I have always been enthralled by penguins. Adorable flightless birds that swim well? What is not to love?
Penguins are more accessible than many of us from the northern hemisphere realize. I have been able to see penguins in several different areas. I decided to list some of my best experiences. In determining best I am considering cost and difficulty. The very “best” experiences can cost more than a new car . There are also cheaper easier penguin experiences that are very rewarding ways to observe these fascinating birds in their natural habitat.
Top places I have viewed penguins
#1 Boulders Beach South Africa
#3 Antarctica- Palmer Peninsula
#4 Falkland Islands
#5 New Zealand
#1 Place to experience Penguins- Boulders Beach South Africa- Type of Penguins; African Penguin (aka Jackass Penguins, Cape Penguin)
I consider this the best, most accessible way, to view penguins in the wild. The best penguin for money experience.
Boulder Beach is only a couple hours drive south of Capetown South Africa. Capetown has many attractions of it’s own and a long day or a couple of nights to this area can be a rewarding addition to the trip.
Here is the link to the official Boulders Beach penguin site brochure. It is administered by South Africa National Parks. Cost for foreigners is around $10 USD. If you have the Wild Card season pass your admission is free. You have access to a boardwalk that keeps people off the main beach so penguins can congregate in peace. You also have viewing platforms of the beach, and the boulders. There is an additional beach that is not part of the park closer to the hotel car park. This area has penguins early and late when there are not many tourists. Penguins are very shy.
What really makes Boulders Beach Special: Staying the night
I stayed in a hotel right in the middle of the penguin colony. The hotel was called Boulder’s Beach Lodge and Restaurant. Penguins were nesting on the patios and in the walking areas. I made sure to book a lower floor room to be closer to them. Yes they were loud, and maybe a bit smelly but where else can you sleep comfortably near a penguin? In 2016 I paid $67 USD for a room with a private bath with a large tub by a terrace with penguins. I stayed a the beginning of July. This is South African winter.
The great thing about staying overnight is you can view the penguins at sunrise.
You need to watch for penguins when getting in your car in the morning.
Bonus. Boulders Beach is near the nice small beach town of Simon’s Town. A couple nights stay gives you lots of time with the penguins and a good starting point to drive to the Cape of Good Hope and other sites in the area without having to start and end in Capetown. Also Simon’s Town is where the Falsebay Great white Shark Cage Tours leave from. Don’t worry the sharks here seem to eat the seals not the penguins!
A few nights in this area combined with Capetown is a great adventure. If you are coming from the garden route there is another penguin colony called Stony Point aka Betty’s Bay. This is another great spot to get up close to penguin nests without disturbing the birds. The scenery here is a little different than the beach.