Penguins are the prime attraction at Betty’s Bay, a nature lovers’ escape in the Overberg just an hour from Cape Town.
Here, long sandy beaches are interspersed with rocky promontories, and the fynbos-covered slopes of the Kogelberg mountains rear above the holiday cottages sprinkled at their base.
“Penguins are like honey badgers with wings: they’re very tough and intelligent,” says Cuan McGeorge, CapeNature’s senior marine ranger at the Stony Point Nature Reserve, where a boardwalk takes visitors through the heart of the penguin colony, the only one that is expanding.
Since pilchard populations collapsed on the West Coast, and guano collectors destroyed the penguins’ island homes in the 1970s, penguins have moved east in their search for food, shelter and security. The other mainland colony of this keystone indicator species is at Boulders Beach outside Simon’s Town, on the False Bay side of the Cape Peninsula.
Did you know?
- Penguins have complex social systems and are monogamous for life.
- African penguins used to be called jackass penguins because their territorial call is a donkey-like bray.
- They are dedicated parents, sharing responsibility for incubating eggs and feeding chicks regurgitated ‘fish porridge’.
- Penguins moult once a year and fast for the three weeks it takes for their waterproof plumage to grow back. Penguins get very grumpy when they moult each year as they are unable to hunt until they are waterproof again.
- Humans are the biggest threat to these endangered birds.
Words and Pictures: Marion Whitehead