Western Cape Tourist Attractions Dassen Island Penguins
Shaped like a flattened whale, its fins viewable on either side, when seen from the air, Dassen Island lies off the Cape West Coast region near Yzerfontein.
Where? Yzerfontein, Cape West Coast, Western Cape
When? Open daily
How? Call +27 (0)22 451-2985
Just a century ago Dassen Island was home to over a million African penguins and the largest African penguin colony in the world.
Egg harvesting, at a rate of roughly 600 000 a year, soon put paid to that claim, as did a population of domestic cats turned feral.
Whilst cat numbers have been reduced and there has been a part recovery on the part of the penguins, their numbers are a fraction of what they used to be.
Visit the museum on the island and an information board gives one an idea of the history: 'penguin eggs are rich' it says. 'When soap and water ran low at the islands, men even washed themselves in penguin eggs'.
Egg collection was such a commercial interest that walls were built around the island, forcing the birds to lay within certain areas and making egg collection easier.
Today former guano scrapers' houses (mainly Cape cormorant guano) are now used by researchers on the island. People are not allowed to visit unless with special permission and then are allowed to walk only on the road between the Dassen Island lighthouse and the buildings at Huisbaai.
Dassen island is now home to thousands of sea birds, penguins, rabbits and a rather speedy breed of tortoise.