St Croix Island Penguins

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

Eastern Cape Tourist AttractionsThe St Croix Island Penguins

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.

Where? St Croix Island Marine Reserve, Algoa Bay, Port Elizabeth

When? Daylight hours for best visibility

Overnight? See Port Elizabeth accommodation, in Eastern Cape

St Croix, a 12 ha rocky island, lies close to the smaller Jahleel and Brenton Rocks. It is made up of a series of quartzitic outcrops that rise as high as 53 metres on St Croix.

The island is almost entirely devoid of soil today although this was not always the case. Historical references paint a different picture of the island as 'brown with seawolves (seals) and white with birds' in 1575.

It took just four years during the 1820s to annihilate the seals.

As with Dassen Island, penguin eggs by the thousand were removed for human consumption halting only around 1956. And guano harvesting resulted in all its soil finding its way onto foreign ships to serve elsewhere as fertilizer.

Today St Croix is a penguin sanctuary. Boats are not allowed to land on the group of islands, although some charter boats cruise close enough to enable one to see the penguins quite easily.

St Croix, along with Bird Island (and Robben and Dassen islands on the west coast), is part of an experiment to study the effects of fishing on penguin breeding and foraging behaviour.

Fishing exclusion zones have been put in place 20km around the islands, with three years on and three years off, to see the effect on the penguins. The islands are studied in pairs to control for any variation in findings. But preliminary findings suggest that the fishing exclusion zones are good for the penguins on St Croix, but not for the penguins on the west coast.

The different conditions on the west coast, by comparison with the south, scientists think account for the difference.

Featured "Penguin" Activities

Raggy Charters Penguin Patrol

Raggy Charters is a local company that is based at the Port Elizabeth Harbour and is committed to showcasing the invaluable marine life of Nelson Mandela Bay and to educating visitors about the importance of maintaining a healthy...

More info and photographs: Penguin Patrol with Raggy Charters

St Croix Island Marine Reserve

St Croix and its two sister islets Jahleel Island and Brenton Rock - are quartzitic outcrops of the Table Mountain Group, almost entirely devoid of soil. They form the base of the largest breeding colony of African penguins on the planet...

More info and contact details: St Croix Island Marine Reserve

SAMREC Penguin Rehab Center

For a truly phenomenal experience for any animal lover and an extraordinary educational trip that may change your perspective on things, be sure to visit the African penguin rehabilitation centre in the Cape Recife Nature Reserve in Port...

More info and contact details: SAMREC African Penguin Rehabilitation Center

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