I wanted to see African Penguins while I was in South Africa but I didn’t fancy battling through the crowds to get to Boulders Beach. So the Stony Point Penguin Colony, at Betty’s Bay on the Garden Route, was a logical alternative. Thousands of penguins, spectacular scenery and only a handful of other visitors. What more could you ask for?
A Breeding Colony For African Penguins
The Stony Point Penguin Colony is one of only two African Penguin breeding colonies in mainland South Africa (the other is the much more crowded Boulders Beach). Betty’s Bay was on the old Cape Whale Route, and at one time Stony Point was home to the Waaygat Whaling Station, which landed up to 300 whales a year. However, this trade was eventually discontinued and the station was abandoned in 1930. The first pair of penguins were spotted here in 1982 and the colony grew from there.
At that time it was very rare for African penguins to breed on-shore. However, it was seen as something to be encouraged. These birds had become endangered over the last century, their numbers reduced by oil spillage, over-fishing and competition for food from an expanding population of fur seals. Stony Point was established as a colony to encourage breeding, with a protected area and specially constructed breeding boxes. The policy has been successful and the number of birds has increased to 2500 pairs.
Getting Close To The Penguins
The first thing I noticed was the smell: 5000 penguins can produce a lot of guano! But I quickly got used to it and paid the modest entry fee to enter the boardwalk area where I could look down at the birds. From here you can read the information boards, watch the penguins coming and going, and listen to the waves crashing onto the rocks below.
You can also see the evidence of the whaling station with remains of machinery and other infrastructure. In particular, an old watchtower (possibly used as a lighthouse) still stands.
The Varied Wildlife Of Stony Point
But Stony Point is not just about penguins. This is a paradise for all kinds of wildlife. Even – unfortunately – for predators. In 2017 a Cape Leopard attacked the colony, causing substantial damage and leading to the installation of predator-proof fencing.
There are three different types of cormorant to spot, and tiny lizards dart between the rocks. Then there are the dassies (properly known as the rock hydrax). Surprisingly, this inquisitive and furry creature is the only known relative of the elephant.
With so much natural life around us it seemed as if we, the humans, were the interlopers. I took a last look at the penguins and the sea and turned away, leaving the penguins to enjoy their sanctuary in peace.
How To Visit The Stony Point Penguin Colony
Stony Point Penguin Colony is open to visitors from 8 am to 4.30 pm (last entrance at 4 pm). The site is wheelchair accessible.
Betty’s Bay is around 90 km from Cape Town, and should take about an hour and a half by car. It is also possible to take an organised tour from Cape Town.
More To Do In The Western Cape
Looking for more inspiration on things to see in the Western Cape? Have a look at these posts