Western Cape Tourist Attractions Dyer Island Penguins
Dyer Island lies roughly 8.5km off the coast of Gansbaai, about two hours' from Cape Town; the most southern offshore island frequented by penguins. It is also considered by Birdlife South Africa as one of the 101 Important Bird Areas in the country.
Where? Gansbaai, Cape Overberg Region, Western Cape
Geyser island lies just 150m southwest of Dyer Island, with Shark Alley inbetween. Difficult to land on the island by boat, it isn't somewhere people visit, but a whale watching or shark cage diving trip will take you right past the island.
Dyer Island used to be the most important breeding site for African penguins in the world. But now they are struggling to breed successfully. The main reason for this is the historic removal of guano between 1840 and the mid-1900s.
Penguins on the island in 1978 numbered 70 000 with about 27 000 breeding pairs. By 2011 that number was down to 970 pairs – a staggering drop in the population.
Dyer island is now protected but the former stripping of guano to use as fertilizer means that penguins no longer have burrows in which to breed. They now nest out in the heat of the sun on the rocky island surface, at the mercy of both prey and the elements.
The number of sea birds preyed on by Cape fur seals is considered unsustainable on the island. And the great white shark, in the alley just off the island, does not help measures.
Dyer Island is also the colony with the highest incidence of end of season orphan chicks compared with other colonies. They tend also to be in poorer condition.
The same study shows that penguins from Dyer Island leave on longer foraging trips and have to travel further to find food than other colonies. CapeNature and the Dyer Island Conservation Trust have partnered in an attempt to introduce artifical nests onto the island.
These fibreglass nests look exactly like natural guano burrows and has been successfully adopted enough to extend the project to Stony Point, bird Island, Boulders Beach and Robben Island.