kim, whose blog can be found here. Penguins are social creatures, so the obvious shape you see is clump! Yes, clump is a shape when you talk about penguins. The private beach was teeming with them. They must have some great all-inclusive package deal with a swim-up bar and great buffets because this place was jumping (or waddling to be more correct). After snapping off around 100 photos, it was back down the boardwalk, where I met a wonderfully photogenic dassie by the way, and then down towards the water and possibly onto the beach alongside the private beach. This beach is frequented by penguins as well, who have it so much easier than we do. They can swim up the beach, we have to crawl underneath and then over boulders to get there. But once you are there, the rewards can be amazing. Five penguins were chilling together at the far end of the beach, near the water, probably talking about how terrible the life guard is. When we walked onto the beach, out into the open, they turned towards the sea and swam for freedom, or for food. Or just for fun. I didn’t find out. We took advantage of the many shapes and shadows that the beach provides a photographer, when our guide and host motioned to us that a penguin was approaching. I did my best to cut him off at the pass, hoping beyond hoping he’d pose with me for a photo, but he evaded me by going under rocks I couldn’t. I followed his movements though, and he was unperturbed by my presence. When he finally waddled back onto the beach he did so in time to walk right past Peter and Kim, probably within a few feet of both of them. Undaunted and on a mission, he strode past and kept on keeping on. We were on a strict schedule so we couldn’t stay any longer than we had. We squirreled our way off the beach the same way we got on, and then it was back in the car and onto the next spot for the continuing culmination of a great day.
The penguins at Boulders Beach are wild and do not get fed by humans. But they have learned to trust humans, and is further proof that we can all get along if we both want the same things. If ever you’re in the Cape Town area, take an afternoon out and head to Simon’s Town and Boulders Beach and say hi to the penguins. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.