Where to find Penguins in South Africa

Ten islands and two mainland sites support the African penguin along the Western Cape coastline, and a further six islands in Algoa Bay in the Eastern Cape

Penguins in South AfricaWhere to find them

Where to find them? - Ten islands and two mainland sites support the African penguin along the Western Cape coastline, and a further six islands in Algoa Bay in the Eastern Cape.

Where? The Penguin Route in the Western and Eastern Cape, South Africa

When? Best between the months of August and December

Overnight? See Western Cape Accommodation and Eastern Cape Accommodation

Seven of these support 80% of the world's African penguin population. The most important in South Africa are Dassen Island, St Croix Island, Robben Island, Bird Island, Dyer Island and Boulders beach (technically not an island).

Namibia's penguins are found in a group of islands and rocks along a 355 km stretch of coastline known as the Penguin Islands. Together they measure 2.35 square kilometres, the largest of which, Possession Island, is 0.90 km˛.

Mainland sites in South Africa include Stony Point, and Boulders Beach. Mainland colonies do well because the towns or human settlements function as barriers, keeping predators away from the penguins in much the same way as an island protects them.

Although for tourists these colonies allow a 'bird's eye view' of the penguins in their natural habitat, endearing the diminutive waddlers to those passing through, living in such close proximity can bring its share of problems.

Betty's Bay residents made news around the world, late in 2012, complaining about the 'badly-behaved' group of penguins who had taken advantage of a recently broken fence to wander into local gardens, braying all through the night and leaving numerous rather smelly calling cards in people's gardens. Mainland penguin colonies then appear to be a safe haven for the African penguin, whose numbers have swelled in Betty's Bay, despite their endangered status.

Featured Mainland Colonies

Boulders Beach Penguins

Where? Simons Town
This is Cape Town's famous penguin colony. Found just beyond Simon's Town on an idyllic strip of white sand served with enormous boulders, the beach is a paying one. Once through the turnstiles you and the penguins have equal share of the waters...

More info and contact details: Boulders Beach Penguins

Stony Point Penguins

Where? Bettys Bay
Quieter and less of a tourist mecca, Stony Point is just over an hour's drive to reach the town of Betty's Bay - if you take the R44 the scenery and the views are well worth the trip. Those who make the effort to head to Stony Point Penguin...

More info and contact details: Stony Point Penguins

Featured Offshore Colonies

Dyer Island Penguins

Where? Gansbaai
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...

More info and contact details: Dyer Island Penguins

Robben Island Penguins

Where? Cape Town
Few people know of this colony's existence. When the Dutch originally arrived in the Cape, penguins dominated Robben Island. But by 1800 they were all gone - killed to add variety to the rabbits introduced in 1685 as a source of meat for passing...

More info and contact details: Robben Island Penguins

Dassen Island Penguins

Where? Yzerfontein
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. Just a century ago Dassen Island was home to over a million African penguins and...

More info and contact details: Dassen Island Penguins

St Croix Island Penguins

Where? Port Elizabeth
St Croix is home to the largest African penguin colony in the world. It lies 4 km offshore between the Coega and Sundays River mouths, part of a group of coastal island clustered roughly into two groups of three islands each. St Croix...

More info and contact details: St Croix Island Penguins

Bird Island Penguins

Where? Lamberts Bay
Bird Island is the third largest African penguin colony and, in terms of numbers, important for the survival of the penguin - there were 2 600 pairs when counted in 2011. It forms the other half of the paired fishing exclusion experiment...

More info and contact details: Bird Island Penguins


African Penguin
Conservation Status

  • Endangered

Did you know?

An emperor penguin travelled 3 200 kilometres ending up on a beach in New Zealand, where he promptly swollowed a lot of sand, mistaking it for snow – he's been nicknamed 'Happy Feet'.

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